I’m a humane educator, someone who teaches about the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental preservation, and animal protection in an effort to provide students with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscientious choicemakers and engaged change agents for a more just, compassionate, and peaceful world.
I’m also president of the Institute for Humane Education, which prepares people to be humane educators through online graduate programs, courses and workshops; provides free resources for educators and activists; and promotes the field of humane education across the globe. I regularly speak about humane education, including at TEDx events.
So you would think I would have no problem answering the question “What is humane education?”
But I do, because humane education is complex. It’s broad yet specific; far-reaching and global in scope yet personally relevant to our daily choices.
So here are eight definitions of humane education:
1. Humane education is based on the premise that if we address the root system underlying all other systems—schooling—we can transform unjust and unsustainable systems wherever they occur and solve the challenges we face in the world.
2. Humane education is a field of study that explores the connections between all forms of oppression and exploitation—whether to people, animals, or the environment—and seeks to inspire solutions that are healthy for all.
3. Humane education helps students put core values of kindness, empathy, generosity, respect, responsibility, and integrity into practice in a complex, globalized world in which our daily choices affect people, animals, and ecosystems across the planet.
4. Humane education cultivates critical and creative thinking and problem-solving so that complicated issues are perceived in all their complexity, and answers to persistent challenges are addressed holistically.
5. As Matt Hummel, a student in our graduate program, said, “Humane education answers the questions nobody is asking.”
6. Humane education turns students into solutionaries who are knowledgeable and empowered to ensure that the systems within their future professions are just, sustainable, and compassionate.
7. Humane education is itself humane: engaging, inspiring, exciting, meaningful, and relevant to students’ lives and futures.
8. Humane education is the best hope for a healthy and peaceful world.
Whether you are a teacher, activist, parent or concerned citizen, become a humane educator and teach for a restorative future.
Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm; Above All, Be Kind; and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach“
My TEDxYouth@CEHS “How to Be a Solutionary”
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