Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Marc Bekoff and Creative Compassion in Children

In the July 20 issue of The Huffington Post, Marc Bekoff (author of The Emotional Lives of Animals among other animal welfare-themed books) wrote an article about discussions he has had with children regarding concern for animals, human communities, and the environment. Right up my alley, don't you agree?

What I really love about this story is that when asked to engage in a classic animal rights' thought experiment, where there are three persons and a dog on a lifeboat and one must be thrown overboard in order for the other three to survive and the decision must be made as to whom should be sacrificed, the children Bekoff describes simply refused to accept the premise. Instead of working within the parameters they were given, the children tried to find creative ways to save all four beings on the boat.

I think what Bekoff has witnessed represents the type of critical thinking we should all be looking to cultivate in our children. Instead of just accepting injustice and loss as "the way it is", they looked for other ways to make it different, make it better. Regardless of their conclusions (which, by the way, are consistent with those arrived at by most adults who are presented with this dilemma), the fact that they were eager to think outside the box and not see problems as givens but rather obstacles that can, and should, be overcome is very exciting to me. This type of creativity coupled with compassion is something that is encouraging for me to see as a humane educator, because it gives me hope for the future where my children will one day find themselves living.

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