Should schools be teaching skills like empathy?
Should schools teach children empathy, self-control and other skills for dealing with social situations as well as Maths and Science?
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Such skills are lacking.
According to Demos, an independent think-tank, the need for teaching such skills is demonstrated in the number of school leavers not going into further education or employment. School pupils are 'switching off' from education because they are unable to cope with everyday relationships and family situations. They need to be taught to manage their everyday life before they can do well in education. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/5345199/Empathy-and-self-control-as-important-as-the-three-Rs-in-education.html)
Empathy is probably better taught in "real life" situations in the home, at play with peers or in the community. Children spend most of their waking hours not in the formal school classroom.
It may be that social skills could be a topic in extended schools provision, so that children who lack opportunties to learn and practise them for whatever reason are not disadvantaged.
However in the classroom proper, basic 'technical' skills like the 3 Rs should be the order of the day. In any case, experience suggests that a number of teachers themselves lack empathy towards pupils who are non-conformist, disabled or 'too clever' and may not be best placed to model this virtue.
We already teach 'life skills'.
Other important life skills are already taught in schools, such as sex education, careers guidance and dealing with bullying. Social skills are just as important skills for everyday life and would link in with the subjects already taught.
Can't learn it in artificial situations.
The best way to help children to learn about social situations is to let them interact naturally with other children and adults, not to make them participate in formal, artificial classes on how to interact with others. Empathy is something that should develop naturally in people when they are exposed to a wide range of different people and self-control is supposed to happen naturally as emotions mature. If the child actually has impaired social development, they should be helped by the learning support department anyway.
Schools need to more actively intervene in problems.
Teaching children to cope with everyday social situations is only useful if the problems are minor and the home is a safe environment for the child. Many children from deprived areas who fall behind academically do so because of serious problems such as violence, drug or alcohol abuse or poor housing. These situations need to be dealt with by adults who have some authority to change them, not left for the children to deal with.
What do you think?