The Lesson They're Not Teaching in Schools
From Animal Defenders of Westchester (ADOW)

We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.

The Lesson They're Not Teaching in Schools

Letter as published on YonkersTimes
October 15, 2021

As the war rages on over what should be taught in schools, it’s interesting to note that Humane Education is being ignored and not taught – though in fact teaching it is mandated, enacted as NYS Education Law Sec. 809. Humane Education is defined as a field of study that draws connections between human rights, animal protection, and environmental sustainability; It was created in the late 1800’s as a way to address social injustices and prevent cruelty to animals before it started; that should be the teaching standard for our children instead of engendering rancor, assigning labels and creating division.

An easy first step could be to abolish animal dissection in school, which lays the groundwork for contempt of other beings – who have a right to share this earth without being ‘test’ subjects or academic ‘points’ for children or anyone else. Animal dissection is a foundation primer for making children callous and insensitive. Many are frightened into this repulsive activity – which serves absolutely no purpose – with the threat of a failing or mediocre grade; many are encouraged into bullying laughter at others, and at the poor animal victims as well.

But it provides another unfortunate lesson extending much more profoundly – which is that it shows children they have the ‘right’ to dominate and harm those who can’t fight back. Children, the elderly and the animals are the most easily victimized in society; the schools would do a huge service by guiding young minds toward good citizenship and being stewards of the earth instead of plunderers of it. According to the NY-based organization HEART, whose stated mission is to develop a generation of compassionate youth who create positive change for people, animals and the natural world, ‘Humane education is effective because it can be easily integrated into any subject. Students can read humane literature and write letters to legislators about issues affecting animals, people, and the environment.’

Humane Education is designed to teach young people to treat each other, and the planet, with respect and kindness – a necessary lesson that’s also been ignored by the Board of Education along with other failings. Issues such as bullying, which is epidemic in schools, would benefit from Humane Ed’s non-violent conflict resolution teachings. One large study showed that students who participated in such programs showed significantly greater gains in the type of behavior that benefits other people and society as a whole, than students who didn’t participate. Students who participated in an expanded version of the program achieved even greater gains.

‘Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.’ By including all beings in the circle of kindness and compassion, and teaching the interconnectedness of life, teachers will be showing students that even the littlest of us deserve decency, dignity and esteem, instead of placing barriers between us – by species or anything else.

And that’s what teaching is really about after all.

Kiley Blackman, founder
Animal Defenders of Westchester

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