Roots of Empathy

schoolby Matt Williams

Last year we had a lively discussion here on the Vanguard about empathy . . . what it is, and what its value is.  At the time I published this Vanguard article as a follow-up to that discussion. I also shared the article with all the members of the School Board at that time.  Given all the events of the past few weeks, I felt that revisiting this article and its concepts was particularly timely.

Anyone who watched the PBS Newshour that March night (see here and here) on KVIE saw a very thought provoking segment that delved into the issue of teasing and bullying in schools, and an educational program called Roots of Empathy that is designed to address that significant challenge in our schools . . . and schools worldwide. (video).  At the time I said that I sincerely hoped that the Davis School Board, District Administration and Faculty members all saw the segment.  It is the kind of program that I believe Davis should move swiftly to implement in our schools.

The following information is taken directly from the Roots of Empathy website:

About the Roots of Empathy Program

Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. The program reaches elementary schoolchildren from Kindergarten to Grade 8. In Canada, the program is delivered in English and French and reaches rural, urban, and remote communities including Aboriginal communities. Roots of Empathy is also delivered in New Zealand, the United States, Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Emotional Literacy

At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the classroom every three weeks over the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor coaches students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a lever, which the instructor uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. This “emotional literacy” taught in the program lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms, where children are the “Changers”. They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. In the Roots of Empathy program children learn how to challenge cruelty and injustice. Messages of social inclusion and activities that are consensus building contribute to a culture of caring that changes the tone of the classroom. The Instructor also visits before and after each family visit to prepare and reinforce teachings using a specialized lesson plan for each visit. Research results from national and international evaluations of Roots of Empathy indicate significant reductions in aggression and increases in pro-social behaviour.

Empathy

The cognitive aspect of empathy is perspective taking and the affective aspect is emotion. Roots of Empathy educates both the mind and the heart.

Empathy is a key ingredient to responsible citizenship and responsive parenting. Information on infant safety and development helps children to be more aware of issues of infant vulnerability such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Shaken Baby Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and second hand smoke. Observations of a loving parent-child relationship give children a model of responsible parenting.

The Roots of Empathy Curriculum

The curriculum is comprehensive and attuned to the development and interests of the children. The 639-page curriculum is divided into nine themes, with three classroom visits supporting each theme (a pre-family visit, family visit and post-family visit) for a total of 27 visits. Each of the nine themes is further broken down into four age ranges:

  • Kindergarten
  • Primary (Grades 1-3)
  • Junior (Grades 4-6)
  • Senior (Grades 7-8)

The ROE curriculum addresses the affective side of education, but the activities have many links to the classroom curriculum. For example, students use math skills when they calculate and chart the baby’s weight and measurements. Literature is used as a way to open the door to feelings and perspective taking. The discussion and reflection that follows builds solidarity and empathy. Art plays a large role as children paint their inner feelings which they cannot say with words. Music stirs powerful feelings. It speaks to everyone regardless of language or culture and builds solidarity.

Roots of Empathy Featured on PBS NewsHour’s American Graduate

On Thursday, March 28, 2013, Roots of Empathy was the focus of PBS NewsHour’s American Graduate project, http://youtu.be/XNxnTVBuy70 as an evidence-based strategy for addressing bullying. Seattle schools – the first to offer Roots of Empathy programs in the United States in 2007 – was showcased along with research that supports the program’s impact

Aimee Miner, principal at Lake Forest Park Elementary in Seattle, one of the first schools to offer Roots of Empathy in the United States, is convinced that the program works: “I saw it in action, and I saw the power of it, and I was a true believer that this is the right thing to teach kids.”

Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl, who has done research on the Roots of Empathy program notes, “Students who would receive the social and emotional programs not only increased in their social and emotional skills and decreased in behaviour problems, but they also had an 11 percentile point increase in standardized achievement test scores.”

