I live close to Parkland, Florida where the horrible school shooting occurred on Valentine’s Day 2018. My heart breaks for the families of the victims. I hope that every resource is available to help each and every person affected cope with the aftermath of this terrible tragedy.
As an executive coach, whose main purpose is to help people excel and live to their highest potential, I can’t help but wonder what is getting in the way of some of our youth rising up to their potential? I understand that mental illness is at play as well as easy access to weapons. However, the disturbing recent events below point to a broader question. What is happening to the values in our society that enable children to act with such disrespect for human life?
Today in the news, an 11-year old girl at a nearby school was arrested after she wrote a note, signed it and slipped it under the assistant principal’s door. It said she was going to bring a gun to school the following day and shoot everyone. Also, a 9th grader at a South Carolina school was arrested for posting a photo on Snapchat titled “Florida Round 2” wearing a partial mask and holding an assault rifle. At another high school in Arkansas, a student was arrested after he threatened to shoot up his high school like in Florida.
Last night, a friend who is a retired doctor from India reflected that in her home country, schools have a “Values Class” where children are taught common values. She wondered if that would be worthwhile and/or acceptable here in the U.S. or would it be seen as infringing on people’s rights and religious liberties. Her comments made me curious, so I did some research.
I happened upon an essay about the role of values in critical thinking from Richard A. Lynch, a research fellow at The Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. It was posted on a site sponsored by the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning.
Mr. Lynch recognizes that today most critical thinking; the self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality with fair-mindedness, is taught in a purely logical way and misses the key component which is that critical thinking must be based on some set of shared values.
So the question that came to me is what kind of values are the children noted above living by? Who is taking the time and effort to instill any common values in them? How do you teach values to those who are mentally challenged? Is it possible to reinforce a set of values in our culture that is acceptable to all?
As I work with clients, I find that initially most people are caught up in what they want and how they can get it without reflecting on how this resonates with their deepest values. Many times, they aren’t clear on what their values are or haven’t thought about them in the context of what they want to achieve. It is at this moment that a great clarity can occur that impacts a person’s whole life.
In a recent workshop I facilitated for a school’s principal and administrators, we worked on integrating mindfulness techniques as a way for both teachers and students to deal with the emotional and mental stress that can cloud our clarity about values which in turn impacts how we react to others and our environment.
In my experience, values are key to a well-balanced individual and well-balanced society. My hope for everyone reading this today is that you choose to take a moment to reflect on your values. To have a discussion with your colleagues, your friends and family about what our shared values might be and how that could make our society a safer, more secure place. To ask each other; How are we or how are we not expressing those values in our work, lives and interactions with others?
Jo-Aynne von Born, Executive Coach