Emotional Health Education and Emotional Intelligence to prevent mass shootings
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I consider what I'm proposing to potentially be a solution to the vast majority of issues we face in the world. I believe the solution to things like school shootings, bullying, suicides, rampant child neglect, crime, even wars starts with the emotional intelligence of children. This idea came to me shortly after taking a course based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book and hearing about yet another school shooting. The pattern I noticed underlying all of these issues boiled down to a person or group of people making an incredibly bad decision that negatively affects everyone involved, all because of a lack of emotional health.
I consider things like war, crime, discrimination, racism, resource inequality, etc to be signs of an immature civilization. With emotional health education starting early and being widespread, we could replace those things with peace, cooperation & security, true equality, abundance, and so many other positive things. We could usher in a whole new age of prosperity and exploration. I'm thinking of a Star Trek like near future here, at least socioeconomic-wise if not technologically speaking.
This isn't necessarily an attempt to teach children how or what to think; it's definitely not brainwashing. It's more about teaching children habits that will lead to more constructive and positive ways of thinking. I want to really drive this point home. This is more "meta" than teaching someone how or what to think. This is more of a "what do I do with my current thoughts and feelings" and a "how do I want to think and feel" and how to go about bringing that to fruition.
Some might say, "we've done just fine without emotional health education (or the government telling us how to think/feel)," but then I ask, "have we?" We've been repeating history throughout the entire existence of our species. War and conflict permeate that history. The only thing that has changed is technology. Are we doomed to continue repeating history until we self-destruct? Will we continue doing the same thing over and over again with this new technoligy until we unwittingly end up being ruled or destroyed by it? We need the same kind of progress we see in technology, in our individual and collective behaviors. Otherwise, we're just really very pretty, well groomed, cave men/women that happen to live inside wooden shelters all the while shaking increasingly destructive weapons at each other in threatening manners.
What you think becomes what you believe, what you believe becomes what you feel inside, what you feel affects your behaviors, and your behaviors affect your actions and what shape your life takes. I've already attempted to contact various political figures, including our president, about this idea. I've stated to them that the more I hear in the news about school shootings, suicides, discrimination, and world problems, the more I think that people need to be taught how to manage their thoughts and emotions in public schools as early as possible. I think there should be a psychology and or self-improvement component to our education. It's not enough to assume that kids will learn this sort of thing from their parents, because if their parents don't know how to manage their thoughts and emotions, how are they going to teach that to their kids? Lack of healthy thought and emotion management is the root of the problem; the "why" these tragedies are happening in the first place.
A lot of people don't know the first thing about managing their thoughts and emotions. Most people believe that they are victims of circumstance. It's the reason for kids taking their lives, parents take their family's lives, people feeling like they're not good enough. So many tragedies and they all start with those small seeds planted in our minds when we're young and vulnerable. I believe that every human being should be given the opportunity to learn how to manage and cope with their thoughts and emotions.
A friend of mine brought up a few very important and interesting questions about the effectiveness of this educational program. What if a particular child doesn’t have a happy home life? How is that going to affect their progress with this material? Will it reduce or nullify the effectiveness, the benefits, and the overall desired outcome to greatly reduce or eliminate tragedies that stem from a lack of internal emotion and thought management?
I understand the difficulty of making emotional health education stick to children when there are other things in their life that may contradict it, but this could be something that could be addressed as part of the education. I think that this can be overcome with time and steady, progressive change. It’s an understandably expected variable, and it can be accounted for.
The result of this could be that the 1st generation of children to learn the material will learn it from a teacher who does not understand it themselves because they do not live it, and then go home and experience life in ways that could be contradictory to what they learn.
The 2nd generation of children will learn the material from the same teachers, who have been teaching it for many years by this point, or new teachers, who were a part of the 1st generation to learn it. They go home and experience life in ways that are less contradictory to what they learn because their parents would be familiar with the material.
Each generation going forward would become more familiar and more successful with the material learned, and live home lives more consistent with that material. Suddenly you have 99.999% of children with happy home lives and high grades.
The amount of time it would take to reach this ideal outcome could be discouraging to some, but it is absolutely necessary and expected as a natural evolution toward a more mature society, so we better get started ASAP and quell the urge to need instant gratification.
A child's physical health and well-being are very important in the grand scheme of this idea. It goes back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This is something that can be taught, and over time, addressed and solved. I don't believe that this needs to be solved first, at least not in the greater scheme of things. Individually, it is definitely a problem that needs to be solved before said individual can "move up the hierarchy" so to say. But the point I'm trying to make is very similar to the "help yourself first before you are capable of helping others" argument. You need to get your oxygen mask on first, before helping someone else with theirs, otherwise, you could pass out before succeeding, and then you'll both be passed out. Essentially, helping even a few will eventually help everyone in the long term.