Tune in to your local PBS NewsHour broadcast tonight to witness the impact of the Roots of Empathy program in American schools. Find your local PBS station and the NewsHour airtime, here or watch the piece online now!

About The Author

Matt Williams has been a resident of Davis/El Macero since 1998. Matt is a past member of the City's Utilities Commission, as well as a former Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), former member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC), former member of the Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF), as well as Treasurer of Davis Community Network (DCN). He is a past Treasurer of the Senior Citizens of Davis, and past member of the Finance Committee of the Davis Art Center, the Editorial Board of the Davis Vanguard, Yolo County's South Davis General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, the Davis School District's 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, the Yolo County Health Council and the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Commission. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University and his MBA is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent over 30 years planning, developing, delivering and leading bottom-line focused strategies in the management of healthcare practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare technology, as well municipal finance.

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32 Comments

  1. Frankly

    I will review this carefully. My guess is that the program includes plenty of subtle and not so subtle anti-male, anti-boy, and pro-liberal, imprinting. It is my opinion that much of the bullying we see today is a release of frustration for the decline in the number and scope of outlets for the natural aggression that is part of the natural development process of many boys and some girls.

    I have often wondered why we don’t also consider the approach for teaching coping skills. I agree that we should work hard to make schools as safe as possible. But then the child launches into the real world and has to deal with the real, unsupervised behavior of people. How do you cope with bullies? How do you cope with aggressive people and aggressive competition? Learning the tools of coping will be infinitely more beneficial to a person going forward than will be them developing an expectation that some central authority will keep them from having to face adversity.

    But I agree we need to continue to work to minimize true bullying.

    1. Don Shor

      How do you cope with bullies?

      Well, part of it would be by not making excuses for bullying such as “much of the bullying we see today is a release of frustration for the decline in the number and scope of outlets for the natural aggression…”

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        I am actually surprised to see this post from you. You usually are very astute in wanting to address the “root problem”. Yet in this instance, instead of realizing that “aggressive tendencies” can be directed into competitive but non violent or punitive channels you seem to be accepting an “inevitability” that is only one of our own making. Here the “root problem” is not that there are biological drivers of aggression, which is certainly true, but that many folks continue to glorify aggression and teach their sons that it is necessary to succeed in the world.
        This is patently not true as many, many individuals ( both men and women ) have been successful in their lives, careers, families without ever having committed an aggressive act. It would seem to me that to address the “root cause” is not to prepare our children to fight back, but to lessen the number of children that see combativeness as their first recourse.

        1. Frankly

          Go back and read what I wrote. I am in support of reducing real instances of bullying. But just like zero tolerance laws and rules, the schools have demonstrated the propensity to shed common sense and to pursue policy directions that turn hostile to some other group of kids.

          And if we are really talking about root-cause analysis we would have to eliminate the participation of adults having the views like Don Shor above. Since it is clear that he would demand we ignore the fact that the education system has grown to be must less boy friendly.

          Structured physical activity is an outlet for natural aggression. But look what we have done… we have eliminated and adjusted those activities to be inclusive of the most hyer-sensitive children to protect them from getting their feelings hurt. And in the process we have eliminated the outlets for the kids having more natural aggression in their genes.

          Take an aggressive bully and put him on the field with a coach that knows how to channel his/her energy and develop it to be a productive, rather that destructive, force.

          The way I see it, kids are people and people have different personalities. And, despite what Gloria Steinem used to say before she got older and wiser, there are important differences between boys and girls.

          An explosion of liberal political views from the successful implementation of the Saul Alinskey playbook for taking over the media and education system, combined with our societal move from a more patriarchal system to a more matriarchal one… well lets just say that we have worked hard to help make sure the hypersensitive do not get their feelings hurt… but at the expense of those that are not hypersensitive. What I would prefer… a move toward the center… one where we teach coping skills to the hypersensitive, and empathy skills to those that are hyper-aggressive.

