In 1987, I found my life’s work and discovered that this work had a name: humane education. I taught several week-long summer courses to students in Pennsylvania – one on environmental preservation and another on animal protection. We went on field trips, viewed videos filmed undercover, had great discussions, and focused on what we could do to make a difference. I watched in amazement as these 12- and 13-year-old students became passionate, committed changemakers virtually overnight.
I’ve stayed in touch with a few of them, and they are now extraordinary adults, still working to make a difference for people, other species, and the environment. One of them recently told a group of people that that humane education course changed his life. Since teaching these courses, my commitment to humane education has never wavered. I believe it is the most effective and important way to create an informed, conscious, and caring generation, and to prepare young people to take their place as global citizens and solutionaries who will make the world a better place for all through whatever professions they pursue.
Between 1985 and 1996, I taught thousands of students about the problems we face and the solutions we can create. That experience deepened my passion for humane education and made me want to see comprehensive humane education grow and spread. The problem was that there were only a handful of us who were teaching about the interconnected problems of human oppression, rampant consumerism, animal abuse, and environmental destruction. In order to solve global, systemic problems and create a world in which all of us can live peacefully and humanely, we needed a humane education movement in which all teachers were humane educators, all schools offered comprehensive humane education, and everyone was exposed to humane education in their lives.
In 1996 I co-founded the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) to train other people to be humane educators and to advance this important work, and now the comprehensive humane education movement is spreading, thanks to all our graduates, students, workshop and online course participants, and concerned citizens like you.
It is a privilege and a joy to be part of a movement that has the potential to solve every problem we face and create a restored, healthy, and humane world for all. As Henry David Thoreau once said, “There are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots.” Nothing makes me more hopeful for the future than humane educators teaching and inspiring others, whether in schools and colleges, through the arts, in the media, through non-profits, in writing and filmmaking, or at camps and learning centers. They are doing the work that will foster solutions at the root. Thanks for all you are doing to teach and inspire others and to create a humane world.
Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement, which works to create a humane, peaceful, healthy and just world for all people, animals, and the environment through education. Zoe created IHE’s M.Ed., M.A., and graduate certificate programs as well as IHE’s acclaimed humane education and MOGO (most good) workshops and online courses.
Zoe is the author of Nautilus Silver Medal-winner, Most Good, Least Harm: The Simple Principle for a Better World and a Meaningful Life (2009), The Power and Promise of Humane Education (2004), and Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times (2003). She has also written books for young people, including Moonbeam Gold Medal winner, Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs (2007), about 12-year-old activists inspired by an eccentric substitute teacher to right wrongs where they find them, and So, You Love Animals: An Action-Packed, Fun-Filled Book to Help Kids Help Animals (1994). She has written numerous articles on humane education and humane living and has appeared frequently on radio and television. In 2012, she and her work were featured in Forbes magazine online.
In 2010, Zoe gave her first TEDx talk “The World Becomes What You Teach” which became among the 50 top-rated of more than 12,000 TEDx talks. Since then she has given three other TEDx talks including “Solutionaries,” “Educating for Freedom,” and “How to Be a Solutionary.”
Zoe speaks regularly at universities, conferences, schools, and in communities across the United States and Canada and periodically overseas. She has also served as a consultant on humane education to people and organizations around the world, and serves on the board of directors of HEART.
In 2012 Zoe debuted her 1-woman show, “My Ongoing Problems with Kindness: Confessions of MOGO Girl,” and now brings humane issues to communities through entertainment.
In 2010, Zoe was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame, and in 2012 she was honored with the Women in Environmental Leadership award at Unity College. In 2012, her portrait was painted by Robert Shetterly for the Americans Who Tell The Truth portrait series.
Zoe received a Master’s in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School (1988) and a Master’s in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania (1983). She is also certified in Psychosynthesis counseling.
Zoe lives with her husband and several rescued animals in a home adjoining the Institute for Humane Education in Surry, Maine.