" A study of 20 elementary schools in Hawaii has found that a focused program to build social, emotional and character skills resulted in significantly improved overall quality of education"

If there were a focus in every school to teach children empathy, consideration, responsibility, egalitarianism and the general awareness of what they do to each other, then a rational morality based upon psychology could replace the morality based upon religion and this could reduce suffering.

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Alice, you are exceptional woman and I am sure you learned many procedures to be an effective teacher of your children.  Not all women have such wisdom as you. 

Alice, I do not doubt that you personally do a good job home schooling.   But in general schooling kids to live in a complex world needs teaching them not only character, but also a variety of subjects, that are usually more than what one person can be well instructed about.   So schools with specialized teachers usually can do a better job.  

Maruli - I agree that it takes many specialised teachers to give a child a well rounded education...

Well said, Maruli. Sadly, many of our schools do not provide the kind of time and attention to individual learners and conditions are getting worse. It was hard enough for me to handle a dozen cub scouts, but trying to teach 30 children how to read and write and 'rithmatic was a real chore. I liked teaching adult far better. ... except for my boys' ranch boys. 

I liked teaching adult far better

The motivation to be taught is the best incentive to teach.   I could not force teaching on unwilling children just as I would not attempt to help religious people gain insights, as long as they have a need to cling to their beliefs.  

Loren, as always you speak from good sense and wisdom.  I agree, it starts with parenting.  No one can stay home with the kids these days.  We used to think stay at home moms did nothing so they could be freed up to go into the paid labor market.  Match that with growing numbers of things to buy, STUFF, and both parents had to work long, hard hours.  The kids often had to fend for themselves.  

There were three kinds of parents of the boys I worked with at boys' ranches: too permissive, too authoritarian, and bad external influences.  The boys kind of self-sorted out into timid, aggressive, ashamed.  

So, we had unskilled parents+heavy work loads+reactive boys+bad external influences=juvenile court and remedial efforts.  

Loren - I think that we have so many more influences now that our parents are unable to retain control of the character education of their children - and so loose their character if they aim to arrest control - or just let it go and loose control....  either way - maintaining good values is tough in today's society.

Loren, I agree, and we are going through an economic/political change right now that is a real paradigm shift that is worldwide.  We are on the cutting edge of change and what we need are people and institutions that can stand steady in the face of chaos.  

Joan - the main change I can see is the internet - social networking online - connecting everyone - and the speed at which we can now communicate and source information - it is unprecedented.  I think that much good will come of it - as well as the inevitable negatives also.  As with all events as we go along.

I agree with Loren that the whole culture is in need of change, but I think that working to do so through the education of future generations is probably the best, and probably the only, way of going about that. This kind of empirical evidence is just the sort of thing we need to show what we should be doing in our schools. Thanks for posting this Maruli.


In fact, I have a step-brother who used to go to a school for troubled kids in Mass (DeSisto School, but the guy died, so the school no longer operates). It was my good luck, in my opinion, that I was involved a handful of times in school activities, including a week in Mexico. The school put a heavy emphasis on talking about your feelings with the group, calling on each other to do the morally upright thing, etc. it was basically group therapy, and although I was resistant at first, I came to really appreciate what was going on there. My step-brother never seemed to get the point of it all, and he became a "persona non grata" there, but you could definitely see how many of the other kids there were really responding, kids who had really difficult life stories. And it was all done without any reference to a deity. Since then I've thought that something similar was definitely needed in every school, and this article just emphasizes that point.

Wanderer, what a fortunate opportunity you had to participate with this group therapy.  At the boys' ranches we had to actively listen and teach them how to do it.  Also, assertion, conflict resolution, problem solving, and all the elements involved in performing these tasks.  It is amazing how these skills make a tremendous difference. Every family should know how to do these things and they are easily learned/taught. 

I hope your step brother finds a healthy group to teach him how to sort out his garbage. 

I do consider myself fortunate for those experiences, and not nearly fortunate enough that I didn't have them when I was growing up. I could have really used them! In fact I was seeing a psychiatrist (or 2 or 3) on a fairly regular basis for a time, but when speaking with that one extra person didn't get me anywhere, there was no-one else to turn to. Tremendous feelings of isolation and hopelessness, eventual drug use, run-ins with the law, problems adjusting to society that still continue to this day. I always had a big problem with the educational system in general (one could hardly point a finger in a certain direction without pointing to a problem), but the fact that my life-long problems in school were never addressed, never once did anyone think or suggest emotional help, everyone just kicked the can down the road or ignored my problems or blamed me for not doing what was expected of me, well... It wasn't like a heartless, uncaring machine, it was just that for me. To think that we are only just now coming to these kinds of realizations, it just proves my point that we are living in a dark ages of sorts. And there is still so far to go before this kind of thing becomes the norm in our educational system. People are far too slow to learn. And the real kicker is that it would probably save our nation (tons of) money in the long run to implement such programs.


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