          1. Don Shor

            And if we are really talking about root-cause analysis we would have to eliminate the participation of adults having the views like Don Shor above. Since it is clear that he would demand we ignore the fact that the education system has grown to be must less boy friendly.

            Not only do I not demand anything of the sort, I completely agree that education should be more boy friendly. We need more male teachers, among other issues.

            Structured physical activity is an outlet for natural aggression. But look what we have done… we have eliminated and adjusted those activities to be inclusive of the most hyer-sensitive children to protect them from getting their feelings hurt. And in the process we have eliminated the outlets for the kids having more natural aggression in their genes.

            Really? Silly me. I thought team sports still existed. Like, say, volleyball.

            An explosion of liberal political views from the successful implementation of the Saul Alinskey playbook for taking over the media and education system, combined with our societal move from a more patriarchal system to a more matriarchal one…

            And, as usual, you just go completely off the rails.

          2. Don Shor

            I would just add that, since I also tend to see and discuss bullying as a ‘boy’ issue, it is an issue among girls as well. It’s often a collective mob behavior involving social media nowadays.

            Behavior certainly can be changed. One of the ways to do that is by agreeing, as a society, that we don’t accept antisocial and harmful behaviors. We no longer tolerate overtly racist comments, or overtly sexist comments. So it is very appropriate for schools and parents to give the very strong message of disapproval.

            I don’t support zero tolerance policies. They are often counterproductive. I think that administrators and counselors need flexibility.

    2. Dave Hart

      Frankly, empathy itself has nothing to do with gender. That said, a key concept in this empathy curriculum is the idea that empathy can be learned. It is a fact that boys are encouraged not to be empathetic and that to be so is a sign of weakness. Of course, the opposite is true. I was reminded of this the other day in a Facebook post by one of my kids’ friends who is a local bouncer in a bar who made the comment that “sometimes bullies just need a hug.” If you don’t see the wisdom in that, you definitely need to take the class.

      1. J.R.

        “empathy can be learned”

        Well, what can’t be learned? As North Korea demonstrates, there are few limits on what children can be taught to think is normal.

        Where do we draw the line between education and indoctrination?

        1. wdf1

          J.R.: Well, what can’t be learned?As North Korea demonstrates, there are few limits on what children can be taught to think is normal.

          Where do we draw the line between education and indoctrination?

          I think we’re far from indoctrination, here.

          Teachers can teach manners, cooperation, coping strategies, promote creativity, persistence, character, etc., but that’s not reflected in standardized tests. I think that is what teachers find maddening <a href="value-added modeling" (VAM). A teacher may have tremendous success building soft skills in a kid (maybe a kid who was diagnosed with ADHD), but Frankly and Michelle Rhee would judge that teacher to be “crappy” because he/she didn’t raise the test scores high enough in math and/or English.

      2. Frankly

        “If you don’t see the wisdom in that, you definitely need to take the class.”

        First, I believe I am very empathetic but also objective to a fault where some would claim I am void of feelings for certain topics and conflicts. For example, I see the guy in the wheelchair as being more challenged, but not a victim per se.

        My two boys were very empathetic and caring from day one. My oldest used to get in fights protecting smaller and younger kids that were being bullied. But he also defended himself from being bullied. His mother and I focused on teaching both of them empathy as well as coping skills. But it was easy as both of them had natural high emotional intelligence and a strong sense of fairness. They in fact, at time helped me see greater empathy for situations I might have otherwise been blind to.

        I also see the issue with sensitivity being part of natural physiological development in that for some kids their frontal lobe is underdeveloped until they hit their late teen and early 20s. The boy, after running over another, might say “aw get up and stop crying.”… and is really lacking the capability to comprehend how another is feeling. Conversely, the girl might say “what’s wrong” over the slightest indication that someone is feeling bad.

        Note that I am gender-generalizing here, but I bet most people having sons and daughters and observing their kids and the friends of their kids would agree.

