“If we are going to build a new America, you are the most important people in the world,” keynote speaker Tim Shriver told the audience at Thursday’s 1st General Session of the AASA national conference in Nashville.
Shiver is chairman of Special Olympics and chairman of the board of CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.
The key to healing divisiveness in America is for public education to embrace social and emotional learning, so the next generation is less prone to the “outrage industrial complex,” he said. Other benefits include better classroom behavior and an 11 percent boost in standardized test scores, he said.
Children need to be taught about empathy, moral courage and the dignity of humanity, he said. Such lessons have been incorporated into social and emotional learning as recommended by CASEL.
Acknowledging the degree of skepticism that exists about SEL, including critics who say SEL has a political agenda, Shriver said it is important to remember that such views are in the minority. CASEL’s research says that 92 percent of employers support SEL, as do 99 percent of school principals, 90 percent of teachers, 87 percent of parents and 76 percent of high school students.
Like employers, educators need to focus on the importance of relationships, he said.
Shriver, who is the son of Sargent and Eunice Shriver, noted that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was once asked, “Isn’t it clear that evil is more powerful than good?” Tutu’s answer: “No, evil is not more powerful than good. But it’s better organized.”
According to Shriver, it’s time for educators, parents and other allies of good to get organized. “That’s how to build a new America.”
(Eric Randall is senior editor with Conference Daily Online and editor-in-chief with the New York State School Boards Association in Latham, N.Y.)