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Solving the Worlds Problems through Education

Featuring Guest -

Zoe Weil

Headshot of podcast host.
hosted by: Brandon Stover
EP
69
December 13, 2021

This interview is part of the series of research interviews on the education crisis and how we can solve it. If you want to hear the other experts, please see our education thesis.

Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement that works to create a peaceful, healthy, and just world for all people, animals, and the environment through education. Zoe is a frequent keynote speaker at educational, animal protection, environmental and other conferences and has given six TEDx talks including her acclaimed talk, “The World Becomes What You Teach”, which became one of the 50 top-rated TEDx talks within a year of its video release. She is the author of seven books including "The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries;" Nautilus silver medal winner "Most Good, Least Harm," Moonbeam gold medal winner "Claude and Medea," and "Above All, Be Kind."

As a special treat, Zoe and I also got to chat with Andra Yeghoian, Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Coordinator, about her work in San Mateo County implementing Zoe's philosophy in 23 school districts serving 113,000 students.

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what you'll learn in this episode

  • Why we must educate students to solve the worlds most pressing problems
  • How to change the education system at scale
  • How an entire county of 23 schools districts is creating 113,000 Solutionaries
  • How to face extremely difficult challenges like solving the education crisis
  • Step by step how to identify the root of a problem and begin creating a solution
  • and much more...

How Zoe Believes We Can Push The World To Evolve

Oh, that one's easy. We just have to change the education system!

Selected Links & Resources From This Episode

Connect With Zoe Weil:

Resources

People Mentioned

Timestamps

  • (00:00) - Introduction
  • (01:38) - Zoe's Mission with the Institute for Humane Education
  • (01:59) - Why our current education system's goal is insufficient
  • (05:03) - How an educator in San Mateo county experiences these problems
  • (07:58) - Why education is the root of all other systems
  • (11:11) - What's at stake if we don't fix education
  • (14:28) - What is a Solutionary
  • (17:05) - Step by step of how to think like a Solutionary
  • (24:11)  - Why San Mateo County implemented this philosophy
  • (29:18) - How to implement a Solutionary curriculum
  • (33:11) - The results of implementing this curriculum in San Mateo County
  • (37:35) - Is it right to expose kids to global issues
  • (44:19) - The pushback educators experience when implementing curriculum
  • (50:27) - What is a Solutionary Fair
  • (52:55) - How effective is this solution at solving the education crisis
  • (57:03) - How Zoe started the Institute for Humane Education
  • (1:01:10) - How to change education at scale
  • (1:03:41) - How to face extremely tough challenges
  • (1:10:44) - Call to Action
  • (1:11:37) - How to push the world to evolve

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FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Zoe Weil Interview

[00:00:00] Brandon Stover: Hey, you welcome to evolve the show to help you become a hero and solve the world's greatest challenge. I'm your host brain and Stover founder of Play-Doh university. And I interviewed social innovators, entrepreneurs, and thinkers about the global problems we face and the solutions they have created to solve them.

Today's challenge. As you can see. Our guests. So while as the co-founder and president of the Institute for humane education and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement that works to create a peaceful, healthy, and just world for all people, animals and the environment through education. Zoe is also the author of seven books, including the world becomes what we teach, educating a generation of solutionaries. But today Zoe is going to help us learn about the problems that plague our education system and her solution for creating solutionaries who apply what they learned in the classroom to solve problems in their community and world as a special treat zoned.

I also got to chat with. Yeah, coin the environmental literacy and sustainability coordinator at San Mateo county office of education. She shares about her work in San Mateo county, implementing those philosophy in 23 school districts serving 113,000 students. Now this interview is a part of the series of research interviews on the education crisis and how we can solve it. If you want to hear the other experts, please visit evolve the.world/research/education.

Well, before we start diving into the problems of traditional education, can you briefly state your mission with the Institute for humane education?

[00:01:38] Zoe Weil: Sure. So our mission is to educate people, to create a world where all humans, animals, and nature can thrive. And we do that by preparing teachers to educate students, to be what we call solutionaries, who are able to solve problems that we face.

[00:01:59] Brandon Stover: well, to help our listeners really understand the problem with traditional education from a first principles perspective, what are the root or core problems with education?

[00:02:10] Zoe Weil: That's a great question. So one of the primary problems is that we are not by design or purpose, preparing young people to address and solve the challenges that we face. In our world and whether those are challenges and students' own communities or the states they live in or their nations, we're just not preparing them to do that.

And in fact, the mission statement at the United States department of education, the, the goal is to prepare students for global competitiveness. And when we think about that goal in the context of climate change or in the context of inequities in our world, or in the context of a globalized. Economic system in which the choices that we make in our daily lives all the time are affecting other people, other species, and the environment that sustains all of us.

When we think about the world we live in being prepared for global competitiveness, isn't a sufficient mission for today's world. so that's a core problem that goes to the very root of the educational endeavor, if you will. And I would say that they're interrelated goals. So for example, when we address an issue like, okay, students perhaps are not graduating with sufficient literacy and numeracy and scientific skills, that may be true.

And it's also true that even if they were to graduate with exceptional skills, they still wouldn't be prepared to address and solve the challenges that we face because that's not what they've been taught to do. So that's the fundamental issue and there are many peripheral issues, but that's the fundamental one.

[00:04:16] Brandon Stover: Yeah. I think at the core that comes before, you know problems that we have with assessment or, you know, connecting their learning to real-world problems and projects that are going on. And even students perceiving if the education is valuable to them, them having an interest in a meaningful connection.

[00:04:34] Zoe Weil: Exactly. Right. So, you know, w we are assessing some of the wrong things. We are not deeply engaging students in issues that they actually care about. So many of them feel like the whole system is either boring or irrelevant to their lives. They don't see the purpose. I mean, some of them do, but we're talking about a lot of kids who are not being prepared for the world that, that they live in.

[00:05:03] Brandon Stover: Andra, from your perspective, working in the current system, how are you witnessing some of these issues play out?

[00:05:09] Andra Yeghoian: Yeah. So my role is I'm the environmental literacy and sustainability coordinator at the San Mateo county office of education. And so we were one of the first county offices in the state to have a role like this. That really, it was about launching this broad environmental literacy initiative. And I think for me being somebody who was a classroom teacher, also a site level administrator when I came into this work at the county scale, I was really looking at that landscape and trying to understand, like, what are the, what are the challenges?

And I think I identify a lot with a lot of the things that so said. And I think for sure, just this kind of disconnect from the real world, I think is definitely prevalent. In terms of what that really looks like at the local level. One of, we definitely, one of the philosophies we use here is the idea that the world becomes what we teach and we've added on and do in our county.

But another philosophy that we kind of like use as a guiding force is this idea of education can be a force for surviving and thriving. And I think one of the problems that I see in the greater world of K through 12 education is that we've kind of taken survival for granted in this country. And the idea that we have.

