Humane Education: What’s YOUR Mission?

By Dr. Kathleen J. Tate
Program Director, M.Ed. in Teaching. American Public University

What is Humane Education?
In April 2012, I wrote a blog titled Humane Education: Who, What, and Why? about an important and growing niche of education, as well as classroom examples and resources. I was later thrilled to read an online Forbes interview with Zoe Weil, the president and co-founder of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). I have used Zoe’s work and the IHE as a guide for more than four years to incorporate humane education into teacher education courses. In her interview, Zoe reiterated the four basic elements of humane education:

(1) Providing accurate information about the pressing issues of our time so people have the knowledge they need to address global challenges;

(2) Fostering the 3 Cs of curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking so people have the skills they need to address challenges;

(3) Instilling the 3 Rs of reverence, respect, and responsibility, so people have the will to address challenges; and

(4) Providing positive choices and the tools for problem-solving, so people can solve challenges (Tobias, 2012).

Humane education focuses on issues related to animals, environment, and people. The hope is to empower people of all ages to be aware, knowledgeable, and take action. Through curriculum, educators can start the cycle in K-12 classrooms and create what Zoe Weil describes as solutionaries – those who have the tools and motivation to choose to make our world more humane (Tobias, 2012).

Humane Education Mission
I have a background in organizational theory and spend considerable time reading and analyzing mission statements of organizations and departments, especially in the field of education. I think it is important that teachers and education majors understand the missions of the schools in which they complete student teaching and the university programs in which they are enrolled. So, in looking at the four basic aspects of humane education, which seem to establish a mission, it is useful to consider how they relate to missions of schools like American Public University System.

University Mission
I revisited the American Public University System mission statement, which is to:

Provide quality higher education with emphasis on educating the nation’s military and public service communities by offering respected, relevant, accessible and affordable, student-focused online programs, which prepare them for service and leadership in a diverse, global society.

When I reflect upon the last phrase about preparing university students for service and leadership in a diverse, global society, I think about the natural connections to humane education.

Teacher education literature is beginning to focus on the notion of globalization and preparing globally competent teachers who can teach children to one day become globally competent citizens of our world. Banks (2008) suggests that “students need to develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that will enable them to function in a global society” (p. 132). Liss and Liazos (2010) concur that our future depends on young people and their “understanding and civic responsiveness to society’s needs and issues of social change” (p. 46).

Who will prepare these young people for such change and action? Zhao (2010) advocates for the development of citizens of the globe, who are aware of societal issues around the world, care about people in distant places, appreciate the interconnectedness of people, fight for social justice, and protect the planet. The literature really relates to a new paradigm in teacher education and aligns with the University mission and the basics of humane education.

Your Mission?
Anyone studying or employed in education would likely find that the mission statement of their school or organization also naturally aligns with humane education. Further, K-12 curriculum is a place where humane education naturally fits as “any content area or teacher education specialization can easily incorporate humane education” (Tate, 2011, p. 312). It makes sense to examine the statistics associated with endangered species in math; or, study government and use research, reading, and writing skills (e.g. language arts) to compose and send a persuasive letter to impact law about environmental legislation.

So, the question is what is your mission? What do you believe in? Zoe Weil calls for the need to graduate a generation of solutionaries. Does humane education fit into your own mission in educating children?

About the Author:
Dr. Tate holds a Ph.D. in Elementary Education, M.Ed. in Special Education, and B.A. in Soviet & East European Studies. She has been with APUS since July, 2011, and is an Associate Professor and Program Director of Teaching. She has over 15 years of experience as an elementary special education teacher and professor at both brick and mortar and online universities.


American Public University System. (n.d.). Mission, vision, core values. Retrieved from http://www.apus.edu/about-us/mission.htm

Banks, J.A. (2008). Diversity, group identity, and citizenship education in a global age. Educational Researcher, 37(3), 129-139.

Liss, J. R., & Liazos, A. (2010). Incorporating education for civic and social responsibility into the undergraduate curriculum. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 2(1), 45-50.

Tate, K. J. (2012, April 25). Humane education: Who, what, and why? [Blog article]. Retrieved from http://edutrendsonline.com/humane-education-who-what-and-why/

Tate, K. J. (2011). Integrating humane education into teacher education: Meeting our social and civic responsibilities. Teacher Education and Practice, 24(3), 301-315.

Tobias, M.C. (2012). The heart of education: A discussion with Zoe Weil. Forbes.com. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltobias/2012/04/25/the-heart-of-education-a-discussion-with-zoe-weil/

Zhao, Y. (2010). Preparing globally competent teachers: A new imperative for teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(5), 422-431.

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