Friday, September 21, 2012

A Humanist Approach to Education

Humanists are very active in education. When the religious right complains about the Humanist influence in public education, they aren’t just spouting off meaningless rhetoric. Humanists have had a huge influence on public education. Much of what we consider to be basic principles of a good education nowadays come from Humanist educators and psychologists. People like Piaget, Maslow and Carl Rogers.

A Humanistic approach to education involves understanding what the child needs to learn and how to facilitate their natural learning instincts. It embraces human nature and encourages a child to explore, flourish and question. Our goal is to raise well-rounded, ethical, compassionate adults. We don’t just want workers for a factory or someone who can memorize lines. We want our kids to learn how to think for themselves and to be actively and joyously engage in the world.

I am a member of the Kochhar Humanist Education Center, which is run by the American Humanist Association. They recently released - Ten Commitments: Guiding Principles for Teaching Values in America's Public Schools. (see:

The goal of this document is to lay out what values should be taught in school. We know it isn’t enough to just fill our kid’s heads with facts. However, in a democratic and pluralist society, such as America, there are a wide variety of faith backgrounds and values held. The challenge is to devise a set of values to be taught at all levels of education, from kindergarten through college, that everyone can agree on despite our various faith and philosophic backgrounds.

 The 10 values that Humanists think should be taught in our schools are:

·         Altruism
·         Caring for the World Around Us
·         Critical Thinking                            
·         Empathy
·         Ethical Development
·         Global Awareness
·         Human Rights
·         Peace and Social Justice
·         Responsibility
·         Service and Participation

I have signed this document as I agree – these would be great. They should be universal and should complement private faith education nicely. What do you think?
Jen Hancock

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