“How can we educate the hearts of children?”
– His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
This was what the Dalai Lama asked assembled dignitaries and guests to consider at the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit. A simple question premised on a provocative idea: Educating the Heart is foundational to preparing children for the 21st Century.
Educating the Heart is of Global Importance:
The basis for his question is provocative because, if true then social and emotional learning of children is as important as core academics in preparing them to respond in compassionate, effective ways to the challenges of our time: conflict, environmental degradation, and limited resources. Interestingly, emerging health, education and neuroscientific research supports this conclusion. A new U.S. study involving 270,000 students who participated in social and emotional learning programs shows multiple benefits: the students’ pro-social behavior improve significantly, they have less emotional distresses such as depression, and their academic achievement goes up by 11 percentile points. Dr. Daniel Siegel, a leading proponent of interpersonal neurobiology, describes it this way: “You can make the argument that the future of the planet depends on social and emotional competencies.”
BC as a model of Educating the Heart:
The social and emotional development of children is the leading edge of education, mental health, and brain development science. BC is at the forefront of this, although the province can be characterized as a collection of islands of social and emotional program activity. The missing ingredient – the need – is a convener to connect the strands of activity such that the level of collaboration, shared practice and research has a transformative influence on the province. In this way, educating the heart will become a core focus for all who engage with children – in every classroom and community – and embedded in education and mental health policy.
Clear Role for the Dalai Lama Center
With a mission to Educate the Heart, the pieces are in place for the Dalai Lama Center to advance BC’s efforts to foster the social and emotional learning of children. The audacious goal is that this province can be an example internationally of how caring communities are raising compassionate children.
The Dalai Lama Center is deploying all its internal and external resources toward this clear and compelling role. Through programs that convene, advise, educate, and apply research we are working with leaders in education, science, politics, government, business and philanthropy who understand the value of social and emotional learning. By using local, regional, national and international connections, the Dalai Lama Center is helping to share evidence-based practice and encourage collaboration. In short, it’s a strategy of supporting, encouraging and leading a rising tide of awareness and action toward educating the hearts of children. We hope that by the time the Dalai Lama visits Vancouver again in October, 2012, the Center will have achieved tangible outcomes in our strategic focus and show the world that BC is indeed at the forefront of educating the whole child.