Thursday, January 8, 2009

Who teaches empathy?

That article really got me thinking. Who is responsible to teach children empathy, compassion and respect for others?

I would immediately say; of course, it is the parent's responsibility. And, in a perfect world each and every parent would take this responsibility very seriously indeed. But how do we as a society make sure it is being done? Who enforces it? The victims? The bystanders? The penal system? There in lies the tricky situation for the public schools.

If the lessons aren't being taught at home then it ends up being the "village's" responsibility. Ignoring it just has too much cost for our society.

I am sure every teacher out there would much rather focus all their time on curriculum and teaching. Time is short and they are already forced to spend way too much time on prepping for standardized tests. And, yes, unfortunately they are also expected to teach children empathy and mutual respect as well.

In a nut shell, I think that is where the bullying issue comes in. As they say, "Hurt people hurt people".

I do think that if a child comes into the school setting and is bullying other kids, the school needs to nip it in the bud. The victims need help obviously but the bully does too. And, no, "stickup for yourself" is not help.There needs to be strong, appropriate, very serious consequences presented, promoted and understood. The parents need to be brought into the discussion. Little kids need to learn from day one appropriate ways of treating others. Set the rules early and enforce them. In extreme cases, the child should be expelled. I guarantee those parents will sit up and take notice if their kid doesn't have a place to go each day. The bully needs to be taken out of the mix and given help before it is too late. If we don't do this we are condoning it, we are reinforcing it, we are enabling it.

I feel for public school administrators. They are in a tight spot on this one. But, by not being clear and consistent about a bullying policy it will end up biting them, one way or the other. And, for the Tukwila School District we can see just how hard they are being bitten.


Scattered Mom said...

The thing is, children with autism need to have school staff specifically keep an eye on them during unstructured free time. Most of the time they don't have the social skills needed to survive and kids will prey on them.

It is the duty of the school to protect kids, and telling them to stick up for themselves isn't good enough.

Shea's Mom said...

Good point. I agree completely. I would hope that the whole point of teaching empathy to all our kids is to stress how very not ok it is to bully anyone, especially kids with disabilities.

Perhaps I am harsh but there may be a special place in hell for those that do.

The school district has a responsibility to make sure it is not happening.

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