The essence of Humanitarian Education is to find ways to interact with nature, with non-human animals and with each other that are enriching, positive and offer solidarity. What this approach does is to encourage a change in attitude, belief and behaviour towards the environment, other species and our fellow humans, all of which lead to humanitarian values.
Humanitarian Education, just like other anti-oppression paradigms (women’s rights, civil rights, LGTBQ rights), will take its time to have an effect on and become absorbed by society. In order to start helping children to learn humanitarian values we need to introduce a programme, via the school curriculum, which allows both educators and students to become more familiar with more humanitarian ways of thinking and interacting.
Humanitarian Education encompasses the complete range of knowledge, tools and strategies to teach Human Rights, animal protection and environmental management. It also deals with cultural issues such as the interconnected realities and members of a just and healthy society. This new paradigm does not only instil the wish and capacity to live with compassion, integrity and wisdom. It also offers the tools and knowledge to put our values into practice so that we may find solutions which work for everybody.
It offers precise information, that is to say it gives us the knowledge with which to face change.
Curiosity, Creativity and Critical thought, which are instruments which allow us to face life’s challenges.
Reverence, Respect and Responsibility, which give us the motivation to face life’s challenges.
It offers positive alternatives and tools for the resolution of problems, which means we can solve the difficulties which arise.
The “Humanitarian Schools” programme, which is based on encouraging respect and harmonious living with pets, involves acquiring social skills, the resolution of conflicts without violence, achieving self-control over impulsiveness and finding alternatives to aggression. It is a response to the growing concern schools have about the increase in behavioural problems in the classroom and the need for education in values. This methodology develops effective techniques for managing interpersonal conflicts. Getting to know and dealing with animals helps a child’s socialisation and his or her social and emotional development. Consequently, the sensitisation the child acquires in dealing with animals spreads to all living beings. The school children develop the following social skills: empathy, comprehension, expressing affection and control of aggression. During the program alternative activities and attitudes towards conflict resolution are practised. The acquired skills are applied immediately to those around them and remain as personal baggage of the learning process.
The methodology of the programme enables children to learn how to recognise the animals’ moods. Together with the teacher they search for the possible causes of each mood. They learn how to navigate the emotions of others, in other words they learn how to empathise with animals and other people. The programme also teaches them to identify the needs or the shortcomings which bring about certain behaviours. In this way the children construct alternative methods of tackling the problem and helping the animal. As a consequence of this, they can replicate the whole process in their interactions with people.
Students also learn how to get close to animals, controlling their impulses so as not to scare them and showing confidence. In this way, they integrate that the animal doesn’t want company, how to express affection through petting, that they should be careful and how to play with it. Also, the child becomes the protector of the animal and has to find ways to help and defend it from the aggression of others, the child doesn't only learn respect but also how to defend the integrity of the other. Being careful when handling it and avoiding impulsive reactions involves understanding the cause and effect in the array of animal and human behaviour.
Decision-making skills are also developed, as are skills of solving problems without violence. The positive focus on diversity contributes to a fairer, more equal society. A multi-racial and mixed-race society where respect of differences must be present within schools. Working towards abolishing racial, ethnic, gender or species discrimination must have a key role in the education of our children.
Humanising our relationship with animals is not to go against the humanisation of our relationships with our own kind, rather it strengthens them. Over the course of history we have evolved from a tribal morality to a universal one, this has happened through a series of periods of expansion of the “community of equals”. Achieving the reconsideration of extreme anthropocentrism, the belief the only human beings are worthy of rights, is one of our main aims.
The new paradigm that should make us think about our actions, attitudes y behaviour towards others (animals in this case) is that they have feelings. This ability to feel means that certain living beings may be affected positively or negatively. They can have experiences, it is not only the ability to receive stimuli or react, it is the ability to receive and react to stimuli consciously, experiencing them from within. (enlace a la ratificación de la Conferencia de Cambridge sobre la Consciencia en 2012)
The thesis on the anthropological difference is not compatible with the scientific knowledge which we have available nowadays. The human species has skills which are not shared by other animals, but there is no insurmountable barrier separating us. These characteristics, or the supposed superior human skills should, in fact, make us more sensitive to defenceless groups, or those in a vulnerable situation. However, historically mankind has used this advantage against the weaker species, an abuse of power and superiority executed in a shocking fashion over humans, animals and the planet alike.