You know, make it, make it work. And we're in this space right now where our ecological crisis and the climate crisis have gotten so bad that our survival is actually threatened. And so we got to bring it back to those really, really basics of just like, okay, we need air and water and food to survive.

These things are part of the planet. And when we pollute them or when we do this, like they go away, right. And then we die. So that idea of like circular cause and effect has really been lost. And the idea of being a systems thinker has really been lost in our, in our K through 12 system. So a lot of what we do in our capacity building programs for teachers and students and stuff is to rebuild that mindset of being more connected.

And I say rebuild, because I think that that might, the loss of that is, has been because of the silencing of indigenous cultures. So I think a lot of this goes back to indigenous wisdom of understanding the connectedness to nature and that. We are animals. And then there are non-human animals that live on this planet and we all kind of need the same things to survive.

So I think for us, like we really try to ground the work in that concept and then to bring it back to those philosophy of the world becomes what we teach. If we're teaching this basic premise of survival and thriving, then we will see this world where people really understand how all those systems interconnect.

So that's a big thing for us. And I'd say like right now to go a little deeper on that, the exposable neuro abilities that we see within the K through 12 education system have to do with not having that mindset when it comes to curriculum, also community and culture, but also our facilities and operations.

So for us, we use this like whole school sustainability mindset to think like, this is, this needs to be seen in every single aspect. And right now I would say on the whole it's missing in most K through 12 education settings across the board.

[00:07:58] Brandon Stover: You brought up having a systems level, thinking perspective. Zoe what other complex systems outside of education or exacerbating the problems within education?

[00:08:09] Zoe Weil: I'm so glad that Andra brought up systems thinking we both think alike in this way. And if we don't understand the interconnected systems that come into play with solving any problem, we are a not going to be able to solve that problem. B if we come up with solutions, they're bound to be unintended negative consequences, because we haven't looked at all of the systems and there's almost no problem that you can identify that doesn't have the following interconnected systems, the economic system, the political system, the energy system, the education system the transportation system.

Our legal system. And then there are some other ones that often come into play, like our healthcare system. system or, or our criminal justice system, or often our criminal injustice system. So these systems all come into play so much of the time when we are trying to address a problem. And they're all connected to our education system.

And the education system is the root system that underlies all of them. And this is really important. So many people will think, oh, we want to solve X problem. Well, we can't go to the education system because that is a really slow system that, that takes a long time to educate people, to change, whatever it is we need to change.

We have to go straight to our political system and pass a law, or we have to go straight to a policy system, or we have to go straight to protests or our legal system. And those things are really important to do. And often when solutionaries, which I know we're going to get into, when solutionaries try to address a problem, they may address that problem through the legal system or through the political system or, or, you know, some other kind of system.

But if we don't fundamentally change the education system, we are just going to have to keep trying to put out fires for ever. So the education system, if we can really transform it in the ways that Andra and I are both trying to do, if we can really achieve that goal, then what we will start to see is that all of these other systems will be made more equitable, more sustainable, and more humane because a generation of young people will have learned how to do that.

And it is a slow process. But it is absolutely essential. And if we continue to neglect, changing the education system, then I don't see us being effective at, at ultimately addressing some of the potentially calamitous problems that we're facing.

[00:11:11] Brandon Stover: Could you elaborate a little more on what's at stake in the world? If we don't address how we're educating our children and giving them the skills and the tools that they need to solve these problems?

[00:11:20] Zoe Weil: Well, climate change is one that we can always come back to. It is not a future prospect. It is happening right now. We are losing species at a, at a rate that we haven't seen since the last great extinction. Of course, we didn't see that for ourselves because we weren't here to be here for that to be here for losing so many species everyday.

We can't even count them to see the fires that are raging in north America and Australia. And in other parts of the world, Witness what is happening right now and fail to address it. That is that's immoral that, that essentially failure to bring these issues to students and prepare them to solve these problems is immoral.

And we are seeing more and more young people expressing hopelessness and despair and they don't have to feel hopeless and despair. None of the problems that we are facing are, incapable of being solved. They're all solvable problems. And when we look at the arc of history and we see how much progress has been made in my own lifetime, I have seen so many positive changes.

You know, when I was born, it was illegal for black and white people in many states in the United States to get married, gay rights. Wasn't even on the radar, let alone the alphabet of LGBTQ and, and the idea of gay marriage wasn't being talked about at all when I was born. And that happened in a couple of decades of work when we even think about some environmental issues.

So when I was born the air and the water in many us cities was more polluted than it is today. That is a positive change. There is no reason that we can't see positive changes, unfolding very rapidly, and there is no reason ultimately for young people to feel as hopeless and despairing as they do. But when they are seeing all of these problems and all of these injustices, because it's easy to see them now that we live in a globalized world in the internet age, or inundated with that when they see that, but they are not given the tools to actually solve the problems around.

Of course, they're going to feel hopeless. Joan Baez, the singer songwriter said action is the antidote to despair and David or the professor at Oberlin college, who is has been working on environmental issues in through higher education for a long time. He said, hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up and we need to help students to roll up their sleeves and take action and build them cells up with the hope that comes from the positive changes they'll create.

[00:14:28] Brandon Stover: Well, your solution to these problems is to educate students to become solutionaries. So can you explain what a solution.

[00:14:36] Zoe Weil: So a Solutionary is somebody who is able to identify unsustainable, unjust and inhumane systems, and then devise solutions that do the most good and the least harm for everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean people, animals and the environment. So a Solutionary, isn't the same thing. As a problem solver, a problem solver could be an engineer.

Who's not thinking about the human rights implications or the animal protection implications or the environmental implications of that thing that they're trying to solve. But it's Solutionary always is. And solutionaries have an ethical component that is attached to their work in solving problems.

[00:15:21] Brandon Stover: So now my listener that may want to be a Solutionary. They liked the idea of this. What are the critical skills that they would need in order to be a Solutionary?

[00:15:31] Zoe Weil: one of the sort of habits of mind or the, or the dispositions would be a compassionate disposition where they. Actually care about others and wanting to solve the problem. And then there are some thinking skills that, that comprise Solutionary thinking. So Solutionary thinking is comprised of critical thinking systems, thinking, strategic thinking, and creative thinking, and some other forms of thinking, but those are the primary ones.

And while that is not a linear process, you know, thinking is not just a linear process. it is important to think about them in this order because critical thinking lies at the foundation. So with how good, critical thinking skills, without being able to research carefully, without being able to assess what's true and what's false, or being able to tell what's a fact from something that's an opinion without that.

Core critical thinking ability. It becomes difficult to be a systems, thinker systems thinker takes it to the next level. And then you start to understand all these interconnected systems through your critical thinking. And then the next step will be to be a strategic thinker because in order to be a Solutionary, you have to be strategic about how you address and solve the problem that you're facing.

How do you find the right leverage points for creating change? And then you bring all of those thinking skills and, and you add to them creative thinking. And then you've just got this beautiful recipe for becoming a Solutionary and solving problems in ways that are good for everyone.

