Start The Week on Radio 4 at 9.00am on Mondays is usually worth a listen, and today was no exception.
Topics under discussion were Britain’s justice system, the prison service, why most people choose to obey the law, criminal rehabilitation and civil liberties.
What’s fascinating about programmes like this one is the complete absence of understanding of why young people fail to develop positive attitudes and also life skills that will keep them sane, safe and self-sufficient. There was no mention of the school system and why so many of our young people drift into criminality in the first place. What IS the role of schools in developing key life skills and positive attitudes? “Give me a child to the age of seven . . .”
Panels of experts like this morning’s seem to have no clue when it comes to personal intelligence, social intelligence, emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence. Why is there no space in our public discourse for these crucial intelligences? Why do so many of our citizens and policy-makers care more about passing tests and examinations, about ‘traditional subjects’ dominating the curriculum, than they do about developing the intelligences that will truly make a difference to the life chances of our young people?
Today happens to be the first day of the Buddhist New Year. The Dalai Lama and other Buddhist leaders often speak out on the subject of ‘destructive emotions’ and the need to develop emotional and spiritual intelligence in order to eliminate violent and destructive behaviour around the world.
The problem seems to be that there is too little understanding of what we mean by emotional intelligence and especially spiritual intelligence. We don’t share a common language and agreed definitions of these concepts. We certainly don’t have agreement about the sorts of education that enable children to develop these intelligences. How do we enable children to become more empathetic? More self-controlled? More self-confident? More respectful of others? With more joy and caring in their hearts and minds? With less greed, envy, rage and malice occupying and corrupting their feelings, thoughts and actions?
What forms of education are able to give children the language, knowledge, skills and intelligences they need in order to understand human values and human virtues, and also to make them their guiding principles throughout life?
Many of our best schools have addressed children’s well-being in the broadest sense as the key to successful learning and living. Such schools have an ethos and a curriculum that puts great emphasis on the personal, social, emotional and spiritual intelligences. Isn’t it time we ensured all schools are given the support and the resources they need in order to work in this way? This is again an issue of children’s rights and pupil well-being.
When it comes to criminal and anti-social behaviour surely prevention is better than cure? Young people need guidance and practice in living well – and the best place to acquire human values and to practice virtuous behavior (especially in the absence of a nurturing family) is the school.
Fabulous set of Buddhist New Year photos here: