No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

A historical and important voting process took place last week in Britain, with 52% of the voters opting to leave the European Union after 43 years of involvement.  Various outcomes have come about as a result with many discussions taking place as to what happens next.  Many have stated that whatever one’s view is of the result, it is now vitally important that people join forces and work together collaboratively in order to positively push Britain forward.

Human character can be defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” One’s character can be beneficial to oneself, to others, or a combination of both (although this is quite rare).  Our actions with those we interact with regularly (colleagues, family, friends and acquaintances) give an indication of how much our character leans towards serving oneself or others.  However, we should be conscious of how we treat each other and how our character plays out with the various groups of people we interact with.  Working together and serving others should be embraced, not forced.  

In and around North County San Diego, California, you will come across ‘kindness meters’.  The idea behind these is to provide the public with a fast and accessible opportunity to do something good for others, including complete strangers.  It only takes a few seconds to impact another person positively.  More recently, some schools in the area have focussed on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and integrated this within the curriculum.  This is nothing new but an explicit mention always helps.  In the English curriculum this is referred to as PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education).  The benefits of SEL and PSHE, both in the short and long term include academic success as well as emotional wellbeing.

Nel Noddings, author of various books and articles that call for all schools to focus on ethic of care.  She argues that caring should be a foundation for ethical decision-making.  How does one become a caring person?   Noddings states that a caring person ‘is one who fairly regularly establishes caring relations and, when appropriate maintains them over time’.  Noddings identifies education (both in the traditional sense and the not so traditional, including at home) as central to a culture and creation of caring in society.  In fact, she views the home as the primary educator and argues for an adjustment of social policy to this end. This is not to sideline the role of schools but simply to recognise just what the home contributes to the development of children and young people.

Students (in fact, everybody) should have the opportunity to practice activities that foster respect, responsibility, compassion, courage, trust, perseverance, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline and citizenship.  Students should also be given the chances to show kindness and develop their character, serving others whenever possible.  Would a kindness meter work in schools?  Maybe, maybe not, but the importance of character, kindness and working as a team for an agreed shared goal, cannot be stated enough.  Schools should continue to work together with communities in order to enhance all childrens’ learning experience.

Yasir Patel

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