[00:17:05] Brandon Stover: on your guys's website, you have a handbook for someone to become a Solutionary and how to educate solutionaries. That's a 14 step process and you don't have to go over all the steps during this people can go and download that. But I was hoping that you could kind of walk us through a little bit of that beginning step of that process, and then critical thinking and strategic thinking with a pressing issue we have going on now, such as the tragedy in Afghanistan.

[00:17:29] Zoe Weil: Sure. and, and boy, that is a really complicated issue. And I have to say that I've been trying to bring my own Solutionary thinking skills to that issue. So the first thing that you need to do when you're wanting to be a Solutionary is you need to identify the problem you want to solve. And it's really important to identify something that is actually solvable by you or by a small collaborative team.

So when you're thinking about something like Afghanistan, well a seventh grader is not going to be able to probably solve the issue of the Taliban taking over this country. And what's going to happen to let's say girls education. It's going to be really tough. So making sure that one chooses a solvable problem for oneself, you can always build up to that next level, but you want to start off tackling something where you can be successful, learn from it and iterate, and then move to the next level in your Solutionary skills.

So identifying the problem is the first step, the next step would be to research it really thoroughly. And so even with something as complex as Afghanistan, you know, if we're all reading the news, there are so many, this goes back so many decades long before the United States. Even went to Afghanistan.

And so really researching this thoroughly and this component is so critical for young people. So not to jump on one website and think, you know, everything or read the Wikipedia entry and think you understand everything, but really do a deep dive. And if it's something that is related to the news, then making sure that the news sources are legitimate news sources and really understanding any bias that might be popping up.

From the news sources, so deeply understanding the issue and then looking deeply at what are the causes of that problem. So, you know, I have an identified a problem within the question of what's happening in Afghanistan, but let's say that we wanted to address the problem of the Talibans refusing.

To allow girls to have an education. What are the causes of that? Where does that go? Well, that's a deep dive into religious fundamentalism and into the shifts in that happened over time in Afghanistan, because it wasn't always this way. And in fact, Islam, if we go back long enough, Islam was the seat of so much intellectual vigor and more equality than in Christianity.

If you go back, you know, a few hundred years, so really understanding these things goes a long way also. And becoming less fundamental in our fundamentalists in our own thinking it, we, the more we learn, the less likely we are to think in absolutest either or ways and understand nuance. So that then when we go to solve the problem, we can solve it more effectively.

You certainly asked it you know for the Solutionary approach to to be exemplified in, in one of the hardest things you could Brandon by bringing up Afghanistan, but the next step would be then to also reach out to stakeholders and to find out what is being done. And right now that's really hard.

Right. So what is being done to ensure that girls are going to be able to have an education or maybe the question would be what is being done to help girls potentially get out of the country? I mean, that's an extreme question when we were looking at a month ago and it's much harder to look at now So, I, I don't want to go down that rabbit hole too far because I'm not doing the research myself.

So I'm just going to talk in broad strokes. So you're going to be looking at causes. You're going to be reaching out to stakeholders. You're going to be asking questions like who's harmed and who benefits by this problem and the systems that perpetuate it because they're always going to be beneficiaries.

And if you don't actually think about the the beneficiaries, it's going to be harder to implement your solution because there's going to be a lot of pushback from those empower. And then ultimately you're going to look for leverage points for creating change. And the leverage point is just anywhere where a small force can have a big impact.

So you'll look for those leverage points and then you will devise a solution. Implement the solution, assess it and evaluate for it for not only how Solutionary it is, meaning does it do the most good least harm, but also how effective it is. And then ultimately when we have produced solutions that are truly Solutionary and they're really effective, we want to share those.

So I would love to say that Afghanistan would be a good topic for kids, but I actually don't think it's a good topic for kids right now. I would like to see kids looking at a topic closer to. Maybe with the resettlement of so many Afghan refugees in the United States, there would be a good place for students, if they're in a community where there is going to be resettlement of, of refugees to look at at that question.

and to the broader question of war and peace, I would like to see students grapple with some, bite-sized projects or problems, and then move on. So that by the time they're juniors and seniors in high school, they are grappling with and, and addressing those really big war and peace issues and climate change issues.

[00:23:26] Brandon Stover: Well, I appreciate you trying to tackle that. I've used it as an example to just show how complex these problems are. The process can lead you through that. And what I enjoy so much about this process is that very first step where you're looking at, okay, how much of the problem could I actually solve and what problem am I interested in?

And so you're connecting it back to that person, that student, when you're teaching it to students and what skills and interests they have and then you at the end, bringing up the examples, okay, let's look a little more locally. What problems can we start tackling there? And then expand our view to the larger problems of war and peace.

I think this process is fantastic at digging into that passion, connecting in with problems in the world, and then helping them to go solve that

[00:24:10] Zoe Weil: Yep.

[00:24:11] Brandon Stover: Andra. Why did you decide after learning about this process decide that this process was something that needed to be taught and implemented for your entire school system within the county.

[00:24:21] Andra Yeghoian: I was doing teaching like this before I read those books. So when I was a classroom teacher a big part of my training was like a heavy dose of social justice. And at the same time I was actually dating somebody who was really into environmental sustainability. And so that got me like bringing both of those things into my work.

And then early on in my career as a classroom teacher I did a whole like deep dive on systems thinking and doing all the systems, thinking trainings. So I was doing projects that are exactly. So just describe it at where kids like went through that whole process. I didn't know that Zoe had her whole thing and that she had articulated all this in a really clear vocabulary and a really clear framework, but I've been teaching like that for years.

And so, and I had been doing it as a, actually as a site level administrator as well at the private school that I worked at in California bringing it into the school. So that, that philosophy was being embedded when I took this job at the county level. My co-parent at the time actually gave me a book, those books as a gift.

And I read it within my first month of starting this job. And I was like, oh great. There's a book that describes how I think like, this is so fantastic. And so that's like, what really got me going is that I realized I didn't have to, I didn't have to be the one to articulate it anymore. Now there's like a whole movement around.

That Zoho had created when she founded the Institute for humane education. So that's part of why I wanted to bring it in. It was, it was our, the, a big part of my teaching philosophy. And and I was just so thrilled to have an asset that I could use to really get other people to buy into it. I think we've bought hundreds of those books now and pass them out around the county so that people could really get into this philosophy and people love it.

They are so thrilled to have a philosophy that really resonates with A lot of what Zillow is talking about, like the moral cause of what we're trying to do here in education.

And the way that we've been doing it in in San Mateo county is largely embedding ZOS philosophy into our capacity building programs. So we have capacity building programs for teachers and students and administrators. And so we embed this philosophy as some of the stuff that they do at the very foundation of the, of the programs.

And all of those programs are knowledge to action programs. So they'll start with like kind of the knowledge building and the philosophies, and then they move into developing. If they're teachers, they move into developing Solutionary. Project units where they take their kids through that process.

