Training in Human Values Can Shape Students and Society

I’m fortunate to be working with a group of dedicated members of my school’s administration, faculty, and staff to align our initiatives in counseling, advisory, mindfulness practices, and responsive classroom—pre-K to 12th grade—to incorporate the Social, Emotional, and Ethical (SEE) Learning Curriculum developed by the Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics at Emory University in Atlanta.  

What is SEE Learning? Increasingly, scientific research demonstrates that human values can be trained as skills given the appropriate methods for doing so; that such training can result in measurable benefits for both physical and psychological health; and that these prosocial values correlate with ethical action in real-world situations, leading to better outcomes for self and others. SEE Learning provides educators and their students with specific methods, techniques, and approaches to cultivating compassion and other basic values important for individual and collective flourishing. SEE Learning also offers methods to move values from being merely “head knowledge”, to taking root deeply within the hearts and minds of students in whom these skills are embodied and fully realized.

Why now? Since ancient times, educators have known that a comprehensive education must include helping students to cultivate character and ethical discernment, was well as providing students with knowledge and practical skills. The causes of our societal problems—from school violence to environmental degradation to national security—lie not only in external conditions, but also in the decisions that we as human beings make based on our values. These values have great practical value as well because employers increasingly recognize that training in “soft skills” result in long-term success for the individual.

I’m deeply honored to be presenting the pioneering work of students in my SEE Learning course, Ethical Dilemmas and Decision Making, to the Dalai Lama at the Mind and Life Dialogue 2018 in Dharamsala, India. SEE Learning is a product of the Dalai Lama’s work with the Emory-Tibet Partnership, a unique educational endeavor in secular ethics that brings together the best of Western and Tibetan Buddhist intellectual traditions for mutual enrichment and the discovery of new knowledge.

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