        As an aside, one problem that developed is that both of my kids recognized the bullying done by some of their teachers. And with the complete power imbalance, their coping was to just get by with at least a C without blowing up. So, if we are really to impress upon the kids to stop bullying, we need to start with the teachers that do so.

        I am in support of teaching empathy to kids as long as we are teaching the hypersensitive and passive to be empathetic to those with less sensitivity and more aggression, but also teaching them how to cope with inevitable human conflict.

        And J.R. hits the nail on the head with the term “indoctrination”. That was my initial point… I will have to study what Matt proposes to ensure it is balanced and non-ideological.

    3. wdf1

      Frankly: I have often wondered why we don’t also consider the approach for teaching coping skills.

      Because schools have been instructed to get those standardized test scores up in reading and math, or else all the teachers and principals will be fired and maybe schools closed, according to NCLB. The response for at-risk schools generally has been cram-school strategies, intense and longer focus and instruction on math and English at the expense of everything else. NCLB is the guiding policy of our country right now, and it is basically a failure. Common Core is moving in and may improve things, but I have concerns.

      Having volunteered to tutor at-risk students, I see that many are typically in greater need of developing “soft skills” (including empathy, creativity, critical thinking, character, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, reliability, enthusiasm, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity, artistry, the ability to identify and respond to social cues, self-esteem, a sense of belonging) than probably reading and math. Work to develop these soft skills, and the reading and math standardized test scores will begin to take care of themselves.

      Ways of measuring these things (indirectly, and perhaps incompletely and imprecisely) exist, but typically they’re not factored into conventional discussions about the comprehensive quality of education. Here are some additional statistics that would respond to improved empathy among students, as well as many other soft skills.

      school discipline statistics
      graduation rate
      dropout rates
      California Healthy Kids (Climate) Survey

      And in response to

      Art plays a large role as children paint their inner feelings which they cannot say with words. Music stirs powerful feelings. It speaks to everyone regardless of language or culture and builds solidarity.

      you have
      Curricular diversity and enrollment, showing how many students enroll in what courses

      DJUSD has an excellent secondary level visual and performing arts program for California, high rates of participation and all, but it isn’t as broadly accessible as it needs to be. In many ways it is clearly lower priority (elective) to reading and math and other subjects.

      It would also be nice to have more comprehensive statistics on school involvement that would include enrollment/participation in athletics and school clubs.

      1. Frankly

        wdf1 – this may be a milestone, but I can’t find anything in this post that I disagree with. But I still do catch some difference in our sense of urgency and approach for dealing with these at-risk students.

        The at-risk students have existed since we have had public schools. They have drastically increased in numbers and percentages for a variety of reasons that we could debate. But, the schools have barely budged in terms of transforming how they deal with at-risk kids. They pretty much just dump on the teachers and force them to find a way to manage these kids in the classroom.

        I have some good friends that teach in the Davis elementary schools, and when I ask how things are going with the school year, the gauge is always the number of “problem” students and the number of overbearing parents they have to deal with… and the corresponding lack of support they get from administration. Ironically, when I ask kids how their school year is going, most of the time the gauge is the number of good or bad teachers the student feels he has.

        Even the label of “at risk” student is indication of the problem. Because, what student isn’t “at risk” of getting the education he needs? It is all degrees.

        I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the topic of public education. I have been trying to reconcile the fact that two people that obviously care so much about kids seem diametrically opposed in belief.

        In a prior blog debate about education, Don Shor used a phrase that was a reconciliation epiphany for me. He said “private-public partnership”. I laughed and told him that he was making up terms. If you Google “private-public partnership” what you will get is definitions of the opposite: “public-private partnership.”

        But in thinking more about this, I realized that this is exactly what you and he are advocating. You want to retain and maintain the public education system, but encourage more private-side participation in order to supplement it’s business model and process in order to maintain or improve outcomes.