And if they're administrators, then they take themselves through that process and they design a community impact project. And if they're in our youth leadership programs, then again, they take themselves through that process. Or we take them through the process of really taking apart a problem, analyzing it, figuring out where the leverage points are for change and then designing a solution.

That's going to be really good for their community and then implementing it. So those are the ways that we've done it there. But because there was a book I was able to get more colleagues invested as well at the county office. So I think that that was a huge thing. So everybody who was in our curriculum and instruction to.

Read the book and really started to embed that into their own educational philosophies. And they, they were all not familiar with this style of teaching and hadn't done that in their own practice. So I got to observe what it looks like to like really bring this to colleagues who are unfamiliar with it.

Hadn't seen an example of it and hadn't really done it themselves. Whereas when I had been a classroom teacher, like I could demonstrate it myself. And then when I was a site level administrator, again, I could demonstrate it myself. So it was easier to get that buy-in. So in working with colleagues where I didn't have a classroom to be like, here's what it looks like.

I really had to get them to read the book and really dig into it and all the vignettes that so shares are so helpful to really understanding that process. So I think for us, it's it's been a really great journey for our colleagues to be able to wrap our heads around. What does this mean? If I'm the math coordinator, what does this mean?

If I'm the English language arts coordinator, or if I'm the visual and performing arts coordinator, how do I bring it? All of the coordinators in our county office have done a tremendous job. And then we've also helped to spread the concept of the world, becomes what we teach and Solutionary thinking to other departments as well.

So now some of the work that we do here in our mental health has this, a lot of these ideas embedded some of the work that our safe routes team does has a lot of this. So we're starting to see it take over in more of what a county office. And for us, the county office, everything we do is really suggestive to our school districts.

We can't force our school districts to do anything. We have 23 school districts in our county and that's about 170 public schools. And then we also have about a hundred private schools. So what we do is just suggestive. And what I'm excited about is that when people participate in our programs, we usually see, like, if it's an administrator in our program, they'll buy a whole set of books and have their staff read it.

Or if it's a teacher who's in the program, she'll be like, oh, I'm going to have my whole, department's going to read this book and then we're going to bring it in. And they come through our program. So it's, it's spreading, like without us having to do the work, now it's spreading because we've built the capacity of leadership in our county to actually spread that message and to embed that philosophy.

So we're seeing it take on more and more in different districts and in different sites and in different programs. So that's exciting.

[00:29:18] Brandon Stover: Yeah, amazing. Well, let's talk a little bit about the nuts and bolts and the handbook. And your website also gives quite a bit about how to create curriculum in these units. Solutionary thinking for multiple disciplines as Andra was mentioning from, you know, language arts to mathematics, to science, but can you explain a little bit what maybe a Solutionary curriculum looks like?

[00:29:39] Zoe Weil: I would say that our Solutionary guidebook, which is free and downloadable, as you mentioned on our website, humane education.org, any teacher can take that guidebook and use it. And bring it into their own curriculum. So the other thing that we offer is a solutioning micro-credential program, and that is a 30 hour professional development online program for teachers.

So teachers are enrolling in that K through college actually, more teachers are middle and high school than early elementary or college, but in the process of doing that program, Teachers under learn the Solutionary concept. Then they practice themselves. That's module two of the micro-credential.

And then the third module is actually implementing it by creating some Solutionary unit that they are going to integrate into their curriculum. So whether they're a third grade teacher or they are a high school science teacher, they will use that Solutionary framework that we have created and they will intersect it with what they need to teach.

So every teacher is going to do it in a different way. And so we don't have a template for a Solutionary curriculum. What we have is a Solutionary framework that can be integrated by any teacher within their curriculums. You know, I can tell you about one college professor and she's a Spanish teacher and she used the companion guide book, how to be a Solutionary, which is for the student themselves to bring this into any issue they want.

And she used to do it college, Spanish curriculum. So really it can be done by anybody.

[00:31:35] Brandon Stover: Yeah, I think the important part here is, as we were talking about before these complex systems and understanding, what is already existing there, because you're going to have to work within that framework. And many of these schools have certain objectives. They have to be reaching, which means I have to have certain types of curriculum.

So if you can leave enough lead way for this framework to be adapted to each one of those types of curriculums, you can get that Solutionary thinking in with any type of subject.

[00:32:01] Zoe Weil: Exactly.

[00:32:02] Andra Yeghoian: Absolutely. I would like to jump in there and just say that some of the work that we needed to do in this county was to develop exemplar units for our teachers. So we actually took the time to do that for six different environmental topics where we showed like, okay, if you're going to teach the topic of energy and you're going to do it as a kindergarten teacher here is what a unit could look like.

And here's the exact standards that you're going to hit as you do that, because that's really important that the work is grounded in the standards. So we've been able to develop six exemplar units that are K through 12, that show exact, you know, exact standard connections with science history, social studies, career technical ed, visual, performing arts ELA.

So that teachers don't feel like if that they're not going to get that push back then from an administrator from parents, like, what are you doing? This is far outside of the curriculum. It's not at all. We always talk in California, at least that our standards really ask for this type of thinking this, the big standards overhaul that we've had in the last kind of decade really called for problem.

Problem solving, critical thinking systems, thinking like it's in the standards. And so the work that we've had to do in San Mateo county is just to really show that and then pair that with this like project based learning framework so that teachers really could understand how to do that.

[00:33:11] Brandon Stover: Yeah, Andra just to follow up. What sort of results have you seen with the students? How are they reacting to this type of education?

[00:33:18] Andra Yeghoian: So we've seen it in a couple of different ways. So in our program, one of the things that the T sorry, in our teacher fellowship program, one of the things that teachers do is we take them through it themselves. So they go through like a knowledge to action experience where they learn are in the seat of learner, and then they do it for their own students.

So in that reflection process, they reflect on their own journey of transformation, but they also are called to reflect on their student's journey. And what we always see is like, teachers are always commenting, like, oh, my students came alive. Or, oh, those English language learners who had been really struggling to engage, like are super engaged now, or, oh my gosh, when we took the kids outdoors, I saw kids interacting in a way that I've never seen them and they really came alive.

So we, we truly get testimonials like that. We get students who are like engaged and excited that are doing these action-based projects. That even if they're small, they're so excited. And then they'll apply for an award. We had a kindergarten class that it did a whole thing around clean water and they got on the local news and it was just like this huge moment.

Their little faces were beaming. We had a third grade classroom that. Went to the board, the school board and was like, why do we have, you know, single use disposables, we had, you know, fifth graders really advocating for safer streets. So we just kind of see it all the way up the chain. And I don't want to leave out the middle school and high schools because that is also where a significant amount of this work can be done.

Oftentimes people think that interdisciplinary teaching is only for the elementary classroom and it's not. So in the secondary space, it's great because kids can really do that applied thinking and they can reach across all the different subject areas. So we've seen middle schoolers and high school schoolers tackle like real big challenges and really make, make an impact in their community.

