I am reading a book to my senior class at the moment (grades 3 to 6). Its called “Wonder ” by R.J. Palacio and was recommended to me by a good friend of mine.
It’s a touching story about Auggie, a 10 year-old boy who suffers from a severe facial deformity and starts school for the first time. As the story develops, the boy experiences moments of rejection and shame for looking different. But as the story continues we begin to see the impact that tolerance and kindness has on this boy.
Why I choose to write about this today, is because I have been reflecting a lot lately on the question of how to teach kindness both to my students and to my daughters.
This is a passage from the book that I has been on my mind all morning.
“Being kind is more important than being right.”
Is it a realistic goal to teach our kids to be kind rather than being right?
Certainly, I want to encourage my kids and students to be kind whenever possible. Along with politeness, responsibility, respectfulness and a host of other important virtues, these are vital skills that help our kids function and excel in society. But at the risk of sounding self-righteous, is it really possible to tell our kids to choose kindness at the expense of being right in all circumstances?
Our society tends to highlight and encourage attributes like initiative, strength of character and resoning skills. Are they any less important than being kind?
I would argue that in some cases, kindness is not always appropriate. Perhaps sometimes being right even might precede being kind.
A case in point applies in the context of university students applying to competitive programs. As a side-projects, besides teaching, I also work as a blog administrator for MyGraduateSchool.com It is a project that I work on with my husband who is a best-selling author and expert in the area of helping students prepare for the application process to graduate school.
One of his main objectives is to help students understand that in order to get accepted into competitive programs, they have to find ways that make them stand out above the rest of the applicants. Achieving this type of distinction goes well beyond just having higher grades. Some of the qualities necessary for this endeavour, do not favour being kind. They don’t encourage being unkind either, but if a student chose to be kind rather than being right in an interview setting or at a lab meeting, there chances of getting into grad school might be severely reduced.
I think choosing kind is definitely the go-to approach, but then again it’s not always appropriate and kids need to learn the subtle differences when it’s time to be kind and when it’s time to strive forward without hurting anyone in the process.