An Unschooler’s Thoughts on Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Humankind Presents a New Realism

Are you a realist? Are you a cynic? Or do you feel that to be one you have to be the other also? Humankind struck a chord with me. As an advocate of self-directed learning, I could deeply relate to the optimism with which Bregman views humans. As a Midwestern, Christian, white male, I’m challenged to continue to push my own thinking. I’m impressed by Bregman’s willingness to challenge often cited studies which claim to prove the inescapability of our “human condition.”

We won’t want to believe everything Bregman writes about is true, but his arguments were compelling to me. I appreciated listening to this just after having listened to Yuval Harari’s Sapiens. The two works, taken together, weave quite different, although often complementary, pictures of humans.

One Noteworthy Lesson

One great lesson I’ll likely hold onto from Humankind is that our kindness is not stagnant. The amount of violence we are capable of is a function of the distance we are from the situation. This is why our punishments towards our children are harsher as we get further from them. Face to face we can be quite permissive, our spouse tells us about a behavior and we become more indignant. It’s easier for us to recommend a harsher punishment when someone else is doing the punishing. I also had thoughts about this relating to school policies. Harmful policies probably originate from the offices which have the least interaction with the classrooms. I certainly come across my fair share of educators who are shocked at the policies that come from their central offices, not to mention statewide departments of education and the national department of education. I’m speculating at this point but Humankind certainly made me wonder if this “violence from a distance” would hold true for education.

I’ll be rereading Humankind in 2021. The concepts deserve a second and probably a third look in 2022.

In fact, I’ve made a list of all the books I plan to reread next year. All of them are rich and have introduced me to new research or challenged me to loosen my grip on the biased way I look at the world. Here is the list if you care to read it.

I have yet to plan the order I will reread these books in.

  1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  2. The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris
  3. No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover
  4. Humankind by Rutger Bregman
  5. Mastery by Robert Greene
  6. Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
  7. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  8. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  9. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  10. Reality Therapy for the 21st Century by Robert Wubbolding
  11. Mindset by Carol Dweck
  12. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk



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Philip Mott

I've been working with families for two decades now. I write about topics pertaining to parents of children ages 4-12.

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