And then in our own program for the youth, because we run a high school program a climate leadership program, We use this framework when we work with them. And same thing, we're seeing kids like ma build gardens in their schools. We've seen kids advocate for switching to renewable energy. We've seen kids bring in, you know, get rid of plastic and single use disposables on their campuses, bringing in compost bin.

So we've really seen like real action take hold led by students. And they've gone through that whole process of like, Analyzing the problem deciding what's right just for their community. And so they, their ownership is so high when they come out of the program. So that's exciting. And one, I will say the one thing we always hear from the kids in that leadership program is like, why do we have to do this outside of school?

And so I always say like, cause that program takes place outside of school for them. I say, you know what? The other half of my job is about getting your teachers and your administrators to embed this in school. So that next time you can, you just have to go to English class and you'll get it there. So that's a big part of like, what we try to do is to get that mindset and into all things, because yes, it's great to have it in a co-curricular program, but it would be way better if it's in the mandated required curriculum.

[00:36:03] Brandon Stover: absolutely. So when you first started doing humane education, you have a story about receiving thank you letters from your students that didn't hope you chair.

[00:36:12] Zoe Weil: one thank you. Letter in particular has stayed with me and this was from an eighth grader and I had gone into her class for a week, every morning, doing a humane education block. And I got all these letters and this one girl wrote that spending that week with me was the most inspiring week of her life.

And when you read something like that, you know, you first feel pretty good about yourself. And the more I thought about that letter, the more disturbing I found it because spending a week with me should not be the most inspiring five days of any teenager's life. And it felt less a compliment to me than actually an indictment of our education system, because our education system should be inspiring.

I learning is intrinsically wonderful, fascinating and livening exciting, and we know how many students feel bored in school and, and the very concept of school being boring. It should be the biggest oxymoron in the world. Schools should be as, as thrilling a period of time as there could be.

[00:37:35] Brandon Stover: I know a question that often comes up is, is this really fair to be like burdening students with these problems that are going on? We just brought up the problem with Afghanistan earlier, and that's a very large problem. Should we be presenting it to student?

[00:37:50] Zoe Weil: That's a great question. I actually feel two ways about this. I actually think it is kind of unfair to students to say, oh, climate change, it's wrecking our planet. You need to solve it. On the other hand, I think it's more unfair to say, oh, climate change, it's wrecking our planet here. Why don't you only learn the names and dates of these historical figures?

I feel like at this point in time, first of all, being of service feels good. It feels good to virtually everybody. When we contribute, when we do something meaningful, when we help others, whether those others are people or animals or ecosystems. We feel good. I mean, Andra was just talking about kids coming alive, like kids feeling great.

And we encounter that all the time. And I talked about kids feeling so much despair and hopelessness that ultimately it's more unfair to leave students with a world in which they are seeing injustice and they're seeing environmental destruction and they're seeing animal cruelty, but we're saying, oh, don't bother with that.

We know you know about it, but we're not going to do anything about it. In class, we're not going to focus on that and I want to tell a couple of stories.

So I was invited to speak in a middle school. And I was talking to the fifth and sixth graders and I asked them what they thought were the biggest problems in the world.

And they filled up a whiteboard with all the same problems that you are. I would, would put on that white board. One little boy said sex trafficking. Now he wasn't learning about sex trafficking in school. They weren't learning about any of these problems in school. But they knew about all these problems because this is the age that they live in.

We are exposed and, and, you know, humans were not designed to know about all of the problems of 8 billion of us and trillions of animals and ecosystems. That's, you know, we didn't live that way for 99% of humanity's existence on this planet. So to know all of these things, but not have been taught about them in school, they were able to fill up this way.

So I asked them to raise their hands. If they could imagine us solving all the problems they listed. And there were 45 kids in that class and only five raised their hands that they could even imagine us solving the problems that they'd listed. So I realized I had to stop everything and do something because that was pretty disturbing.

So I did a guided visualization with them where I asked them to imagine that they were very old and approaching the end of a very long and well lived life. And I asked them to imagine they were sitting on a park bench on a beautiful day and the air was clean and the waters around them were clean. And there hadn't been a war in decades and.

Species had come back from the brink of extinction and we learn to treat each other and, and other animals with respect and compassion. And then I asked them to imagine that a child comes up and joins them on the park bench and that the child has been learning history in school and has all sorts of questions.

And the child asks these questions. And then the child has a final question, which is what role did you play in helping to bring about this better world? What did you do? So while the kids were imagining what they would say to this child, they had their eyes closed and I asked them to raise their hands.

If now they could imagine us solving the problems they'd listened on the whiteboard and this time 40 hands went up in the air. It did not take long for their hope to be restored for them to realize that we could solve the problems. All that they had to do was imagine themselves as part of helping. So that was a reminder to me, of the importance of engaging youth in solving solvable problems, age appropriate problems.

Well, fast forward a couple of years, I was asked to keynote international teachers conference in Mexico, in Guadalajara. And the day before the conference, I went to visit one of the host organizations, the us, which was a school in Guadalajara. And they said, oh, will you come talk to the fifth graders?

So I wasn't really prepared. I just walked into that class and I figured I'd ask them the same question. So I asked them if they thought raise their hands, if they thought we could solve the problems in the world and every hand flew up in the air. So what was different? Between those kids in Guadalajara and those kids in the United States?

Well, the difference was their teacher. So in Guadalajara, their teacher had been teaching them in age appropriate ways about environmental issues in particular. And they had been active in solving environmental issues. So the school had put up solar panels, they'd gotten a composting system set up. They were no longer using small disposable water bottles.

They had big water jugs and they had refillable water bottles. And so these kids knew the problems could be solved because they had been solving them.

[00:43:06] Brandon Stover: Amazing.

[00:43:07] Zoe Weil: that is why it's unfair not to engage them.

[00:43:11] Andra Yeghoian: One thing I just wanted to tag onto what Zoe was saying. One thing that we've learned to do in our county, when we do the trainings with teachers is we embed what we call trauma informed practices.

So we talk really deeply around. How do you, how do you introduce these complex topics? But also how do you make sure that whenever you do that you're bringing in trauma informed practices. So we have like a whole kind of like guidelines around that and we have a bunch of suggestions and then we have like a whole series of just like nature, connection, time activities, because so much of what kids are learning.

With environmental problems is like the environment just killing you and really reality. It's the humans that are hurting the environment, which is coming back to hurt us. But either way, oftentimes the narrative is like the environment is scary. And so we do a lot to like do the fostering, the love and the wonder and just giving people a chance to process emotions.

So many of our teachers say, I never thought like, especially our science teachers, they always say, like, I never thought to ask the kids like how they felt after I like introduced climate change and showed them all this data about the world ending. So that's like a real big turning point for teachers in our program is to have like the skills and to be trained on how to actually have an emotional conversation with kids.

