The state of Illinois recently mandated that a Social Emotional component be added to the curriculum. Our district adopted a program called Second Step to comply. Here’s some of what Second Step covers in just fifth grade: empathy and respect, listening with attention, taking others perspectives, accepting differences, disagreeing respectfully, and responding with compassion.
These are all wonderful things that we as adults value in our society. Bullying is covered in every component. That’s great, because we all know how harmful bullying can be. It is manipulative and can cause lasting damage. As adults, we can see what children often can’t. We teach them to stand up for truth and not just follow blindly out of ignorance or sit by silently out of fear. I’m pretty sure that all adults in our community value these traits.
Or do they?
Meanwhile, as I’m incorporating Second Step into our 5th grade schedule, our school district, therefore our city, is going through an ugly contract negotiation. There are many different intense opinions, and I certainly do not hold the key to what’s best, so that’s not what I want to address here. What I do want to address is some of the adult behavior.
Is this why we teach respect for point of view, empathy, and anti-bullying in elementary school? So our grade school students don’t grow up to act like some of us? If these were our students or children, we as teachers or parents would all call them in from outside and give them a time out, take away the x-box or recess, and have them write a letter of apology…maybe even send them to the principal’s office. In the adult world we seem to allow different rules. We typically refrain from calling bullies out on their behavior, and if someone dares to, that person is publically bullied into submission while other adults stand around and silently allow it. Isn’t this when we, the adults, "do as we say" and stand up for exactly what we believe and teach our children?
How can we expect our children to learn the values of true cooperation and disagreeing respectfully when we aren’t displaying them ourselves? Can we really expect our children to navigate successfully as adults in an ever-smaller world where true cooperation, valuing of differences, and respect for fellow human beings are desperately needed for global stability … if we as adults and role models can’t even do that in one city conflict?
Hey State of Illinois, can you mandate Second Step for adults?