To the Editor:
Given that schools are rightfully cracking down on bullying, they should be at the forefront of encouraging students to be respectful to each other and all those around them—and that means everyone (“Inside the Mind of a Bully,” Oct. 16, 2012).
Over the last few years, there’s been a troubling trend in schools to hold events involving animals, such as “kiss a pig” contests and donkey basketball games. These promotions are ostensibly designed to reward students for reading or to motivate them to do fundraising. But what they teach students is that animals are theirs to laugh at, ridicule, and use as they please. The lessons kids are unintentionally taught can hold just as much weight as those in the formal curriculum.
It’s cruel to haul animals into school gymnasiums and subject them to the frightening and confusing environment of hundreds of screaming kids. Schools should recognize that encouraging students to kiss pigs, eat bugs, and shoot baskets off donkeys fosters derision and disrespect toward both animals and educators. It is important for students to understand that animals are thinking, feeling beings who deserve kindness and respect.
Good teachers know that, as the saying goes, “Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.”
With so many innovative and humane ways to get students involved, schools are failing themselves and their students by promoting animal exploitation for cheap laughs.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Foundation
The writer has worked as a substitute teacher in California and Texas.
A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2012 edition of Education Week as Schools Need to Teach Respect for All Creatures