        Given that you have family members that were/are educators, I can certainly understand that related basis of support. In addition, if you are already involved in supplementing the schools to help drive better outcomes, there will certainly be some pride in ownership and affinity toward the model as you are familiar with it. And, if you kids did well in the schools, I can factor and accept some personal bias in support of them. And lastly, I think there is some general perspective of the schools being some valued community center/resource with some value assessed above and beyond the simple quality of education outcomes.

        I get all this.

        But I don’t get the private-public partnership movement.

        I would prefer a public-private partnership… the much more common model… one were we leverage the greater creativity and innovation inherent in private-sector endeavors, and maintain the health of the industry with robust and effective oversight.

        From my perspective we are holding on to the old education model at the expense of significant harm done to many thousands of “at risk” kids primarily for reasons of nostalgia. We are an iPhone and Android world, and schools are still complaining that they do not have enough textbooks.

        I think it is the wrong approach to start pushing for more private participation to help prop up a public school model that should have been re-engineered decades ago.

        And pointing to Da Vinci as an example of how these public entities can be creative is a false argument, because it originated from the private sector.

        You and I agree on all of the “why”, and most of the “what”… what we don’t agree on is the “how”. I cannot see a good enough future in the current model even if NCLB is scrapped. We need to transform the entire education system into a modern marvel of value and efficiency and top-shelf student engagement that will be the envy of the rest of the world.

        1. Don Shor

          And pointing to Da Vinci as an example of how these public entities can be creative is a false argument, because it originated from the private sector.

          I don’t think that’s true.

          1. Frankly

            “The school is funded in part by a grant to the New Tech Foundation from the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates was interested in the program because he wanted a larger pool of technologically literate workers that required less training after employment. The New Tech Foundation runs schools around the country with a similar focus on problem-based learning.”

          2. Don Shor

            Yes, but I don’t think the Davis DaVinci school ‘originated from the private sector’. I think DJUSD initiated the project, and used private funds to bring it about. Wdf probably knows better what the exact history was. I am completely baffled by your statement that using DaVinci as an example is a ‘false argument’ in any way whatsoever. It’s in the public school system, run by the public school system, was (I believe) initiated by the public school system, and — in response to the obvious popularity of the program — is being expanded by the public school system.
            I’m unclear on exactly how your public-private differs from my private-public. As long as the district has oversight, I don’t really care exactly what the organizing structure is. I support charter schools within school districts, and I’m perfectly happy to see private foundations helping with the funding, curriculum, technology, etc. I don’t support public money going to private schools.

          3. wdf1

            Frankly: And pointing to Da Vinci as an example of how these public entities can be creative is a false argument, because it originated from the private sector.

            One of the principles behind starting Da Vinci was to have a “small learning community.” The idea of small learning communities in public education started in the 1960’s. It has been a popular option for reformatting schools, and one that Bill Gates & Foundation have championed and assisted.

            Project based learning is another foundational component of Da Vinci. Here’s an article that summarizes some history and thinking on Project Based Learning.

            I’m not sure what Frankly thinks of in saying “originated from the private sector.” I don’t see any indication that the ideas of a small learning community or project-based learning originated with Bill Gates or the private sector

            Another component of Da Vinci is that it is technology-based. Clearly Bill Gates and the private sector played a significant role in developing computer software, if that’s what you’re trying to say.

            I guess I’m missing a link between what you (Frankly) are thinking developed in the private sector connected to innovative education strategies and techniques. I think Bill Gates has drawn on a lot of existing research and ideas to support initiatives in education, much as he did (arguably) in developing some of his software at Microsoft, but I am unaware of Bill Gates conceiving of significant original ideas in education.

            Perhaps you can more fully develop your thoughts on this, Frankly?

          4. wdf1

            Don Shor: I think DJUSD initiated the project, and used private funds to bring it about.

