Ashoka Fellow Mary Gordon Featured in TIME Magazine: How to Deprogram Bullies: Teaching Kindness 101

teaching empathy

How do we stop the escalating amount of violence and bullying in schools? TIME magazine featured Ashoka Fellow Mary Gordon, founder of Roots of Empathy (ROE), to address this question {here are some excerpts}:

One of the most promising antibullying programs, ROE (along with its sister program, Seeds of Empathy) starts as early as preschool and brings a loving parent and a baby to classrooms to help children learn to understand the perspective of others…

After a child has hurt someone, "we always think we should start with 'How do you think so-and-so felt?'" Gordon says. "But you will be more successful if you start with 'You must have felt very upset.'" The trick, she says, is to "help children describe how they felt, so that the next time this happens, they've got language. Now they can say, 'I'm feeling like I did when I bit Johnny.'"

To date, nine independent studies have shown that ROE schools experience "reduced aggression" and "increased prosocial behavior" among students.


Not only are these students learning how to describe their emotions and use words rather than violence, they’re learning skills that will help them to be successful changemakers for the rest of their lives. In a world of escalating change, rules don’t always cover everything - which means that anyone without high empathetic skill may hurt others and have trouble fitting in. With these empathic skills gained through Roots of Emapthy, children will understand where their help is needed and how they can contribute to changing the world for better.

Watch a video of Mary Gordon's work here and here.

Mary Gordon was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in Canada in 2002 and is co-leader of the “Empathy Team” of North American Fellows including Jill Vialet, Molly Barker, and Eric Dawson.

Learn more about Ashoka’s focus on Empathy

This article was originally published on May 26, 2010
Related TopicsChildren & Youth, Non-formal education, Every Child Practicing Empathy

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