[00:44:19] Brandon Stover: What is the other sorts of pushback that you often get when trying to implement this type of education? Because, you know, on the surface, it sounds like, you know why say no to this? Don't we all want it just humane world and teaching our children how to create that. So what kind of obstacles usually come up when trying to employ.

[00:44:36] Andra Yeghoian: Yeah, so I can talk about a couple of things. some of the pushback that we've seen in our county in San Mateo county has, has been around just. Are these topics appropriate is in climate change still controversial. And so that was happening. A lot of that was happening prior to 2019, I think the youth climate strikes have really changed the narrative.

So have the a number of immense wildfires that have really devastated California. So we aren't really seeing that kind of pushback as much anymore. But there is still some pushback, like in terms of how much time is dedicated to science. It's very little in the elementary space. And so trying to get that, like, can we value science education?

And we were always like, absolutely it's required. It's wonderful. It's all the things. So some of the pushback is around time and resources being put towards. And then some of the pushback is, is along the lines of what so shared. Like some, some parents feel uncomfortable with these topics being brought into the classroom.

So we still do have, but not necessarily climate change, but any, any, any gamut of topics. Usually what we do though, is we are able to help teachers really ground themselves in like, this is standards-based. This is something that we're talking here about the survival of humans, and that's a really important thing for your kids to wrap their heads around.

We're talking about clean air, we're talking about clean water. We're talking about racial injustice. We're talking about things that are really relevant to them, but also just relevant to. Being healthy and happy and so grounding and also in health initiatives has really helped. And all those types of things have really dismantled any sort of pushback.

I've also used this framework with folks in parts of California that are a little bit more conservative and really get a lot of that pushback against the politics of climate change or the politics of the environment. And a lot of times what they do in those spaces, a lot of similar things, but they really redirect it towards just this idea of like, We care about the outdoors because we want to go out and we want to hike and we want to hunt and we want to do these things.

And so while we don't necessarily promote hunting of animals, we recognize that that might need to come in a message in those communities that feels safer to the people that are there. Whenever it can be framed in that lens of clean water and clean air, it rarely gets the pushback that it would if you just come right out the gate with climate I'd say the other thing that's really helped in some of those communities is instead of saying climate adaptation plan to call it a local hazard and mitigation plan.

And that's actually the framing that's used in the state of California. And that really resonates well with people as well. It's like, oh yeah, floods, like, you know, earthquakes fires. Like we need to just deal with those. And yes, the data shows that, you know, climate change is exacerbating those and making them more frequent and more severe.

But using whatever kind of framing is needed can really help in those different communities. So we did get pushback, but again, it's a lot less now, which is great. Unfortunately, the reason it's a lot less is because climate change is very real now. So.

[00:47:24] Brandon Stover: Yeah, well, and I think you know, something that you were doing using the Solutionary framework, I mean, digging down below those systems to what the beliefs are of each one of these stakeholders, as you mentioned, like the conservatives and being able to address those connect with them and make sure that you know, they are seeing within this curriculum and their concerns are addressed.

[00:47:43] Andra Yeghoian: Yeah, I would say that's a big part of what we do here as well, especially in our like adult capacity building programs, but also in our youth is we do a really deep dive in change theory and like this idea that you're bringing change to your community. We, like, we are asking you to, to bring some sort of change by the end of this program.

And so, or your students are going to bring change. So do we, we do a lot to help them with different change theories that assess the readiness for change. They do an activity where they pick a stakeholder that they think might push back and they try to get into the mindset of that stakeholder and really figure out like what's the right way to message to the stakeholder.

Then they do like a whole thing around, like, how do you plan change? And so we take them through a bunch of change theories that do that. And then for the communities where people feel like it's really, really threatening to the community, we talk about like being a disruptive change maker and the different like strategies for that.

So I feel like it's helped to have both the trauma informed practices, but also the change theory to go along with it, to really train people, to feel like they are not entering into a zone, that they are uncomfortable in, but instead feel more

empowered.

[00:48:45] Zoe Weil: and I would just add that the Solutionary approach by its very nature and definition is likely to elicit pushback.

Then. Other approaches might be because solutionaries are encouraged to reach out to all stakeholders encouraged to collaborate and they bring a Solutionary lens to problems. And when I, when I say Solutionary lens, what that means is they believe that problems can be solved that unlike the debate format, where we pick a side and then argue, or a teacher picks aside for us and tells us to argue and when, when our side there's always, whenever we're doing debates, there's always an underlying problem.

But instead of trying to solve the problem, the debate debate format is oriented toward arguing about who's right and wrong. Whereas a Solutionary lens means, oh, we're going to look at this problem together. We are going to hear a variety of perspectives and we are going to try to solve this problem and solving problems.

It just, it doesn't get the same kind of pushback as imposing belief systems. And that's not what this is about. I mean, the only belief system that you have to hold to be a Solutionary is the belief that problems can be solved by working together and using a Solutionary framework.

[00:50:27] Brandon Stover: Yeah, absolutely. Something great. That's come from, this is actually did a Solutionary fair showcasing some of those solutions that students did. Andra could you talk a little bit about that fair and what kind of solutions that these students have created?

[00:50:41] Andra Yeghoian: we were really inspired by the idea. The fare really came from ZOS book, just the idea of hosting a fair like that. And we had our, they have a program in our county that's designed for we called it our one plan at schools challenge. So we already had a program that was really designed for like folks who are actually doing implementation of projects.

And it could be anybody like parents, you know, teachers. The students, counselors, whoever. But this Solutionary fair is really specific to being for students only. And it's also allows for entry for, for students who go through the Solutionary process, who may not get the chance to implement their actual solution.

So it's really more of like an academic fair, of course, if they implement we'd love for them to enter as well. Like we're not excluding that we want that, but we recognize that in some communities, the the process is more of an academic exercise and kids are not going to get the chance to actually do the implementation.

So we have both programs. So we still run the other one as well, but the Solutionary affair has really allowed a lot more kids to get recognized for having this mindset. Whereas our other program was recognizing for like follow through on the process. And so we're really excited to have the Solutionary fair and we piloted last year virtually.

Really successful in kids of all different ages. Participating. We even had a few schools like wrap their entire school around this process and get really into it and have every grade level, you know, really be involved. And we're excited to, to go forward with that.

[00:52:02] Zoe Weil: I'm just so excited that San Mateo offers a Solutionary fair. Can't wait till this spreads to all of California and then all across the country and all across the world. And I would say that one of the things that we are looking to do is to curate and then share the most Solutionary solutions from students on a Solutionary YouTube channel.

So we encourage students to send us a five to seven minute video of their Solutionary process and their solution. And then we're looking for the most Solutionary solutions to them share with the world and the, the way that students can go about producing that video is described in both the free Solutionary guidebook and the free, how to be a Solutionary guide for.

[00:52:55] Brandon Stover: One of the things that's in the book is a scale to evaluate solutions. And based on that scale and the problem that you're addressing with education, how effective do you think? You know, what you're doing with the Institute for humane education is on that Solutionary scale.

