Human Exceptionalism

UK Children Taught Not to Stamp on “Mini Beasts” (Insects)

I was so busy in the UK, I didn’t have the time to point out this story. New curriculum guidelines in the UK are apparently going to teach children that insects–mini beasts–are akin to other animals.  From the story:

New curriculum guidance says the well-being of “mini-beasts”, including bees, ants and worms, should be taught in classes as part of primary school’s “animals and us” section of the citizenship curriculum. By the age of seven, pupils will have learnt that “not stamping on insects” is appropriate behaviour “in areas where animals live”. The guidance, drawn up by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, says children can learn good citizenship skills by learning about the welfare of insects because “other living things have needs and they have responsibilities to meet them”.

Well, wait a minute. Insects don’t have “responsibilities.”  That is a human attribute as it involves moral duty.  Insects have instinct.  And doesn’t this smack of the nonsense out of Switzerland where a big bioethics panel said it was immoral to “decapitate” a wild flower?

And get this quote:

Rhiannon Pursall, a beetle expert at the Royal Entomological Society, welcomed the move, which is not compulsory. “A lot of children do not recognise insects as animals. They stamp on ants and torture spiders, but they wouldn’t kill a cat or a dog,” she told the Sunday Times. “The younger that children can learn about caring for insects the better. If they can grasp the idea that insects are just as important as animals that would be fantastic.”

No, a beetle is not as important as a dog or a cow. All animals are not equal.

I am all for teaching children to be kind to animals.  Indeed, that is a matter of human exceptionalism.  I also agree that we shouldn’t mess with ant hills for no good reason, and I release spiders and flies from my house if I can, rather than swat them.  But given that the UK is showing increasing disrespect for the intrinsic value of human beings, the curriculum seems to me–to say the least–profoundly ironic.

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