            In 2003, DJUSD received a grant of $300K from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

  2. Dave Hart

    Matt, thank you for bringing this to our attention. I see implementing a program this beneficial and powerful to be every bit as important as dealing with the District finances. I guess what is lacking is the vision of the Board. I hope this sparks some initiative to act.

  3. Biddlin

    “This is patently not true as many, many individuals ( both men and women ) have been successful in their lives, careers, families without ever having committed an aggressive act. “

    Too naive, for belief. As with all characteristics of personality, aggression is an evolutionary necessity, otherwise muskrat Sammie won’t chase the other suitors away and court muskrat Susie, leading to more little muskrats to fight over available housing in Davis.

    I hope that school teachers and administrators take a more proactive approach to bullying, like expelling the bullies and other miscreants and impediments to a secure educational experience for the students who are there to learn.

    Sadly, though I was assured of their commitment to my children’s safety, I found that most teachers and administrators resort to moronic mediation tactics, like.,”And did you tell …. that you didn’t like it when he hit you with your book bag?” I have taught my children to stand up for themselves and protect the weak, because “authorities” most likely will not.

    1. Tia Will

      “too naive for belief”

      Really ! I succeeded in one of the most competitive fields in medicine without any aggression what so ever. So did most of my colleagues, all of whom were successful had collaborative study partners or groups. Gandhi and MLK and scores of their followers changed the course of history with no aggression at all.

      Now if what you really mean is that self assertion is necessary, I agree. Assertion of one’s own rights and standing up for ( and up to when necessary one’s friends ) is necessary. Aggression is not. Aggression exists, I do not deny that. But the idea that aggression is a necessary component of human interaction is both untrue and is part of the problem, not the solution.

  4. Tia Will

    Biddlin

    “I hope that school teachers and administrators take a more proactive approach to bullying, like expelling the bullies and other miscreants and impediments to a secure educational experience for the students who are there to learn.”

    And the long term impact of this approach will be a less educated, less empathic group of bullies who grow into a class of criminals ( having been successfully ostracized from legitimate routes to self support) who we can then lock up in our prison system and feel self righteous rather than addressing these issue systematically when they are young enough for their aggressive tendencies to be re channeled into more constructive activities such as sports as Frankly has appropriately mentioned.

  5. iPad Guy

    “You’ve got to be taught
    To hate and fear…
    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear…
    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

    I’d say this applies to training for bullies. Good luck to educators doing their best to turn around carefully taught attitudes and behaviors that have had eight years to develop. Anything they can do to help their students understand and care more about their peers is worth the effort.

    P.S.–The Sound of Music just opened at the Davis Musical Theater. It’s worth spending the evening there.

      1. iPad Guy

        Thank you, wdf1, it is indeed the sound of the music from South Pacific playing my head because South Pacific is the DMTC production that we saw week and South Pacific will be running for awhile in Davis. Maybe I’ll remember now; there’s not much worse than a botched citation.

      2. wdf1

        If you follow the link above, it describes how some southerners at the time (early ’50’s) treated that song as an effort at indoctrination inspired by Moscow.

    1. Matt Williams

      My pleasure. It resonates just as much today as it did a year ago.

      One nice feature of the new Vanguard site is the ability to put related links at the bottom of articles just above the comments, and there are lots of those links above.

  6. wdf1

    A new book out (I haven’t yet read it but am looking forward to doing so) correlates a rise in ADHD diagnosis to the arrival of standardized testing to measure education and target future performance benchmarks. The book correlates ADHD diagnosis rates with the strength of education policies in each state. For instance, in Louisiana ADHD diagnosis is over 10% whereas in California it is under 5%.

    The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance

    This relates to the topic because we haven’t focused on other aspects of education (like empathy) because we have focused more on standardized test scores on very selected material. This book apparently makes the case that there are even greater consequences to our standardized testing policy (a la NCLB).

  7. jimt

    Hmm, looks like an interesting cirriculum; hope I have a chance to find out more about it.

