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The Power and Promise of Humane Education

Secondary, Elementary, Middle

Description

This well-intentioned, easy-to-read book, The Power and Promise of Humane Education, is less about power and promise and more an introduction to theoretical/practical approaches to humane education. The author, Zoe Weil, distinguishes humane education from sustainable or character/values education, emphasizing animal rights, as well as human rights, environmental protection, and media literacy. The author consistently attempts to create connections between the students' lifestyles and how they impact other people in other places. There is a large section on classroom activities broadly presented, and numerous resources in the form of questionnaires, statistics, organizations and websites complete with an extensive bibliography.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • The activities are meant to promote assessment and responsibility for personal actions. Students are taught to examine even the most subtle actions and choices for their broader impacts and implications in the world.

Strengths

  • A book such as this is a welcome addition to addressing the needs of teachers and student to incorporate humane thinking into the curriculum. The author suggest that this be done now, at every opportunity, in every subject. How this is to be managed is left up to the teacher. The author is very clear and adamant about her purpose and intentions, i.e. the necessity of bringing humane education into the classroom. Resources are cited in an addendum of statistics, organizations, web sites and bibliographies.

Weaknesses

  • For those teachers and students already motivated to pursue complex world issues, this will be a welcome resource. For teachers and students unaccustomed to or without a prior familiarity with the concepts presented in this book, the resource will be more theoretical and less useful. The author is very well-meaning, but to make this book truly useful in the classroom, adjustments could be made (see enhancements, above). The activities require someone who is creative and motivated in order to apply them in an average classroom setting. Unfortunately there are no assessment tools included. The resources are cited in an addendum of statistics, organizations, web sites and bibliographies.

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Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (3)

    • General Guide to Taking Action
    • Media
    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Interdependence
  • Food & Agriculture (2)

    • Animal Rights
    • Biotechnology
  • Human Rights (3)

    • Cultural Diversity
    • Education
    • Social Justice
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Source Reduction

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory
  • The author clearly states her biases towards the principles behind humane education.
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good
  • The author proposes scenarios in which students must examine their lifestyle choices in reference to the impact of those choices on the rest of the world. Difficult options for choices in some of the activities could very well impact the thinking of students.
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good
  • Clearly, there is an effort to solve problems in this book's discussion of humane education. Students are encouraged to come up with ideas to resolve conflicts and other social and/or economic problems. Students are encouraged to come up with small steps that they could activate in their own lives, as opposed to merely writing letters, for example. These individual actions are shown to address the larger problems of the world, which can often overwhelm children if taken as a whole.
Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good
  • The theory, as I understand it in this book, is that human education, in itself, will create citizens who are able to think critically about situations and information and make choices that will carry profound effects outward. There is less emphasis in the book on carrying out action activities and more emphasis on personal growth and understanding of complex issues.
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good
  • Each of the activities concludes with a sharing of choices and an "invitation" to further examine the impact of those choices in the world at large.
Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Very Good
  • There are many activities that explicitly address personal affinity with the Earth. They are meant to be conducted mainly outdoors.
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good
  • The activities are meant to be relevant and locally focused.
Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory
  • One of things I think is missing from this book is a foundation built on the history and information beneath the concepts presented in humane education. There is an assumption throughout the book that an understanding of the terms and issues presented already exists in both teacher and students. It is on the basis of this assumption that many of the activities take place.
Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Satisfactory
  • Although lessons can be seen as inspiring multiple answers, there is a clear bias towards making certain choices.
Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory
  • There is an attempt to make interdisciplinary connections but it is not thoroughly examined.
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good
  • Students who are accustomed to these approaches will do well with the activities. Students not so well accustomed will have difficulty with this model.
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory
  • Some efforts in meeting different learning styles are made.
Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good
  • Since many of the activities are suggested for the out-of-doors, the possibility of authentic experience is addressed.
Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
  • The activities promotes a lot of personal reflection, sharing with a partner and the class as a whole. Cooperative learning skills are not taught outside of listening to others.
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered
  • There are no assessment tools included with the activities.
Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory
  • The author cites case studies of successful student/teacher examples of humane education. However, these are not convincing and the reader is not provided with documentation of these events.
Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good
  • While these are not specifically addressed, the theory behind this resource is that students will carry on their learning from the humane classroom into their larger lives. The activities continuously stress that whatever choices we make have a much broader impact than what is immediately visible.
Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.