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Loving Education

One of the problems with designing coherent education policy is the lack of clear goals. Should schools concentrate on basics? Should they focus on preparing students for college or for work? Does public education have a responsibility to shape responsible citizens? Does establishing a base of important facts take priority or is teaching pupils how to learn more crucial? Maybe schools should do everything. I tend to think that educators are already overextended to teach values such as empathy, but after watching these amazing videos I’m rethinking my general inclination to narrow education’s aims.

Empathy might be the quintessential attitude for moral behavior. I’m just as suspicious of opening the classroom door to values-education as anyone else. It’s already hard enough to keep out religion and gratuitous nationalism. Yet, for every instinct I have that families are better suited to teach moral values, schools provide a useful environment to foster empathy between people. Humans instinctively create in-and-out groups, but schools – especially American ones – allow kids a unique context to experience others different from themselves.

Studies have shown that reading fiction can expand empathy, but practicing empathy in person has no parallel. If school’s ultimate goal isn’t to improve people’s lives I don’t know what it’s for.

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  1. Faith Harvey
    June 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Our forefathers created a union which values the individual. As Americans, we have the right not only to life and liberty but to the pursuit of happiness. Sadly, we have children who lack the ways and means to pursue personal happiness. Not all children live in safe neighborhoods or homes. Children are bullied and abused. If a child’s family and neighborhood fail to provide positive role models, safety, and a morale compass, schools can be an important vehicle to do so. It may be one of the few institutions that can make that difference especially in a changing culture with less involvement in organized religion and less and less supervision at home. Of course, there are many, many families who love, value, and nurture their children and these children will continue to grow and blossom in schools who infuse empathy in the curricula. What a shame schools have chosen to edit great moral works such as Huck Finn in order to “protect” children’s feelings. Literature can provide the stepping stone to meaningful discussions about human dignity and the value of life. Skillful teachers can help children empathize with literary characters and extend lessons learned to their own personal lives and others. It is not about adding more onto a school or a teacher, it is about creating a culture. All subject matter can promote empathy without watering down skill and content whether it be discussing a poignant literary piece, debating a bio-ethical question, reviewing current events, connecting a world language to a culture and its values, or analyzing mathematical data and its impact on an ecosystem or environment. Creating an empathetic, supportive classroom and school culture does not have to cost more money. Joy, kindness, and respect are free. Improving a child’s sense of self worth is priceless.

  2. zach
    June 7, 2011 at 7:29 am

    a funny and enlightening video about education…

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