    I share some of Frankly’s concerns about social programs like this; which though they may have laudable goals, might be overlooking some of the darker realities of human nature; which if denied/suppressed on one front might rise up like a multi-headed hydra on other fronts. It is not only aggression, a biological reality that as Tia notes can be re-directed towards sports and other healthier outlets (sometimes I think most adults forget how strong the aggressive impulse is in some teens; as mature adults formerly aggressive teens learn to have their aggressive impulses under usually effortless control and re-directed to socially acceptable outlets).

    But it is not only aggression, but the establishment of the social-pecking order; starting strongly between about 3rd and 5th grade. As I vaguely recall from an anthropology course I took decades ago; establishment of such a pecking order is a universal behavior among youths, across all cultures from primitive to highly sophisticated, over the millenia. Social exclusion and what we would label physical and/or emotional bullying have been, I believe, a nearly universal feature. So it seems to me it is a good idea to explore this and see if it may be possible to reduce the more destructive/harmful manifestations of this social developmental process; but take great care to keep a realiistic eye out for whether strong psychic energies are being repressed; and under what circumstances they might erupt (that is I think this is a deep problem, not easily addressed, and perhaps the reason such optimistic attempts at social engineering often do not work is because often they are a bit too Disneyesque).

    That said I hope something good comes out of the program; if only a better understanding of child social development!

  8. wdf1

    Since we’re talking about empathy, here’s another example of how some professionals (don’t) model empathy. New York City schools recently evaluated their teachers based on standardized test scores. They published the names of the worst teachers in NYC.

    NY Post, February 25, 2012: Teachers who got zero ratings.

    When it comes to teaching math, she’s a zero.

    Pascale Mauclair, a tenured, $75,000-a-year sixth-grade teacher in Queens, placed at the bottom of the heap of New York’s schoolteachers, according to rankings released by the Department of Education yesterday.

    Mauclair got a cumulative score of zero, with a zero margin of error, for the 2009-10 school year.

    Her rating was based on five years of data, indicating that DOE brass were confident she was ranked where she was supposed to be.

    The score for the 37-year-old, who teaches at PS 11 Kathryn Phelan in Woodside — an “A”-rated school — was so low for each of the past five years that she got a zero cumulative score.
    Mauclair refused to comment.

    Then here’s the rest of the story that the New York Post didn’t bother to investigate (February 28, 2012), in spite of publicly trashing her name and professional reputation. (TDR stands for Teacher Data Report)

    And in P.S. 11, Pascale Mauclair is known by her colleagues and her supervisors as an excellent teacher. Talk to the respected principal of P.S. 11, Anna Efkarpides, and she is completely unequivocal in her support for Mauclair, whom she sees as a very strong teacher. “I would put my own children in her class,” she says.

    What the publication of the TDRs and what the Post have done to Mauclair is “absolutely unacceptable,” an emphatic Efkarpides told me. She has taken the full measure of her teacher’s work, from classroom observations to examinations of portfolios of student work, and the misrepresentation of her teaching performance found in the TDRs and the tabloids is “just not who she is.” “The truth is the truth,” Efkarpides insists.

    When Mauclair returned to school this morning, her colleagues met her with a standing ovation. As in many other cases, the story of Pascale Mauclair and P.S. 11 begins with a tale of the flawed methodology and invalid measurements of the Teacher Data Reports.

    P.S. 11 is located at the epicenter of a number of different immigrant communities in northern Queens, and over a quarter of its students are English Language Learners. Mauclair is an ESL teacher, and over the last five years she has had small, self-contained classes of recently arrived immigrants who do not speak English. Her students arrive at different times of the school year, depending upon that date of their family’s migration; consequently, it is not unusual for her students to take the 6th grade exams when they have only been in her class for a matter of a few months. Two factors which produce particularly contorted TDR results – teaching the highest academic need students and having a small sample of students that take the standardized state exams – define her teaching situation.

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