(Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog provided to the Humanity Project by writer Judy Pokras. You’ll find more information about Ms. Pokras at the end of her article.)
Because children are at the mercy of the families they are born into; because people have children without knowing what a huge job it is to care for and love them; because not all (hardworking) parents have the time or patience to devote to their children; because everyone has a unique way of perceiving the world and a unique manner of communicating; there ought to be a mandatory curriculum in all schools, starting in the earliest grades, that would focus on teaching children: How to communicate with all different sorts of people; That it is okay to have feelings, whatever they are; How to disagree with others in a civil manner; That everyone is of value; and What is involved in having and caring for children (so that students are more prepared when it comes time to decide about having their own).
A good way to teach children effective ways to communicate would be to have the youngest students act out an incident they experienced (perhaps a time when they were bullied, or called names, or ridiculed, or when they felt lonely and needed to know how to express that hurt). And in the higher grades, a student could debate a controversial topic with another student. These reenactments and debates would be videotaped. Then a teacher who is specially trained (probably a psychologist) would lead the class as they watch the playback of the video, with everyone participating in pointing out where the communication was effective and where it was ineffective. Following the class discussion, effective communication strategies could be taught. If children were taught in school how to effectively communicate, a lot of the alienation that unfortunately leads to violence would be prevented. All children would have the chance to feel valued. Children would learn that deep down we are all the same, and that no one should be made fun of or worse. It would take a long time, but after a few decades the very children who were exposed to these classes would become the adults running society. They would be more enlightened than most of the adults running the world now, and they would make better choices in media, politics and the other spheres besides school and home that affect the way children are socialized. I think we’re overdue for adding a communications course to the K-12 curriculum in all schools. Communication skills are at least as important as all the other subjects our schools teach! Especially when you think about how many problems are caused by failures in communication, from neglected children, to divorces, to disputes in the workplace, to road rage, to school violence, to drug and alcohol abuse, to crime in general (because children who are ignored or abused can become criminals), to wars. I’ve had this idea for a long time. It’s very important to me, and I believe it can have a huge impact on preventing violence in our schools and our culture at large. I hope you will tell your friends and elected officials about my idea. The more people we can get discussing it, the sooner we can make it happen!
Judy Pokras is a long-time journalist. She has written for many publications, including The New York Times. She is the author of The Little Book of Raw Vegan Holiday Recipes (also available as an e-book), and of the novel Artist Girl’s Cambridge Daze. She is also the writer, producer and director of a mock-Seinfeld video, Anomalies.