As we wrap up the summer and prepare for back to school- I want to ask you all, what is more important to you- Achievement or Caring and Compassion? This has been a topic I have touched on many times, as I see this as a pivotal concept in our society. As I was away on vacation with my family RVing across the southwest, I was struck with the lack of caring and consideration I found with many, but not all, of the tourists visiting the National Parks. I experienced some Native American Cultural exhibition, one at the Grand Canyon Lodge, where the Hopi Indian spoke of their cultural connection to the earth, nature and spirit. They spoke of the rings in the hoop dance representing how we are all connected and inter-dependant. The third ring/ realm is where we are now- and it is ugly, self indulgent and destructive without consideration for the earth or spirit. I remembered some of the Why’s and research related to this topic and it boils down to achievement vs caring and compassion.
A Harvard Study and project, “Making Caring Common”, surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students about what they felt was more important, achievement at high levels, happiness or caring for others. 80% of students ranked achievement or happiness higher than caring for others. Only 20% ranked caring as highest. Another Harvard study looked at the messages parents and adults send to our kids even if they mean to send another. The study found there was an “incongruity between what an adult tells kids they should value and what the message they actually send through behavior”. We seem to SAY we focus on character building and empathy, but we SHOW a focus on achievement with test driven learning, grade focus, college resume building, sports specific training and goals/touchdowns/”stats”. It is the achievement that seems to get recognition and praise, not acts of kindness or character. So the message sent is “Achievement above all”. Is there any wonder why there is an increase in adolescent/childhood anxiety or ADHD? A few links to read about statistics/trend: www.cdc.gov/features/childrensmentalhealth, ChildTrends.org, NY Times article on “More diagnoses of hyperactivity causing concerns” There are more stressed out, hyperactive kids in school now more than when I was in class. I truly believe that this increase is because of the mindless, achievement focused approach creating unrealistic, inappropriate goals with future focused emphasis vs a more mindful, in the moment approach that stresses empathy, collaboration, tolerance, appropriate motivation, movement breaks and integrated learning. Check out the Washington Post article- “Why So Many Kids Can’t Sit Still in School Today”.
Psychologist Michele Borba, commented on the Harvard study mentioned above. She says, “Happier and more successful kids care about others and are able to relate, be concerned and respect differences while a lack of empathy makes kids less successful and less ‘happy””. A child’s ability to care for and feel for others affects their social, emotional wellbeing as well as their cognitive development. So, parents, teachers, educators… I urge you to shift our focus, practice mindfulness, emphasize character, kindness, caring and empathy as well as respect for self and others. Achievement is a byproduct, in my opinion, of a person who has strong character, empathy, compassion, self awareness and self respect. Lets put caring first in our priorities. WE set the tone…. WE set the example so show dont tell.
Happy Back to School!