Kindness Matters

Kindness Matters by Dr Cheryl Bahar, Dean of General Studies
Posted on 11/13/2019
Kindness Matters

Imagine a college that uses empathy and kindness (social emotional) aptitude tests in lieu of an SAT score when making admission decisions. The unfortunate truth is that one would have to suspend disbelief to fathom this idea. It is difficult to refute that society is hyper-focused on achievement. The push for more standardized tests, AP classes, and time consuming highly competitive sports teams have overshadowed the importance that kindness and compassion have on future success. Quite often the value of a student is connected to their GPA. We live in a time when kindness is equated with weakness and this sad reality can put our children’s well-being and future at risk.

There is a broad body of research dedicated to studying the correlation between empathy indicators in children (e.g. compassion, empathy, kindness) and academic success. In her 2019 article in Forbes Magazine, Tracy Brower, emphasizes that empathy is not a soft skill, rather, it can lead to a stronger identity, increased cooperation and innovation and can help one to influence others. These important traits can be the “pathway to hard results” in the workforce.   

With all the data out there pointing to the importance of a strong moral compass, the need for character education is popping up in large school districts around the country. The practice of teaching children about the importance of empathy, philanthropy, and community is beautifully outlined on an online webpage, however, is it really incorporated into the classrooms? Are parent teacher conferences only about the grade or about the student?   

In my many years at Gottesman RTW Academy, I have seen many graduates pass through these doors. Students with different strengths and weaknesses coming together in this community. We learn about being good people and giving our time to others. Older students reaching out to younger ones during a fire drill. Countless collection boxes fill our corridors as we hope to help our neighbors who may not be as lucky as we are. All our teachers trained to meet the emotional needs of our students and not just the academic ones.  Our alumni visiting when they are off from school because this is a safe place which helped to lay a foundation of compassion and acceptance. Perhaps naïve, I am hopeful that the pendulum swings in a different direction so that the measure of success is based on what we can contribute to society and not what society can do for us.