For those of us who have the privilege of meeting thousands of students a year, nothing delights us more than to have an attentive class ready to share and eager to learn.
As Compassionate Action for Animals' humane education program Bridges of Respect finishes up its 12th year of presentations in middle, high schools, and colleges around the Twin Cities, we reflect on how today's youth are ready to work at making a difference.
We've seen a growing number of discussions around global food issues in classes like Family & Consumer Science, Health, and Home Economics. Bridges of Respect is getting more and more requests for our Ethics & Environment presentation, where we have the opportunity to compare and contrast veganism with animal agriculture. From antibiotic resistant germs, waste runoff, and algae blooms to topsoil erosion, pandemics like bird flu, and rampant animal cruelty, the food industry is in need of what the president of the International Institute for Humane Education calls conscientious change-makers.
During our food-related presentations this year, we were excited to expand our vegan food sample offerings. CAA volunteers prepared Tofurky sandwiches with Vegenaise and lettuce, along with soy milk, for 140 students at Como High School in St Paul. They were a hit! We had one positive evaluation after another about the sandwiches. One student was a little surprised remarking, "I can't believe this isn't meat" and simply "it's good."
Throughout 2011 we provided nearly every presentation topic we offer at 10 different local high schools and colleges. Students at New Beginnings High School in Chaska listened to our Beyond Violence presentation, where we discussed how our treatment of animals can desensitize us to violence, or can lead us to a more compassionate community. Our long-time humane educator Christine Coughlin shared our Animals in Entertainment presentation with students at Edina High School. Christine is also president of Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection and is able to bring her real world experience of working on animal protection with policy makers and the media into the classroom.
Humane education offers students solutions that are interconnected with their daily choices. It offers students the critical thinking skills they need to evaluate what's most important for people, animals, and the environment. Young people are taking action: preserving resources, volunteering where needed, seeking cosmetics made without animal testing, practicing veganism, or reducing their consumption of animal products. In an article titled A Case for Humane Education, Tim Donahue, an instructor with Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART), talks about the action-based curricula of humane education:
"It is uncertain whether 21st century students are so inundated with tales of extinction, erosion, and overturned tipping points that they have become overburdened and demoralized. It is certain, however, that these students need to learn that our pressing problems offer exciting and viable solutions."
As students begin analyzing their choices and making public contributions based on their convictions, the value of humane education is increasingly recognized by society at large. Humane education is now a public school mandate in 13 states. As it grows, Bridges of Respect will be there to meet the need.