[00:53:12] Zoe Weil: Oh, well, that is a great question, Brandon. So the Solutionary scale, it, it goes from emerging to developing, to Solutionary, to most Solutionary and for a solution to be most Solutionary. It has to go to the root and systemic causes of the problem and then solve that problem in a way that does the most good and the least harm for all people, animals and the environment.

So in terms of our work. Our Solutionary framework is absolutely falls into the most Solutionary category. If I do say so myself, the, in terms of our actual success at, at transforming the educational system, we have a very long way to go, but we have the right solution. So if you have the right solution, then what the next step would be.

We need Solutionary strategies for getting this solution to be implemented all over the planet. And I would say that Andra's work in San Mateo county. Would fall into that category of most Solutionary for getting this implemented in an entire county, all the things that she's just told you, this is all scalable.

This can all happen. It's happening in San Mateo. It can happen in other counties across our country. It can happen across the world. this is not that hard to do. What it takes is it takes leaders at administrative levels like Andra, who are helping teachers to integrate this into schools. It takes schools and school leaders being on board.

And and, and then the sky's the limit. And if we can do this, if we can really do this, there's just no question at all, that we will see entrenched problems begin to get solved because there will be a generation of solutionaries that as practice. And has the disposition and has the skillset to do it.

[00:55:27] Andra Yeghoian: Yeah. I just wanted to add on for the scalability. So one thing that's exciting is that we have partner now with San Francisco and with Santa Clara and Santa Cruz

and so they are a part of our teacher fellowship program now. So we have taken it to scale across the region and then also the administrator fellowship program as well. So that's really exciting to see that work happen. In terms of California, in general, we have launched a community of practice for other county offices across the state.

And part of the work that we do is to talk about the talk about how can you do teacher professional development programs in this way? How can you do this with youth? So we are excited to see these ideas really take hold across the state. And I agree in terms of the leadership part, like I know as a classroom, when I was a classroom teacher, it was really hard to do this at the grassroots level, without any like leadership at all.

And, and that. I know when I came to my next job, which was a site level director of sustainability. It was such a blessing to have a site administration who wanted me there, who said, yeah, we invite you in. And we love for you to be our director of sustainability and to do all the things. And I was like, yes, this is incredible.

And then same thing here at this county office. Our county superintendent are actually, she's retired now, but Ann Campbell, she was the one who launched this work. Same thing. She invited me in and said like, I want you here. And I want you to bring change to this, to this community. And then our next county superintendent, Nancy McGee, same thing she said, I want to keep you here.

And in fact, I want to double down on this work. So it absolutely needs leadership, but not to say that you can do stuff from the grassroots level, but I really believe strongly in that top down and bottom up approach to really move this forward quickly. And I know Zoe agrees with about too, so I wanted to bring it in here.

[00:57:03] Brandon Stover: Yeah. Thank you. So this solution to creating a humane and just world through education, wasn't actually your first solution and you've been very passionate about trying to do this work for a long time. Why did you start to developing this desire to create a more humane.

[00:57:20] Zoe Weil: Hmm, that's a big question. it was a somewhat circuitous path in my early twenties, figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. And I won't get into that whole circuitous path. But after teaching a couple of week long summer, Courses to middle school students and watching these were humane education courses.

One was on environmental issues. One was on animal issues and these kids just were transformed in the course of a week. In one case overnight, when one boy went home and he made his own homemade leaflets, and this was in 1986. So he hand wrote them. He didn't have a personal computer and came back the next day and stood on a Philadelphia area street corner and handed out his leaflets.

He'd become a changemaker overnight because he learned about something. And that's when I realized just the power of education. And, and it's not as if the power of education is something that we don't all know and, and for good or ill, I mean, you know, Hitler knew it when he Established the Nazi youth that then made parents afraid of their children.

And our government knew it. And when we, we took native American children from their families and put them into boarding schools where we didn't allow them to speak their own languages and therefore destroyed their cultures. And so we know the power of education, but I learned that for myself. And and then I, I ran a program in the Philadelphia area where I went into schools and did presentations.

In classrooms and assembly programs. And our program was reaching about 10,000 kids a year, which sounds like a lot, but of course that's a drop in the bucket and these were often one-off presentations. Now I know that a single presentation can change a child's life because I've seen it happen, but that's not good enough.

You know, I really wanted to change the system. And so 25 years ago, I co-founded the Institute for humane education with. Some very specific goals in mind. One was to launch a humane education movement that would teach about the interconnected issues of human rights, animal protection and environmental sustainability, and to train people, to be humane educators.

And we created the first graduate programs in comprehensive humane education that linked to these issues and which prepared our graduate students to teach about these interconnected issues and prepare people to be solutionaries at whatever level. So I realize that at sort of every step of the way, it's just, it hasn't been enough, you know, like there's a, we have big problems to solve.

And so I just got a little bit more grand and far reaching in my vision every step of the way. And here we are, and we offered this graduate program and we offered this Solutionary framework that we are trying to make foundational to schools across the U S and around the world. and create the leadership of the comprehensive, humane education movement that, will go into every profession.

Ultimately, not just education and we'll transform, you know, all of these different systems. I sometimes worry that I sound a little either grandiose or Pollyannish, but it's, it's just really my effort to. Identify, what I think is the best strategy for change and leave this world better than when I found it and just play my role.

[01:01:10] Brandon Stover: Speaking a little bit to that strategy. what was behind the decision to help teachers and educational leaders in the existing system, rather than try and go off and maybe start a new school or a new system?

[01:01:23] Zoe Weil: Well actually we did for, for about 18 months, work on opening a Solutionary school to be a prototype for schools. And we eventually decided that It wasn't the best strategy that it would be a better strategy to try to integrate this into the existing system. And also at the same time to try and push changes to the system.

So in my book, the world becomes what we teach. I'm trying to recommend changes to the whole system and then offer this as, as an approach. And you know, we're always tweaking and looking at our strategy and making sure it makes the most sense. And when Andra contacted me to tell me that, that my book and our ideas were being used as the philosophy and framework for the county, I mean, that for me was.

Well, just one of the best moments of my career and and knowing that she was doing that has also reminded me that yeah, there's, let's work within the system we have, and also try and change the system at the same time. You can do both simultaneously.

[01:02:42] Andra Yeghoian: Yeah. I wanted to jump in there and just say like, for me, I think I asked myself every day, like it's so hard to be in the system and make the change happen.

It's like so hard to do that type of change, work that intrepreneurship right. But I think it's so critical. And I think for me, the reason I stay in K through 12 education and stay within the formal education system. So not being like not being on the side of it, but like remain in the system. I think our kids are required by law to go to be, to do some level of education.

Yes, they can do homeschool, but the vast, vast majority of kids are required to go to these places every day and they don't have a choice really in that. And so I think it's absolutely critical to, to change that system then because it's a tremendous injustice otherwise to kids to force them to go to this place.

