Interview with Nick Coughlin – Humane Education

Nick Coughlin is the founder and CEO of The Good Kid Project and was kind enough to sit down with Clara Battle, an intern at Fanimal, and answer some questions about Humane Education and his involvement.

Clara Battle (CB): How would you define Humane Education? 

Nick Coughlin (NC):  Humane Education, I would say is really any sort of education that promotes empathy. I don’t have any kids of my own, I’m not a teacher, so I think that you don’t need to have any formal education in humane education to do it, and really when I created the Good Kid Project, you know I just have a passion for animals, for protecting animals and making the world a better place for them. One of the best ways we can do that is through teaching kids about a relationship with other beings. And so what I do, and what I’ve created is really a form of humane education even though I don’t have any formal background in that so, really what the Good Kid Project does, and what I believe in and what I think is so cool about what Fanimal is doing, is helping young people start thinking about our relationship with other beings. That has benefits in so many different areas. It’s not only in the way that we relate to other animals, but when kids learn to treat animals, who have far less power than even kids have, those lessons naturally sort of translate to the way that they interact with other people. So it’s a great way to make the world a better place just all around.

CB: Why do you think it’s important in today’s society? 

NC: Well, it’s no secret that we live in a very fractured world. I think that it’s really sad to see, I hate it and I know a lot of other people do as well. I think that social media has played a big role in really driving a wedge between people who would normally interact with each other and now I think that we have become so polarized. And that’s sad because the real conversations aren’t happening. I think that conversation has shut down, and so we have lots of challenges in front of us. And so I think that you know, humane education does like I was saying earlier, does so much to help improve the way we interact with the world and with other people. It’s immensely important that we teach these lessons that kids start to think about the way others feel, the way others think and develop a genuine curiosity for it. These are life skills that go far beyond, you know, simply our relationship with other beings, but what to do with our careers, how do we sell ourselves in the job market for example. You’ve got to develop those interpersonal skills and that’s a large part of what we’re trying to do at Good Kid Project and at Fanimal as well. 

CB: How does your work address a lack of understanding and tolerance in the world today? 

NC: So, the first product that I created with the Good Kid Project is a story series called We’re All Animals. It’s about a brother and sister who realize through everyday experiences that we’re not all that different than other beings, than other animals. In fact we share a lot of similarities, a lot of characteristics, we share similar desires and of course we have our differences as well. But what we tried to accomplish with the story series, and I hope we were successful, is just to get those kids thinking about others and how others see the world, and realizing that we are all individuals worthy of consideration. I can’t say it enough, how important it is to get young kids to start thinking outside of their little world and for that matter, adults. But you know, we’re focusing on kids, and I think that, teach these lessons early on, and kids are going to start to naturally develop a tolerance for others who might be different in some ways from us. Beings who look quote on quote funny to us, or might not look like us, or might have an accent, and really take a closer look at our relationship with those people. 

CB: What is one most important thing for kids to learn about animals ? 

NC: I would say one of the most important things to teach kids is that, and again, teach anybody because these lessons are important for adults too, but what I really want to convey is that we shouldn’t be measuring anybody’s worth on their intelligence for example. We are all individuals with our own wants and needs, we have varying levels of skills and capacities. And so recognizing we are all individuals is probably one of the most important lessons we can teach kids because, when you see someone as an individual, you just naturally develop a greater sense of respect, or have a greater sense of respect for that being, whether they’re a human or an animal. So it’s just really trying to bring us together rather than separating us, and I think that those are the challenges we’re facing with social media, really highlighting the me, me, me culture. Let’s start thinking about us and how we relate with other beings and that’s really the crux of my work and why I was drawn to Fanimal as well. 

CB: What is the most rewarding thing about humane education for you? 

NC: Jeez, Animals have been something that I (have) cared about since I was a little boy. I was probably about six years old when I asked my dad to take me to a fur protest in downtown Minneapolis, and that is what I felt I could do. I felt like I could speak up for animals who were living miserable lives and dying horrible deaths. And so I see myself as a young boy caring about these issues and now what’s exciting to me personally and professionally is that I’m working and created this business that is now trying to inspire other kids who are like-minded, who are animal lovers, and most kids are. But to inspire them to get out and start speaking up for others, for other animals, or people, whatever your cause might be. It’s just exciting to me to see the spark or the lightbulb turn on in a young person and see them decide I’m going to take action, I’m going to do something. We publish stories on our website about kids who are doing good things for animals, and I revisit them from time to time and it just lifts my spirits. We just published one a couple days ago about a kid who makes bow ties to help homeless dogs find their forever homes and uses them to help the dogs stand out in their photographs. So just really creative, you know, who would’ve thought to start doing that, well he did and he took action and he’s making a difference and that’s super cool. It’s a small little story and all of them are small little stories but collectively you look at them, kids can make quite a difference. So it’s exciting for me to see kids take action and I bet the work that you and I are doing can help foster that, and to help foster them.