Friday, October 21, 2011

Better Education, Better World

Change. Humane Education. Making choicemakers for a better world.

This rhetoric sounds delicious; I heard it in my social-justice-driven alma mater, and I fell in love with it there. That is, until I feel into apathy. There is only so much caring my mind can master before it falls into muck.

Zoe Weil's TEDx talk certainly stirred my soul. I agree that mere graduation and employment for all current students is not enough. I agree that if we continue education in its current mode--though perhaps more effectively--we will raise a generation too much like ourselves, concerned more with our Netflix and Cheetos than international slave trade and child labor. "I worked all day," we say, "so I can't be bothered to bother. My hair is already growing grey."

My hair is already growing grey. This 22-year-old cares too much, apparently. I try to bypass injustice by buying second-hand, using the extra to support a child in Uganda and take my urban mentees out to coffee. (Starbucks is doing better these days, I hear, but I haven't the energy to check.) Indeed, after homework and work I have little motivation to dive into something depressing, like the our food industries (70-something percent of foods in an American supermarket contain genetically-altered products) or our clothing industries (now cotton makes me cry, since I checked up on Ubekistan's unjust practices) or educational disparity, my current pet peeve. I just want to clean my house, call a friend, eat buttery foods, and go to bed.

Zoe Weil and the Institute for Humane Education suggest that we shouldn't have to spend our spare time investigating injustice; rather, it should be incorporated into our daily education. I agree; I've made lesson plans relating to KIVA (microfinancing), worked for Clean Water Action, helped Invisible Children, support a Compassion International child, refer friends to ECHO (educational concerns for hunger organization), patronize Ten Thousand Villages, and bring my own bag to the supermarkets. I learned about most of these organizations through friends and through my alma mater's mission. Politics, history, economics, and literature classes easily lend themselves to justice-driven project-assignments; in their jobs today, chemists and engineers use math and science to calculate the environmental impact of power plants and other industries. So why start in school?

What would it take, though, to integrate humane education into our current schools? Businesses might push back; their political clout is enormous. Educators might give up; their motivation will ebb as they enter the endless sea of injustice. Students might tire: their efforts to right wrongs will flag faster than Batman's fall when yet another problem confronts them.

Yet we've got to try, right? And keep trying, right? The difference between try and triumph is a little "umph"--so although the difference between a "peaceful, humane, just world" and the world we have today is a gargantuan gap, at least we can give it a go.