That is not, that is not helping to save, to make the world better. And so I want to stay in the system in the formal education system to really make that change happen from within and to, to fight those battles, even though they're hard and exhausting and all the things, but it's absolutely

true.

[01:03:41] Brandon Stover: And well, this is a question for both of you and Zoe. I'll have you answer. First education is a large and complex historically entrenched problem. How did you face some of the obstacles of overwhelm, despair, complicity, all those things that come up when you're trying to solve a problem like this.

[01:03:58] Zoe Weil: there are days when I feel despair and I, there are days when I lose hope, not most days by any means, but certainly there are times. And I told you two quotes that helped me. Action is the antidote to despair and hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. But at the end of the day, for me, it also just comes down to my own integrity.

I have to look in the mirror every day. And do I want to have respect for the person who's looking back at me or not? I mean, if I were to. Sort of succumb to despair or, or decide, oh, you know, I just, I don't want to deal with this. I'm going to do something that just makes me happy. Although I have to say that doing good work always makes me happy, but when, when feels despair about it, it could be easy to say, oh, I'm going to do something else.

But like Andra and, and thank you, Andra because I'm so glad that you're embedded in the system. I, you know, one day I'm going to die as are we all. And I want to know that I tried, I want to know that I did my best. So there well, hope and well, while hope is important and despair can be debilitating.

Hope is not a prerequisite for doing good work. Integrity is a prerequisite for doing good work and. Integrity just means you walk your talk, you live according to your principles and your values. And I think that all of us would find that our lives have greater meaning and that we feel better about ourselves, whether or not we have hope on that particular morning or not.

If we live with integrity. So I would invite anybody who's listening, who has those moments where they succumb to despair to remind themselves that you just got to roll up your sleeves and, and hope will follow most likely. And even if it doesn't keep rolling up your sleeve,

[01:06:05] Andra Yeghoian: and, oh gosh, I love that.

Thank you. So that, like, it's uplifting honestly, like having partnerships like this and, and convene connected to people like so, and other thought leaders around the country have helped a lot to keep me in that space. I, I want to bring in another framework to think about this, which is from the podcast, outrage and optimism.

So I really oscillate between outrage and optimism, I think on a daily basis. And so I try to avoid this fair, but I also feel that as well sometimes, but I definitely, for me, I want to be a stubborn optimist that we can make this difference. And I think the thing that. Keep me grounded is just looking at my children every day.

And then therefore in six years old, and every day I look at them and I say like, we gotta do this like this, you know, it's their future. And and it's my future. It's my future as well. I think about that too. I'm not even 40 yet. And so when I think like people are always like, oh, the kids future. I'm like, Hey, my future too.

Like I want to have a healthy existence. I recognize that my quality of life has probably gotten worse since I was a child. Because, because of my age, a lot of that clean air and clean water was, was improved by the time I was a child. And so it's been great. And now I'm seeing this decline and I'm like, whoa, whoa, whoa.

I want that back. Like that was really, really nice. So I think that's where some of the outreach comes from is I've seen how good it can be. And I don't want to lose that. I don't want to lose that. And so I want to fight that fight to keep that and to get that to more and more people who've have suffered and not had access to that.

So I want to make sure that the, those. You know are taken care of and that everybody's getting access to this. So that's what the fight, I guess, for me I'm an angry person, I guess, is it just keeps me going, but also the hope and the and releasing other people experienced this and other people get turned on to the work.

It brings me joy as well. So

[01:07:47] Brandon Stover: Those are both powerful.

[01:07:48] Zoe Weil: want to add one thing to that because I can still relate to the outrage and I feel a lot of anger a lot, and sometimes, you know, people think of anger, oh, you don't want to, you don't want to indulge anger. Anger is such a dark bad emotion. For me, as long as I don't lash out as people, as long as I have good self control and that I can Take that anger, I feel and direct it toward, toward trying to create change.

Anger is a, it's an important motivator. And so I wouldn't want people to feel like, oh, we should only have good emotions. We can have all the emotions and the emotions can all be motivators and anger for many people it's a much more powerful motivator certainly than despair or hopelessness. So to the degree that young people can feel a bit more anger than despair is good, as long as we help them take that anger, not spew it out because that's not helpful to anybody, but to harness it for positive change, that can be very.

[01:09:08] Brandon Stover: Yeah. All emotions are energy that, you know, helps us to do the things that we want in the world. And so we're able to harness whatever emotion that's bringing us to that problem and saying, yes, we want to change this. We should harness that as much as we can.

[01:09:21] Zoe Weil: Yes. And you know, so much of that anger stems from this other emotion love, you know, if, if I am angry at what's being done, To other species and to ecosystems because I love other species and I love nature. I love my planet. I don't want to go to Mars. I mean, I used to want to go to Mars because I'm a big star Trek fan, but here I am 60 years old, I'm really happy here on earth.

I want this beautiful blue.as, as Carl Sagan called this planet. I want this planet to be protected because I love this planet. And it is that love, that leads to that anger. When I see. Harm being done. And that's true for injustice in general, I feel angry because I love other human beings. And so we need to remember where that anger comes from.

And somebody once said to me you know, what is the opposite of compassion? Well, the opposite of compassion isn't hate or meanness. The opposite of compassion is apathy. And that's what we need to fight against. We need to fight against apathy because that stops us from doing anything.

[01:10:44] Brandon Stover: Well, before I get to my last question, is there a call to action? You'd like to leave our listeners with.

[01:10:50] Zoe Weil: Well, I'd love for people to go to our website, humane education.org, and there, they will find everything I've talked about. So they'll, they'll find out about my book. The world becomes what we teach. They'll be able to watch my TEDx talks if they want, they'll have loads of free downloadable resources and some curricular units, as well as our Solutionary guidebook and how to be a Solutionary they'll have access to our Solutionary micro-credential program.

This online professional development program that I mentioned as well as our online graduate programs with Antioch university, and we offer an and their degree and a graduate certificate as well as a humane education concentration within a doctoral program in education.

[01:11:37] Brandon Stover: Well, my last question is how can we push the world to evolve?

[01:11:42] Zoe Weil: Oh, that one's easy. We just have to change the education system in the ways that Andra and I have described.

[01:11:49] Brandon Stover: Absolutely all of that definitely follows. And thank you both so much for coming on the show today and sharing the amazing things that you both are doing.

[01:11:56] Andra Yeghoian: Thank you for having us.

[01:11:58] Zoe Weil: Yeah. Thanks Brandon.

[01:12:00] Brandon Stover: Thank you for listening to the evolve. Podcasts links to everything we discussed today are available in the show. Notes. Transcripts are also available in the show notes and everything can be viewed on our website at evolve. The doc world that's evolve the.world.

My one ask for you is to share this episode with others. If you know someone who is interested in social impact, social entrepreneurship, or just making a difference in the world, please share this episode. The challenges in our world need all of those who can contribute to existing solutions or create entirely new ones. so please share the show with those kind intelligent people who are just like you until next time my friend keep evolving.

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