Teaching kindness

A self-described Pollyanna teacher writes about her attempt to change the “culture of cruelty” at the inner-city middle school where she teaches. She began a series of tolerance lessons. From the Christian Science Monitor:

When I talked about the banality of evil and Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official who helped implement the Holocaust, my students’ responses floored me.

Millions of Jews had been extinguished and they were concerned that Eichmann would lose his job if he didn’t comply.

I was discouraged, to say the least. I then turned to a novel that explored bullying. When I read excerpts aloud, many of my students identified with the bully and called the victim “pathetic.”

Things picked up at a showing of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

They absorbed every word, motionless, caught in the grip of that powerful story. I had never seen them like that before. Afterward, one of my students wrote that he was “in awe.” Another wrote that he admired the character Atticus Finch because he stood up for others.

Another glimpse came when students became enthusiastic about our kindness project on www.givinggame.org.

She asks where the rage comes from, then supplies the answer: Many of her students are victims of parental neglect and abuse. They’re angry for good reason. If the parents have failed to care for their children, it’s hard to believe a teacher can turn the kids into caring people with a seminar’s worth of kindness lessons.

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  1. Another story relating to the final question perhaps: verbal abuse harms children as much as physical abuse.