I've made it a habit to collect various sources of information that could be used to put together a learning program that would teach children how to be emotionaly healthy.
One example of an activity that would improve emotional intelligence is keeping a positive event journal. Kids would learn to keep their focus on the positive aspects of their lives. What you focus on grows. For younger children, who have yet to learn to write, they could draw and or show and tell something positive about their day.
This isn't to say that negative events should be ignored. They can be learned from and or gotten help for. So perhaps there could be a "lessons learned" journal where children think about things that happened that day that they didn't like and come up with positive solutions; a what to do about this problem, or what to do better next time. A solution oriented mind is a happy and productive one.
Another example is learning to be cognizant of thoughts and emotions; what to notice, current habits? Mindfulness meditation and mindfulness practices are a great idea as well. A friend of mine showed me a Facebook story about primary school children in Berkshire having these meditation classes "...to help them manage their own behaviour and anxieties, and improve concentration" - https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=934795656611025&id=153132638110668&__mref=message_bubble
These are just the tip of the iceberg.
There are so many other helpful concepts that can be taught in so many different ways. Part of the challenge of putting together an educational program like this is figuring out what to teach and when to teach it. At what point in a child’s life would teaching them certain concepts be most beneficial to their positive psychological development?
The first source of information that I think would be helpful in putting together this educational program is the book "7 Habits to Highly Effective People." I also enjoyed the "taking responsibility for your life" and learning to love yourself aspect of "You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise Hay. The movie of the same name is pretty phenomenal. Dale Carnegie material could be good too as well as mindfulness practices. The mindfulness solution is a book I personally own. The following is a list of links I've collected on the subject:
We can use the fundamental concepts in these books and other sources, to develop a program that everyone can agree on, with subject matter that will be beneficial to children at target ages. I've actually tasked myself with going back over the material in the two books I mentioned and trying to develop a program targeted at children at different ages. This way, I'll have something concrete to offer. It could be a model or guide for educators to follow in developing a program that will address emotional health education.
Any positive influence on any children like this would mean a positive influence on other children and a general positive influence on society going forward.
A good point was made to me, recently, about this idea: not everyone is going to buy into it. I'm sure that we can expect, more often than not, people not buying into this, because that is the state of mind most people exist in, in the world today, and is part of the problem this idea would strive to solve. I think the goal I want to convey, is that there will always be some sort of opposition to an idea in some form and quantity, and that's a healthy, natural thing to occur. The goal is to address each objection that comes our way in a constructive, collaborative manner, so that the quantity of our opposition, shrinks.
The fact of the matter is, we do not have a good, universal system in place to address this problem of emotional health, without alienating individuals in some way. Sure, right now, there are school councilers, doctors, and psychiatrists that individuals can voluntarily meet and interact with, but I don't believe it's enough. Take the 2012 Aurora shooter, James Holmes, for example. He saw a psychiatrist. He was on medication. It didn't help him the way he needed it too, and ultimately, he made a very poor decision and took the lives of many people, in effect, causing a massive general negative effect to that community and their future and "what could have been." My solution is to have daily group emotional health education, not to discuss everyone's problems, because that, in my opinion, is a destructive activity, and any discussion of problems that NEEDS to be discussed, maybe for safety purposes, would be a private matter. This daily group emotional health education would focus on practical techniques for how to effectively manage thoughts and emotions.
A good way to gradually introduce and or pilot this kind of program, could be starting it as an after school activity for students and parents who are interested in finding a solution for their children's emotional problems, bullying problems, or even their school work problems (you could make the argument that learning to address certain thoughts and emotions that might be affecting a child's education could improve their grades). They already have a mindfulness meditation program I linked too, earlier in this letter, that's in place to address children's anxieties and general peace of mind. I was pretty excited to hear about that.
Eventually, we'd have groups of students, educated in thought and emotion management, becoming a positive influence on others. The results will speak for themselves. The idea will sell itself. More people will become interested.
My hope is that this idea isn't taken up by just one political group, and have its necessity debated. I would hope that both political groups would be interested in the emotional health education of our children as a way to benefit life and our society, and reduce unecessary death and crime. It could be suggested that there are alternative ways of going about addressing this issue, and the political groups could choose which way they think would be most effective.
If you agree with my idea and if there's anything that you can do or any advice that you can give to help make this a reality, I would greatly appreciate it. I consider this petition to be a living document; it will grow and be refined and improved as I discuss it with others and do my own work to create something concrete that could serve as a prototype for what something like this could look like.
I plan on keeping signees who are interested in updates, updated on changes that I make to this document.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
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