Teach students empathy

Letters to the Editor

Teach students empathy

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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Dear Editor,

In light of the increasing number of incidents of physical altercations in our schools it is important that we consider teaching our children empathy. Such instruction must be explicit and consistent.

For one hour per week guidance counsellors and other trained personnel should teach students critical empathy skills. These skills and related content may be further integrated into other subject areas and, therefore, reinforced.

For example, in English literature, students may be engaged in exploring amicable alternatives to the violent face-offs used in resolving conflicts in The Young Warriors.

Schools in Denmark have been teaching empathy for years. In fact, the teaching of same was made mandatory in 1993. The results have been rewarding. Note that Denmark is ranked among the happiest countries in the world. Moreover, the country has consistently registered low crime rates and so it is also listed as one of the world's safest places. Even corruption is significantly low in Denmark.

Notably, Danish children start empathy lessons from as early as the pre-school years. This practice would also augur well for our children as, during the early, formative stages of development, are most malleable and thus more receptive to such instruction.

According to various longitudinal studies conducted globally, empathy instruction can help students to develop emotional awareness, tolerance, acceptance of self and others, and key interpersonal skills that can promote social harmony and connectedness.

We have to be more proactive in treating with the plethora of social ills filtering into our schools. Teaching our educators self-defence skills, equipping them with protective resources, or deploying security personnel to our schools is solely reactionary. This response may actually heighten existing tension and reduce our schools to mere battlefields.

Let us try empathy instruction. In the end, we are likely to produce happier adults and safer schools and communities.

Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock


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