The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries
by Zoe Weil
Zoe Weil, Co-founder and President of the Institute for Humane Education, offers a roadmap for addressing the challenges we face by transforming how and what we teach in order to empower students, enliven the teaching profession, and help build thriving schools and communities. In the revised second edition of her book, The World Becomes What We Teach, she offers a vision along with practical ideas for re-imagining education, rooted in teaching students to be solutionaries who apply what they learn in the classroom to solve problems in their community and world.
The Problem: Inequity in schools, demoralized teachers, and a planet in peril
The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the brokenness of America’s education system.
- Hundreds of thousands of students in the United States have disappeared from school during the pandemic.
- Many more children have experienced significant academic and social-emotional learning loss, especially BIPOC students and children with disabilities.
- Teachers are exhausted and are leaving the profession in droves.
The future has gotten grimmer.
- Climate change threatens everyone, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, and is leading to massive rates of species extinction.
- Inequity is increasing, not diminishing.
- Ever greater polarization impacts our ability to collaborate and solve the challenges we face.
The Answer: Educate a generation of solutionaries
Teachers and students alike describe solutionary-focused education as game-changing for children, schools, and communities, and the ideas in this book are being adopted by school districts across the U.S. and beyond.
Zoe Weil writes: “Yes, we face potential disasters, systemic injustices, and widespread cruelties, and yes, through the right kind of education, we can solve these problems. Given all these factors, doesn’t it make sense for schools to ensure that students understand the formidable challenges before them; to prepare young people to address these challenges; and to engage youth in cultivating their ability and desire to create meaningful solutions to potentially calamitous global problems?”
Praise for The World Becomes What We Teach
“If we are putting hope for the future of our planet in our young people, then they must have the tools and feel empowered to take on the world’s greatest challenges. The World Becomes What We Teach offers such direction for the very educators who are working with these young people today.”Jane Goodall, DBE, Ph.D., Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace
“This book has never been more important. It provides us with a healing vision for a world struggling under the weight of racism, environmental exploitation, and a host of other ills, and it outlines a powerful and practical pathway forward for all teachers and schools committed to preparing children to be the next caretakers of our planet. It calls on us to go beyond simply preparing students to be ‘college and career ready’ and to prepare them as well to contribute to the creation of a just, healthy, and sustainable world where all living beings can thrive. Never before have we needed such a strong moral vision for our children or for our schools.”Steve Cochrane, former Superintendent of the Year, Princeton Public Schools
“In an increasingly polarized world, this book is a ray of hope inspiring a generation of solutionaries in our schools to tackle our most pressing problems.”Akash Patel, Global Teacher Prize Finalist, UNA-USA National Council Member
About Zoe Weil
Zoe Weil is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement, having created IHE’s online graduate programs and acclaimed workshops. She writes a blog, Becoming a Solutionary, for Psychology Today; regularly appears on podcasts, radio, and television; and is a frequent keynote speaker at educational and other conferences. The author of seven books, she has given six TEDx talks, including her acclaimed talk The World Becomes What You Teach. Learn more about Zoe.
What is The World Becomes What We Teach about?
The World Becomes What We Teach is a short manifesto that also provides practical approaches for transforming the education system for the benefit of students, their communities, and our collective future. The book goes beyond typical concerns about schooling and offers a vision for what schools can and must become for the sake of our children and the world they are both inheriting and shaping.
Why is The World Becomes What We Teach important?
Our planet is imperiled by climate change. Lack of critical thinking and polarization are leading us away from collaborative problem-solving. Education is currently delivered inequitably, and it’s stress-inducing for students and teachers alike and lacks meaning and relevance. Given that education is the root system underlying other societal systems, The World Becomes What We Teach makes the case that if we educate a generation of solutionaries, we can solve the challenges we face in schools, in neighborhoods, in our country, and in the world.
What is a solutionary?
A solutionary identifies unsustainable, unjust, and inhumane systems and develops solutions that do the most good and least harm to everyone: all people, other species, and the environment. Solutionaries bring a solutionary lens to problems, meaning they focus on solving problems rather than debating them; they work collaboratively; and they employ solutionary thinking to devise solutions with the fewest unintended negative consequences. Solutionary thinking is comprised of critical, systems, strategic, and creative thinking.
What is the Institute for Humane Education (IHE)?
The Institute for Humane Education is a nonprofit organization that educates people to create a world where all humans, animals, and nature can thrive. IHE offers free resources for educators, a Solutionary Micro-credential Program, and online graduate programs (M.Ed., M.A., Ed.D., Graduate Certificate) through Antioch University.
What is humane education?
Humane Education examines the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental sustainability, and animal protection with the goal of preparing people to be solutionaries who can address and solve systemic problems and create a world where all life can thrive.