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zoe-weilOne day, Zoe Weil came to the radical conclusion that the main goal of education is to produce kind people who contribute to the wellbeing of the world by tackling huge problems.

This may not seem radical, but compare it to the US Department of Education's mission statement: “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

Weil notes in her book, The World Becomes What We Teach (that link allows you to download it for free):

“…this mission is neither sufficient, nor ultimately appropriate, for a world with significant and grave challenges that threaten our children's future. Contrary to the views of some, climate change is not a future possibility; it is happening now, with potentially catastrophic impacts. Already, species are becoming extinct at alarming rates. Human population continues to grow, and of the 7.3 billion people in the world, one billion do not have adequate access to clean water and food, more than 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation, and over 25 million are living in slavery. Additionally, tens of billions of land animals and more than one trillion sea animals suffer and die each year as part of an unsustainable and inhumane global food system.”

In the face of this reality, Weil, the founder of the Institute for Humane Education, says that schools have to shift their focus to raise a generation of “solutionaries”: people who can look problems in the eye and brainstorm, test, and implement real solutions for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment.

In our conversation, Weil and I cover a wide range of topics, all woven skillfully together by her wholistic and compassionate mind:

  • the definition and role of humane education
  • why we need solutionaries to tackle the unsustainable and unjust manifestations of our culture
  • “the framing of a problem is part of the problem”
  • the insights and blind spots of partial solutions (the “Waiting for Superman” issue)
  • a solutionary teaching koan: what's the connection between dead zones in Gulf of Mexico and the primary causes of death in US
  • organic apples and fast food cheeseburgers
  • the blessing of collaboration
  • education: the root system that effects every other system
  • how to speak truth to power: evoking the grandchildren of the 1%
  • the blindness of proximal kindness
  • why can’t buy ourselves into a peaceful world
  • boycotts and buycotts – evidence of our own integrity, but not solutions
  • bullying as the alpha and omega of character education
  • playing the true price game with children and adults
  • the MOGO principle and recognizing one’s blind spots
  • and much more…


The Institute for Humane Education

Zoe Weil's website:

Zoe Weil's 7 TEDx Talks

Zoe Weil's books


The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,

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