“You are a really good guess speaker.”
This comment is from a 9th grader following a workshop about consumerism. I like the comment a lot. At first I had a good chuckle at the typo, but then I realized that being a “guess” speaker—one who promotes guessing, imagination, and critical thinking—is exactly what I hope to achieve.
Humane education was not my original career path. Far from it. I chose a career path which reflected another passion: fashion. After college, I became a fashion coordinator for a women’s wear designer. While I loved many aspects of my job, I slowly found myself making choices that conflicted with my own sense of ethics. Day by day, my professional decisions violated my personal principles. The day I was asked to include fur in a fashion show, was the day I made the decision to quit.
While I took what I thought would be a brief rest from fashion, I began volunteering in the education department at a humane society in Philadelphia. Ultimately I was hired as Director of Humane Education where I had the pleasure of working with Zoe Weil, who later went on to co-found the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). Thus, my humane education career began, almost by accident. A very happy accident.
In 1998, I decided to pursue my master’s in humane education and contacted dozens of graduate schools around the country. I quickly discovered that no such program existed and none of the graduate schools in education had even heard of the term humane education. Out of necessity, I cobbled together my own version of a master’s in humane education at the University of Pennsylvania.
In light of the challenges that I faced pursuing a master’s degree in humane education, it is a particular joy to be on the faculty of the nation’s first humane education master’s program. What a privilege! What fun!
Simply put, I can’t imagine not being a humane educator. Choosing a humane education approach in all I do is the key ingredient to leading my solutionary life and one that is positive, purposeful, and productive.
Melissa Feldman is on the faculty of IHE and Valparaiso University and has been a humane educator since 1985. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s of education degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 1980 and 1991, respectively. Melissa has been a humane educator for the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, Grey2KUSA, Peace Games, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Women’s Humane Society. For the decade before joining IHE’s faculty in 2008, Melissa offered humane education programs in the Boston area through her own humane education organization and was also on the faculty at Boston University as an instructor of English as a Second Language.