Creating young thinking vegans

Vegetarian Values Kits for Young People

by Maynard S. Clark

I have an idea that I'm currently floating around the vegetarian world. Have you ever wondered why so many vegetarian families are "unaffiliated" with any local organization; or why so many vegetarian young people feel "alienated" and "dispossessed" and disconnected, even from other vegetarians, especially if those vegetarians are older than they; or why, if our ideas are so valuable and true, there aren't more vegetarian "revolutions"?


Perhaps there are few real resources for the much younger members of local vegetarian societies - the young people growing up from infancy, toddlers, youngsters, preteens, teens/adolescent, etc.. Also, the vegetarian movement is presently framed, perhaps inadvertently, as an "anti-family" movement, although that was hardly the intention of the various founders, many of whom have successfully married and built bright, energetic, compassionate families who share their vegetarian values at home and in their communities beyond.

There are many resources for pregnant vegetarians, and nursing moms, and that's what Veg-Parent (note 1) does well; but most of the discussion on the list is about issues related to infants and toddlers. There is a real need for informational resources to help guide older young vegetarians and vegans through difficult areas of image, diet, self awareness, getting along, and vocation or career.

My idea is to develop educational resources for both the local vegetarian societies and homeschooling families, since we need to find a large enough base for selling these resource kits. These kits will cover the key topics that are more specific to vegetarians, as "curriculum kits" for young people, focusing on each of the major areas of vegetarian values. For example:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Our world (ecosystem)
  3. Living among others - even animals - who are different (don't share our values, and are different in other ways)
  4. Vegetarian philosophy
  5. Finding personal peace, balance, and direction
  6. The vegetarian home
  7. Ultimate questions for the vegetarian (after Kant):
    • How should I think? (Clear reasoning)
    • What can I know?
    • What and how should I believe? (How should I deal with the questions of rightful belief, since truth is a category of belief? What is reasonable?)
    • What can I hope?
  8. The health questions revisited - beyond nutrition: Exploring the range of health issues beyond food and nutrition - exercise, genes, attitude, medicine and alternative health, etc.
  9. Our food - our world (perhaps related to the EarthSave themes)
  10. Vegetarians and business - and exploration of careers and vocational direction, as well as our strategic roles in the economic world. (Making a good future better through careful career planning.)

I think of these kits for kids as graded curriculum kits, with each module targeted at a specific age range, with some adult education materials included so that adults and older teens might also participate in these learning opportunities. In this way they might readily volunteer to help teach from the curriculum kits the younger members of their local vegetarian societies, or perhaps teach in a home context the younger vegetarian children whom they find through their local societies, or perhaps vegetarians who are nannies and child care workers will wish to use some of the exercises and activities in their professional work.

I think that we all benefit from any kind of constructive interpersonal commitments that one local vegetarian society member makes towards other vegetarian society members. I think that the kind of interest we see among vegetarian young people at the annual NAVS Summerfest in helping to teach younger vegetarians could be easily tapped in the local vegetarian societies, and good "teaching" (educational) opportunities for our more gifted young people could be developed - to the advantage of everyone involved.

I think that NAVS would be an ideal venue for developing the idea, and, while the NAVS Board has more than enough work to do with the annual NAVS Summerfest, I can envision the NAVS Board allowing me or someone else - such as educators and vegans Antonia Demas (note 2) or Dr. James Oswald (note 3) - to develop this kind of idea under the auspices of NAVS, as an NAVS-approved project. I could also envision NAVS and VUNA cooperating in North America to develop such a project for the IVU - but with particularly North American perspectives. A scenario for the future might be the IVU taking on this kind of material for all continents of the world - but my goals right now are to see this as an "English language project."

The idea of "curriculum kits" has a long history in religious denominations in North America. Groups as diverse as the Southern Baptists and the Unitarian Universalist Association use curriculum kits, and most religious denominations have publishing houses for their educational materials. I don't want to compete with the religious communities, but I do believe that we have unique content areas that we ought to develop, and that much of the content has already been developed - and needs merely to be reorganized into "boxes" or packages - with materials such as

  1. Teachers' guides
  2. AV materials
    • large, full-color charts
    • activities materials
    • music - audio cassettes, CD-ROMs
    • books and other printed materials
  3. Any fabrics or old clothes that could be used for "dressing up" for activities
  4. Other "props" for hands-on learning activities.

Although many people reading about this proposal might think in terms of a limited range of ages for teaching young people, I'd wager that every vegetarian young person is interested in fun - valuable fun!! And we could design these educational experiences to be lots of fun, not just for the young people but also for the instructors or learning guides or learning companions.

The cost of producing such a series of kits could vary greatly, and we could begin by developing those for which we have the greatest amount of materials - perhaps "Our World"; but I believe that the kits most useful to our collective needs of perhaps 400-600 local vegetarian societies in North America might be the ones on the vegetarian home; vegetarians and business; nutrition; beyond nutrition - other health issues; living among others; vegetarian philosophy - big questions for vegetarians; our food - our world (i.e. what food is, and what its origin).

I believe that curriculum kits like "The Vegetarian Home" would help vegetarians sort out the rather unusual experience of being a living, thriving, questioning human being in "a vegetarian home".

Instruction, yes: but built upon wholesome, loving principles drawn from the highest and noblest sources we can find.

Anyway, that's just the outline of some of my concerns. Perhaps you can share your thoughts with me, either directly or by posting a message to VEGAN Mailing List .

Maynard S. Clark

Notes

  1. To join the Veg-Parent mailing list, send an email, giving your name and mentioning the Veg-Parent list, to list@vegetarian.org
  2. As an educator, Antonia Demas has many experiences working with such curricultum kits, since she has seen them in her religious denomination. She has also pioneered sensory education curricula with children in Miami, Florida, and has presented slides and lectures about her research to various communities, including the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) Summerfest for several years in a row.
  3. Dr. James Oswald is a retired professor of education who now lives outside Philadelphia in Bala Cynwyd (the train runs through there) and runs the Institute for Plant-Based Nutrition.

Abbreviations

NAVS: North American Vegetarian Society
VUNA: Vegetarian Union of North America
IVU: International Vegetarian Union



Insert date: 2009.05.16 Last update: 2009.05.16

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