Compassion - why every school should teach it
Compassion is no longer a character trait that only our corporate leaders need to learn. One company, EVERFI EdComs, is working with businesses so that it’s taught in schools
The former CEO of Cisco Systems, John Chambers, made sure that if any of his 80,000 employees suffered the loss of a close relative, he’d be told about it within 48 hours.
He’d then make it a priority to send them a handwritten note expressing his condolences.
Chambers was perhaps ahead of his time. Compassion is now a much sought-after quality in today’s leaders.
Studies from Stanford University, among others, show that acts of compassion - aside from their ethical value - inspire loyalty, commitment and even innovation in the workplace.
Dr Rony Berger, a senior clinical psychologist at Tel Aviv University and the Center for Compassionate Mindful Education, says compassionate behaviour thickens and enhances specific cortical areas of the brain and enhances hemispheric connectivity. In other words, it improves our cognitive abilities and our creativity.
“When a leader shows compassion, it is extremely contagious,” says Rasmus Hougaard, the CEO of global leadership development firm Potential Project.
Hougaard’s research of 35,000 managers across the world has revealed that millennials in particular want a leader they feel “connected to” and who they think cares about them. “That can only come from a compassionate person,” Hougaard says. “Compassion has gone from being a desirable leadership trait to one that will soon be seen as essential.”
The growing importance of compassion has led experts to question; why we are confining the teaching of such an important quality to business leadership courses. Why isn’t this something we’re teaching young children in school?
Jeff Weiner, the Executive Chairman of LinkedIn, wondered the same thing.
Weiner decided to make his idea a reality and last year he collaborated with global education technology platform EVERFI to launch a course that teaches compassion to seven to 11-year-olds.
The course, The Compassion Project, has already had huge success in the US, where it has reached 20% of all primary schools and is the only free, comprehensive course of its kind. Children on the course learn to practise compassion through real-life scenarios, role play, critical-thinking and problem-solving.
“Given the state of the world today,” Weiner says, “and how much polarisation is taking place at a time when we actually need to be coming together to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, I’m not sure I can think of anything more important than teaching our kids compassion.”
The course has just been adapted for the UK market by EVERFI EdComs, EVERFI’s UK company.
The firm is giving businesses the opportunity to sponsor the course so that it can be made free to schools across the UK.
“Compassion is not just a quality for business leaders, it’s increasingly critical to our children’s success and overall well-being,” says Tom Davidson, the CEO and Founder of EVERFI. “Sponsoring a course like The Compassion Project is a crucial way to invest in our children’s futures.”
Hougaard, who lives in Denmark, says his children have learned things in their maths and Danish lessons that they may never need. “But they have never been taught compassion and that is something they could benefit from every single day,” he says.
“Compassion is going to be a big thing in schools in the coming years, especially in these times of global upheaval. The world is crying out for it. The sooner it’s taught in our schools the better.”