Humane Education In the Public Schools of Maine

“TO THE TEACHERS OF MAINE –

Dear Co-workers:

In preparing this little booklet on kindness to animals I have in mind not alone the fulfilling of the law as set down in our statues, but with it that other law of love which may find expression in our relations with our animal friends as well as with our human friends. Kindness to one is of the same nature as the other.

It is at the instance of Governor Percival P. Baxter, who is greatly interested in animals and their protection and in carrying out the spirit of the law, that I have gotten this material together….”

And so begins the introduction to “Humane Education In the Public Schools of Maine: Animals Have Rights as well as We” by then State Commissioner of Education, Augustus O. Thomas. This 15-page booklet illustrates some of the popular ways to instruct students of the 1920’s in humane education, including looking at animals in art, making use of pets, studying wild animals and bird calls, forming a Bands of Mercy, reciting stories or poetry, and reading books such as Black Beauty or Beautiful Joe. In 1917, section 108 of the School Code (or Chapter 228 of the Pubic Laws on 1917) required that

“all teachers in the public schools of the state shall devote no less than one-half hour of each week of the school term, to teaching children…the great principles of humanity as illustrated by kindness to birds and animals and regard for all factors which contribute to the well-being of man.”

To carry out that charge, the booklet made only suggestions as to what could be implemented in the classroom, but left it up to a teacher’s initiative and creativity to uphold the law.

Governor BaxterThis image of Governor Percival P. Baxter can be found inside the booklet.

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