by Zoe Weil

One of the signs of a good educator is dedication to lifelong research and truth; critical and creative thinking; and the discovery of new ideas, perspectives, and pedagogical approaches.

If a teacher is using the exact same curriculum she developed a decade earlier, something’s wrong.

If his ideas haven’t changed in years, he’s stagnating.

Having created the first workshops and graduate programs in comprehensive humane education more than 20 years ago, I sometimes cringe when I witness humane educators sharing activities, language, and approaches that I taught so very long ago.

I want these humane educators to know that, not only have I grown and changed so much since then, the field grows, develops, and changes constantly. As it should.

It’s up to all of us to keep challenging ourselves – as well as challenging our mentors and teachers – in order to evolve and be better humane educators.

With that as preamble, I’ll share a shift in my thinking.

Many years ago, I developed what I called the Four Elements of Humane Education. These elements have been published in three of my books. I’ve tweaked the language over time, but the elements have stayed essentially the same.

When writing my newest book, The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries, I left the four elements out.

They no longer encompassed the breadth of necessary skills and capacities that I think are essential in educating people to be solutionaries, ready and able to address and solve the challenges we face in the world. Nor were they entirely relevant, given the changing ways in which we learn.

For example, with information a click away, I now think it’s more important that humane educators ensure that others are able to research effectively to acquire accurate information and knowledge than to be the primary bearers of information themselves.

Despite leaving the Four Elements out of my new book, I believe that they are useful, easy to remember, and sum up an approach to teaching that has helped many people become skilled critical and creative thinkers, more compassionate human beings, and better able to contribute to a just and healthy world.

So I’ve crafted a new version, which I’m calling the Essential Elements of Humane Education. Here they are:

To ensure that people have the skills and experiences to be solutionaries for a more just, humane, and healthy world, humane educators must enable others to:

  1. Acquire knowledge: by preparing them to be enthusiastic and effective researchers who are able to obtain accurate information about interconnected global challenges and discern fact from opinion and conjecture.
  2. Think deeply: by developing their critical-, creative-, strategic-, and systems-thinking skills.
  3. Make compassionate and responsible choices: by fostering wonder and appreciation for the natural world; empathy for people and animals; and a commitment to doing the most good and least harm.
  4. Focus on solutions: by offering opportunities to collaboratively engage in problem-solving; implement ideas; and assess and improve upon them.

I hope these revised elements of humane education are useful to you and will provide a guide for ensuring that your students have the knowledge, skills, and motivation to solve the challenges we face and together build a more just and peaceful world for all.

Use and share our Essential Elements! We’ve created this infographic to make it easy to use and share IHE’s updated Essential Elements:

Infographic of the 4 Elements of Humane Education