Children Can Flourish With Empathy

sandy hook elementary school newtown ct

None of us can be untouched by the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The reason why such events happen may be unclear to us.  We should all do whatever we can to help society make whatever changes are needed to avoid such terrible happenings.

In this case there are no simple explanations. Clearly the wide availability of unnecessarily high-powered guns in the United States is contributory. This is confirmed by the silence of the NRA which has now removed its Facebook page. Clearly the restrictions on the availability of assault weapons are not working and require serious revision. However that alone would not likely have prevented this tragedy.

There are questions on a possible personality disorder of the shooter. It seems that he may well have suffered from Asperger disorder, which is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The consensus view seems to be that Asperger’s isn’t linked to violence, at least according to the experts. The real answer probably relates to how any individual relates to the society they live in.

Empathy With Loners

sad loner

Linked with this topic, the Globe and Mail had an interesting article stating that Schools need to create human beings and citizens who are empathetic.

What’s more, cases of bullying and suicides are climbing at an alarming pace. That means empathy education is needed more than ever before. There is a growing consensus among neuroscientists, psychologists and educators that bullying and other kinds of violence can be reduced by encouraging empathy at an early age.

This is a major challenge for schools and for the staff who work there.

Roots of Empathy

One program that is devoting itself to this is Roots of Empathy, which was started by Canadian educator Mary Gordon. This has now reached more than 325,000 children in 10 countries in their 16-year history.

Its mantra is Changing the World, Child by Child. Only if school staff make sure that their approach is even-handed to all the children they are responsible for, can they be sure that no single child feels alienated and isolated.

Interestingly a current topic on the Roots Of Empathy website relates to the National Bullying Awareness Week in November, 2012. Roots of Empathy suggests that participation in the program can change students’ perspectives on empathy and how it relates to bullying. Bullying creates much suffering among the young (and among adults too) and has also led to deaths.

Hopefully such initiatives will receive support not only from schools and teaching staff but also from governments and their agencies. Whatever it takes will be effort and energy well spent.

Photo credit: sad loner image courtesy of MistoAcrilico via photopin cc

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