Wednesday, January 27, 2010

School Sucks!

Young Primates in Plastic Seats in Rooms Without Windows

I am really good at some things that I don’t like doing and I am not so good at some things I love doing. I thought of this as I drove home completely exhausted (and charged at the same time) from a full day of doing programs at a school in Gainesville. I am very good at doing these programs for the students and I can get them thinking about the world and their place in it in a whole new way. But by the end of the day and hundreds of students later, I am so grateful to be leaving there. I don’t like the buildings, the constant buzzers and bells going off over the loud speakers in each room, the overcrowded overheated rooms with bad lighting, and the unnatural setting. I would rather see all these primate children running outside and swinging from trees like their young bodies and minds are made for. The teachers spend most of their time frustrated from trying to get the little wild primates to be domesticated and sit still in their molded plastic seats quietly. I admire those teachers....they are saints.

I really hate schools. The exhausting part for me is a combination of too many little primates who are trying to escape in any way they can (mentally and physically) and my own desire to be out there running around in the in the forest with them. My sister once complained about people letting their children run around in a restaurant. The way I figure it, that is really normal young primate behavior and I find it more disturbing when they sit silently stifling everything their little bodies are longing to do.

So, I don’t like this “school setting” part of doing humane education. But I also get so jazzed by it. I love that almost 200 students are looking at animals and the environment and their place in the earth dance in a whole new way today because we were together yesterday.

It is not easy to try to speak to all the injustice and confusion and inconsistencies in the world with only an hour between bells.

I was talking to one class about how in some countries it is normal to eat dogs..and the kids freaked out. I had them raise their hands if they think that it is horrible to eat dogs. I went to one boy and asked him to convince me that it is horrible to eat dogs but not horrible to eat pigs and cows and chickens. He told me ”god put cows and pigs and chickens here for us to eat and god put dogs here for us to hug and love.” “hmmmm,” I said, “that is interesting.....because in another country god put dogs there to eat and in another country, god says you cannot eat cows. It sounds like god is confused. Anyone else want to make the case convince me that it is ok to eat cows and pigs and chickens but not dogs?”

Another student raised his hand and with a begging look in his eyes said, “We can’t eat dogs because they are soooo cute.” “Ahhh,” I responded, “you are kind of cute, too, so I won’t eat you, but let me go find some ugly people and eat them.” They got the point. Then one very bright students said, “It is categories….we have categories for the animals.” Exactly.

We talked about how all animals have desires and preferences, just like we humans. All want to be comfortable and in their home with their family and friends and they want to have the freedom. But, we think differently about the different animals, because of the categories we have them in.


(Some students thought that the idea of drinking soy or almond milk was gross....hmmm...That gave us the opportunity to chat about how many people think that a drink from a bean or a nut is gross, but have no problem drinking the milk from another species breasts ..)

It was a great day of critical thinking. We talked about how confusing it can be to try to figure out how to do the right thing in the world. I brought chocolate and vanilla almond milk and soymilk and vegan cookies for all the students and teachers and staff to try. I explained why I choose to practice veganism. I asked the students to raise their hand if they had ever eaten vegan food. None raised their hands. I then asked them to raise their hands if they had eaten apples. They all raised their hands. “Apples are vegan food!”, I exclaimed. Then I asked them about peanut butter and jam and oatmeal and other common foods. I explained, ”Most of what you and most people eat is vegan. There is no need to go to special stores and get special foods to eat a vegan diet.” The cookies and non-dairy milks all came from the most common grocery chain here in Florida.

So, humane ed programs are something I am good at but don’t really like doing. Until schools are out in the natural world and the students and I are covered in dirt and leaves and looking up at the sky, I am not cut out to be a teacher.

Now, for the things I love doing but am not good at….the list could go on and on….but the one I thought of is writing. I love doing it. I love the actual process of writing. It makes me happy. Unlike being in a school setting, it energizes me. The parts I am not good at are:

-grammar, spelling, editing, professional writing.....I am mostly in it for the fun.

-getting my writing out there in the world. I have four almost finished books and thousands of short stories on my computer. But, the closest I come to publishing anything or getting it out in the world is this blog.

Other people have done better at taking my creations and including them in their books and getting published. And for now, I am happy to just have the freedom to write whenever I want to. It never has to reach any other people. And I am grateful to those of you who hang in there and read through my often long rambling blogs…..


  1. Hi Rae, You look great with short hair - it helps your beautiful face to radiate without distraction.
    I enjoyed reading about your teaching in the public schools. I saw "Earthlings" recently and had the idea that if every adolescent child in the US could see it, within a few years vegans would have added millions to their ranks. Perhaps a shortened, more kid-friendly version of it. What do you think of showing graphic images of animals suffering to children? Do you think it would be effective?
    Love the work you are doing with kids, person to person!
    Are you and JC in Gainesville, FL now?

  2. Hey there Marci,
    I always forget that there are comments here....sorry I took so long to respond!
    I never show graphic images to young kids....high school is about the earliest for that. Better when they are young to teach them about their wonderful big family of non-human relatives and get them thinking critically about the ones they love and the ones they don't and why....then later they can see the realities of these different human run industries. Earthlings is tough....really tough. Even adults I know can be thrown into despair by it. But, it is also reality....hard reality that most people do not want to face.....

    We are still in Gainesville area....heading to Athens by end of April.....