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I agree with Isabel Wilkerson, whose brilliant book, The Warmth of Other Suns, chronicles the lives of African American who fled north to escape the Jim Crow South.  What the world needs more than anything else is a commitment to radical empathy. Why radical? Because without a fundamental shift in what and how we teach our children, we are setting the stage for a future that continues to breed fear, prejudice and conflict.

According to some of our most respected neuroscientists and psychologists, empathy is inherent in children at birth. However, like language skills, it takes practice for children to become proficient. Even more significant is the fact that children who experience empathy, kindness and respect, and are seen and appreciated for who they are, are able to learn more effectively.

So the question becomes how best to incorporate and integrate social-emotional learning into children’s lives. Certainly it must be consciously, and yes radically, infused in the curriculums of our schools. However, it is vitally important that parents, extended families, friends, businesses, governments and community members understand that learning doesn’t stop when a child leaves school. Like it or not, we are ALL teachers and are teaching our children every day through our behavior.

My own work focuses on using multimedia storytelling, creativity and projected based learning to help children develop emotional intelligence. However, I firmly believe that we need to have ongoing, extended conversations that involve a wide range of people, cultures, races and beliefs if we are to get this right. We must hear one another’s stories and take down the walls to find and share the things we have in common.

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Copyright 2016 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.