Recently, I had the privilege of speaking at an induction ceremony for the National Honor Society at our local high school. Six juniors, who had demonstrated character, scholarship, leadership, and service had been selected, and I felt honored just to be in their presence. I spoke to them about the Stanford Prison Experiment and the ways in which, no matter how wonderful our character traits, systems and situations will inevitably impact our behaviors and choices –- often negatively. I brought this closer to home by holding up a T-shirt and inviting the audience to inquire into its effects. Pointing out that we all wear T-shirts, I asked the audience what they would need to know about the one in my hand to determine whether it caused harm to others. We discussed sweatshops, cotton production and its impact on child laborers in Asia, pesticide use, toxic dyes, and much more.
The point of my talk was to encourage these young leaders to think of themselves as future systems-changers, and I used the T-shirt as an example. I told them that the world needs lawyers who protect those in sweatshops and the environment from the negative impacts of T-shirt production; scientists and entrepreneurs who develop sustainable fibers and non-toxic dyes; policy makers and legislators who create laws that protect our ecosystems and all of us on this planet. Then one young woman from the audience pointed out we need teachers who educate about these issues, too.
Later that evening, Mary Pat Champeau, the director of our M.Ed. and certificate program at the Institute for Humane Education, was talking to one of the inductees. She asked her what she thought of my talk. The girl responded that it made her angry that no one had ever taught her about these issues before. That all of her clothes were, in fact, part of the problems I’d described, and that she and her fellow students should have been learning about these issues since kindergarten.
I couldn’t agree more.
Please write your legislators, President Obama, and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, about the importance of humane education. If you’re a parent, join the PTA and lobby for humane education in your child’s school. If you’re a teacher, bring humane education into your classrooms (for training, materials, and other resources visit: www.HumaneEducation.org). If you’re a student, bring your interest to the faculty and administration at your school or start a MOGO club and educate your peers.
Our world needs young men and women like those I spoke to to dedicate their careers toward creating systems that work for all. We can’t wait much longer for a revolution in teaching that fully embraces humane education.
Zoe has been busy with our student residency week, so this is a repost, originally posted 4/8/09.
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