Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2002


This profile was prepared when Mary Gordon was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Mary's Roots of Empathy is an innovative, classroom-based parenting program that reduces childhood levels of aggression by counteracting the physical, psychological, and neurological effects of parental violence and neglect.

Scientists have proven that abuse during a child's formative years affects the formation of the brain and has a lifetime impact on a child's learning, behavior, and health. However, child development research indicates that teaching children to be compassionate and caring–and how to recognize and manage their own emotions at an early age–can mitigate the impact of violence. Mary's program grasps that potential for recovery from the effects of childhood trauma and is able to reduce the frequency of aggressive, antisocial behavior.

Roots of Empathy makes emotional literacy–the ability to recognize and understand each others' emotions–a core school subject. It brings a living example of the loving relationship between parent and child into the classroom. Targeted to children's varying levels of emotional development, Roots of Empathy provides young people with strategies to effectively recognize and respond to the emotions of others.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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