Can Schools Teach Empathy?
by Beverley Paine
A friend posted a link to an article about teaching children empathy on Natural Learning Australia today.
The focus on 'success' at the start of the article brought to my attention Can Schools Teach Empathy instantly put me on guard. I have a lot of trouble with that word... I don't want my children (or me) to be successful. And I don't necessarily want us to be happy either. I know that we can't be both all the time but education sets up to have the expectation that it is possible if only we work or try hard enough and if we don't reach those goals there is something wrong with us. If we don't believe that (which is soul destroying stuff), we end up believe it is 'not our fault' and fall into the blaming/victim game.
'Be kind' is a 'nice' rule but some people define kindness differently. If I had to have one rule I'd chose 'be respectful'. Less open to being patronizing.
Schools have to teach these things - empathy, respect, ethics, morals - because one of the basic tenets of an institutionalized education system is to assume they don't have them in the first place - this is incredibly disrespectful and most kids are so confused by this they decide that what they do know and understand must be wrong and ditch it. In effect they become the 'blank slates' the school system assumes they are... This translates into more jobs, creation of more 'innovative' resources, more buildings, etc. Education is an industry with a vested interested in dumbing kids down. What saddens me is that almost everyone in the system truly believes they are doing the best they can to help children.
And the story concludes with a reference to the 'dog-eat-dog world' - another myth perpetuated by those who need to be in positions of power to do 'good'. Human nature is not enhanced by protectionist behaviour that promotes fearful attitudes. If we accept that children have advanced empathy from birth (that's obvious isn't it?) and learn from them how to repair and enhance our damaged empathic ability to build a world where bullying and intimidation aren't the norm.
Another fault I find with the thinking behind this article is the assumption that 'good' will prevail. I find 'good' a wishy-washy word, over used and not at all well-defined. Better to say what we need, actually find words which describe as accurately and precisely as possible what those needs are. 'It can't be good for me unless it is good for others' says very little at all. 'If it doesn't help me achieve my goal of feeling safe, then it won't help others feel safe' or 'Biting hurts me so I won't bite others because I don't like hurt'. Be specific. Good is a value laden word with moralistic overtones - too easy to misuse and confuse, especially young minds.
Was this article helpful? Was it worth $1.00 to you?
Your gift of $1 or more helps to keep this site operating
and reassurance to families
better outcomes for their children.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
"You've been an inspiration to me, I love the way
you really listen to people." Vanessa
"Whenever I read your writing I always come away
with increased confidence in my ability to provide and
share a wonderful learning journey with my family!" Davina
"Your guidance, understanding, support and words of
wisdom changed our lives. We now offer support and
organise many homeschooling events for others." Lesley
"Thank you once again for your prompt and friendly service.
I am convinced that your books are going to add
quality and peace of mind to my journey of teaching my kids
at home! Just from studying your website, until almost
in the morning, I 've been encouraged!" Louisa
"Thank you for all your many,many reassuring words
over many, many years. You probably don't know exactly how
valuable you are to the Australian Home Education community.
I've been reading your stuff for maybe 8 years or more now.
And I'm very grateful." Gythaa
I am currently giving this site a much needed facelift!
If you experience difficultiess accessing any page can you
please email me the link? Thank you.
Welcome to the
World of Home Education and
Learning without School!
We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
The information on this website is of
a general nature only and is not intended
as personal or professional advice.
This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.
Advertise with The Educating Parent
||DIY Getting Started with Home Schooling Pack
Beverley Paine's best selling comprehensive common sense manual detailing how to write your own curriculum tailored to your children's educational needs
PLUS 9 of Beverley's popular practical home educating series booklets!
Great value $60
and Unschooling Pack
Each Pack contains a copy of the following:
Natural Learning Answers
A5 or A4
Learning Naturally Diary
Learning Maths Naturally
A Sample Approved Natural Learning Program and Review
Only $29 or $33
Home education is a legal alternative
school education in Australia.
State and Territory governments are responsible
for regulating home education and have different
requirements, however home educating families
are able to develop curriculum and learning programs
to suit the individual needs of their children.
Without revenue from advertising
educational suppliers and Google Ads
we could not continue to provide information
to home educators. Please support us by letting
our advertisers know
that you found them on
The Educating Parent. Thanks!