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This Week in Humanism 2018–06–17


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/06/17

“Havana, June 13. -Mexican professor and researcher Sandra Valera highlighted here the importance of teaching based on humanism, in the context of the second session of the International Congress on Science and Education.

In statements to Prensa Latina, Valera expressed her satisfaction with the priorities of the Cuban education system, marked by democracy, freedom, welfare and equal opportunities for children and young people.

She also noted that unfortunately the competency-based approach, similar to that of a business system, prevails in some countries, without taking into account that education has nothing to do with this area.

We have to prepare students for life, but from the deepest values, she added, and stressed the legacies of the Cuban National Hero, Jose Marti.”


Dr. Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. On May 27, 2018, we published an interview. Here, we talk on the responsibility that comes with public recognition of excellence.

Dr. Igwe and I were conversing on the subject of the widespread recognition in Nigeria and African, especially the non-religious and humanist communities for founding the movement.

The Nigerian Humanist Movement, the first person to enact this formal movement out of tens of millions. He is an ever-active activist for the non-religious and a spokesperson for the equality of men and women, of the need for the implementation of human rights, and the importance of critical thinking and scientific education.”


Dr. Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. On August 16, 2017, we published an interview. Here, we talk about gender roles.

Igwe and I had an extensive conversation on the nature of gender roles in the context of modern Nigerian. The sub-text of the conversation came from modern and Indigenous spiritualities of the African continent, the colonial religions seen in Islam and Christianity, and with the pre-text of humanism rejecting these Indigenous and colonial supernaturalisms to define gender.

When we began to talk more, the emphasis of the conversation focused on the humanist masculinity. What is it? What defines it? How is it constrained, defined, and set about in practical terms?

Igwe stated, “It is the idea of maleness that emphasizes the humanity of men and males, the fact that men are human like their female counterparts. That males have emotions, entertain fear and suffer pain like their female counterparts. Simply humanistic masculinity stands for maleness as humanness.””


“The most powerful presence onstage on Sunday at the 72nd Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City was absence. A performance of Seasons of Love by the drama department from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left the star-studded audience drenched in tears and the viewing public silently wondering about the lost potential of the 14 students shot dead on Valentine’s Day at the school in Parkland, Florida.

Despite the aching wound the performance opened, its underlying message was one of unity and humanism, both themes that provided the foundation for a night in which winners made bold, heartfelt statements in support of LGBTQ rights, diversity, feminism, immigration, the perils of depression and the healing merit of art itself.

Although the show’s political overtones were many and obvious, the president was not mentioned until the eleventh hour, when, before introducing a performance by Bruce Springsteen, Robert De Niro denounced Donald Trump by name and a bleeped epithet beginning in “F.” He received a rousing standing ovation for his efforts.”


“Humans need humans. Anyone who has changed a plane ticket with an automated phone teller, or plodded through a digital pharmacy order is sympathetic to this fact. If only a human were on the other side of that receiver — how much easier would it be to get that ticket or that prescription? In an increasingly digital world, this seemingly mundane point about the role of humans in our lives becomes profound.

The scientific literature is clear. Humans are born into a socio-cultural world with (hopefully) socially sensitive adults who offer information that flows through a socially gated brain. Humans do not even learn the building blocks of reading or mathematics in isolation. These skills emerge in the context of early adult child interactions that feed communication skills. For example, a child learning to read does need decoding skills. Even if they sound out a word perfectly, however, they will not comprehend it if it’s not in their mental dictionary. Children cannot gather meaning from printed text without background knowledge and a rich language base. Thus, a number of scholars urge practitioners to teach reading by enriching language learning. And language learning is itself rooted in early social interactions. Social interactions are the currency of our species. As Michael Tomasello of Duke University argues, we are the ultra-human species.”


The lure of humanism is its universal appeal, and its global sense and commitment to human beneficence is its strength and compelling force. An international meeting of humanists, such as the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s Conference to be held in New Zealand in August presents yet another opportunity to assess the force and state of humanism in the world. This conference is an occasion to take stock and review the progress (if any) that the international humanist movement has made in the past years.

The meeting is a platform to understand how the movement has tried to fulfill its goals and objectives especially the project of promoting the humanist outlook around the globe. In fact, at this meeting, humanists will be examining how the movement has tried to deliver a 21st-century humanism, that is, a form of humanism that is in accordance with the realities of the time. This meeting is an occasion for reflection, introspection and critical self-assessment especially by those who come from parts of the world where organized humanism has yet to make a very significant impact.

The fact is that humanism presents a perennial challenge. Every generation of humanists faces and tries to address this challenge. History is filled with attempts and initiatives by past generations of humanists to fulfill this obligation and exercise the duty of fostering human rights and other human values. So the question now is this: how can this generation of humanists confront the challenge of creating a more humanistic world? Put more pointedly, how can humanism help address the inequities around the globe? This is because structural inequalities -both political and economic — within nations and between nations are at the root of the crisis that bedevils the world. They underlie the palpable anger, frustration, and desperation that rage in many regions.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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