" 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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Hmph.  The shame is that kids apparently aren't learning it from their parents, either because (as with too many other issues) the parents are too busy or they don't themselves exemplify those values.  It may be that we as a culture (at least in the US) have become so materialistically oriented that those values have fallen by the wayside ... and maybe that is at least in part a cause for the pursuit of wealth at all costs and the decline of egalitarianism and empathy.

It isn't just our educational system that is in need of an awakening. It's our whole culture.

Unfortunately many people have children without being able to do as good a job in teaching children as are qualified teachers.   That is what schools are for (and why in Germany school is mandatory and homeschooling is illegal).   And just as a teacher is better qualified to teach math than most parents, so are also special teachers to teach communication skills and considerate behavior. 

I used a method that worked very well with children and parents.  It was STEP Systematic Training for Effective Parenting.  It has workbooks for children and parents and specific competencies.  At the boys' ranches worksheets helped them see why, what and how to define a problem, for example, or set goals, or explore options, etc.  I trained the boys at the ranches and then had parenting classes teaching the same skills.  On weekends the boys would go home for a couple of hours trying out their skills with moms and dads and then we worked out the kinks in classes.  We progressed one step at a time until they could do the processes without thinking and go home for longer periods.  By the end of the series the boys were able to return home to their families and evaluations by social workers reported back to the sentencing judges. One of the skills that was very important was recognizing anger before it took over.  According to research, anger "kidnaps" the amygdala in the brain and emotion takes over.  By realizing anger early, they were able to move into the resolution phase.

Joan, it sound like you have done a real good job.   Punishing criminal does not undo the damage to the victims.   Prevention by education is so much better.   Most probably you have helped to spare a few innocents to become victims.  

Thanks, Maruli, the boys and parents worked very hard to master each skill, and at the end we had a graduation ceremony with the boys lined up on one side and the parents on the other. The boy and parent came to the front as a family to receive their certificate. The boys loved the ceremony ... kind of like Boy Scouts and Native Americans like the pomp and circumstance. The parents were able to take over from there, with a few refresher courses. 

Joan - brilliant information, thanks for the links

Joan - reminds me of both Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting and Marshall B Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication.

Exactly! Alice, nothing magical or mysterious about these life skills.  They are doable, testable, and children and parents who learn them have the tools to face any challenge, personal and professional.  

In domestic violence and learned helplessness research it is easy to train an organism to be helpless; I learned how to train rats to be helpless in psych lab and it was very easy.  Just take away the ability of the organism to have control over what happened to them and and be inconsistent in rewards.

Here is a film I found from Google on learned helplessness, and there are many films available; I just chose the first one:

It is very difficult to retrain them to recover from helplessness. 

The Milgram Stanford prison experiment is brutal, savage, immoral and unethical. This type of experiment can no longer be repeated.  This was the film that taught me about obedience ...

one of the imperatives my family taught me was obedience and the church community upheld that imperative.

Once one learns to not be helpless it is virtually impossible for them to relearn  learned helplessness. I am not saying that once an organism has gone through these processes it will never feel helpless again but they will recover quickly and get back on track of self-sufficiency.  

Individuals learn how to be dependent on god or faith or beliefs and if/when they learn that dependency doesn't solve grown up problems they begin to look for better ways of managing their lives.  For me, and countless others, realizing god/s does not exist, there is no savior, no one is watching over us or answering prayers, or guiding us when faced with challenges, or there is no reward and punishment after death, then humanism, agnosticism, atheism, free thinking can provide the strength to think for oneself, to use good judgement and critical thinking, and learn other life skills, life can be very rewarding.

The thing I missed most about leaving family and church community was not having a support group. Loneliness, anxiety, depression were all reactions to leaving something I knew was dysfunctional and not knowing where to turn to replace a sense of belonging somewhere - anywhere.  I wanted/needed support. That is what Atheist Nexus can provide.    


Joan - interesting term - it's good to know about these ideas - because otherwise we are simply victim to our bio chemistry or lack understanding about what others might be experiencing.

I'm new to these ideas of learned helplessness - and hadn't made the link that you have to your personal experience with atheism.

It is important to have the influence and community of those who you share world view with, in order to meet the need for authenticity in your life also.

Christianity essentially says that it is ok to hurt and to suffer, because the god will do justice and compensate in the afterlife.

When people stop believing in the afterlife, they usually do not stop the acquiescence with the idea, that it is ok to hurt.   But they focus on the need to become tough and resilient, to learn to cope better and to defend themselves.  

What really is needed is a paradigm shift in atheist morals towards an awareness, that hurting others is not ok, and that it is more important that people learn to stop harming others by learning more consideration and responsibility.   

In the example of learned helplessness, making people aware of such dynamics should not only help people to cope with their own reaction, but also help them to learn, what not to inflict upon others.    

So well said, Maruli. 

Maruli - I home school my kids - and I find that home educated children are way more skilled in communication skills and manners than the average schooled child.


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