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October 2005
Education that Teaches
Book Review by Maureen C. Wyse


The Power and Promise of Humane Education by Zoe Weil (Canada: New Society Publishers, 2004). $15.95 paperback. 173 pages.

If only the world thought more like Zoe Weil. Or rather, if only people would take to heart the lessons from her newest book. The Power and Promise of Humane Education is a template for education, designed to make way for a better tomorrow. Weil lays out the realities of our disintegrating planet and its wasteful human culprits and teaches not only about environmental choices for change, but also social justice, animal advocacy and awareness. The idea behind humane education is the importance of teaching children the correct choices that will provide a more sustainable, equitable and humane future. Weil argues that it is imperative for parents and teachers to educate kids about what is going on in the world instead of shrouding them from it.

Weil begins the book by laying out her hopes for the future and detailing her work with the International Institute for Humane Education, the cornerstone upon which this teaching method has been built. This useful book includes sections on implementing humane principles, FAQs, and activities to promote kindness in children’s critical thinking. Her book closes with a handy resource guide for humane decision-making.

Weil argues that there is power in giving children more choices than mainstream education permits. The Power and Promise of Humane Education comes face to face with issues such as advertising, the media, multinational monopolies, corporate control, sweatshops, slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia, global warming, pollution, species extinction, genetic engineering of foods, and animal exploitation, to name a few. By learning to face these issues, children are able to, at early ages, discern good from bad and see the impact their choices have on the world. Humane education enables children to use creative, critical thinking, which in turn allows for even more humane choices.

From page one, Weil argues as if there is no other option for teaching—all students should know about our dying planet and the terrible injustices inflicted upon humans, animals and the environment. Not afraid to challenge mainstream teaching, she points out what is wrong with Nike shoes and McDonald’s Happy Meals. She explains in detail the work standards, and environmental and social costs of popular culture. This approach forces children to see where their food, clothing, school supplies, soda cans and everything else, comes from. Each lesson ends in a positive and effective way; children are asked what alternatives they think are available, and then presented with a variety of humane choices. These lessons can be catered to students of all ages and is an essential aid for educators, parents and anyone concerned about our future.

Weil concludes, “the power and promise of humane education [is] young people, equipped with knowledge and compassion, living according to humane values, and making the world a better place for themselves and everyone else.” Incorporate these decisions into your own life and inform others how to do the same, because the only way change will come is if it is taught from the ground up.




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