What if kindness was taught at our universities ? The tradition of Indian education voluntarily institutes a spiritual and emotional dimension to purely academic teaching. In a humanistic vision of education, we can begin to dream of developing solid academic skills in challenging courses while including the practice of kindness.
Just yesterday, I was flabbergasted to have a discussion with a young man who had just finished his university studies in economics who had downloaded, without any shame, the computer data belonging to one of his friends. Without disavowing the facts, he had no desire to apologize or any regrets whatsoever. He openly said that this stolen information amounted to several thousand contacts and would help him to boost his young startup. Between betraying and stealing from a friend or ensuring that luck is on his side, even dishonestly, to launch his startup, this well-brought up young man had no hesitation. I am astounded and frightened at this opportunistic and consumeristic attitude which has made the human values of honesty, friendship, respect and kindness fall by the wayside. Is this what we teach at university ? To succeed at any price and is this the cost of walking over others ? I don’t think so but nevertheless it seems to me that there is a lack at this level and there would be room to include the essential ideas of kindness in a university course. The need of a spiritual and emotional dimension in study courses seems fundamental to me, in fact, an education solely based on academic skills is too narrow and is not sufficient in an ever complex world. For me, university training has two duties, the first to impart living knowledge and the second to recognize humanity as an intrinsic idea of compassion and kindness.
By teaching gratitude and compassion in university courses, students would gain the power to adapt to all situations, with all counterparts while demonstrating human and spiritual values. In a complex context which is continuously changing, students of today will occupy posts tomorrow which perhaps do not yet exist today and which they must prove adaptability and have multiple resources. Firstly, there is the education that is provided in our universities and then there are students who benefit from it, who are above all, human beings. I agree with the Dalaï Lama when he says that in his opinion, a good person is someone who has heart, a sense of engagement and a sense of responsibility, it is what he calls the compassionate heart. The combination of quality instruction and a compassionate heart results in educated and kind human beings. The Dalaï Lama also mentions that this combination is the key to constructive and fulfilling knowledge enabling one to find respectful solutions to existing or new problems.
More and more positive psychological research demonstrates the scientific benefits of practicing kindness and gratitude to contribute to the fulfillment of being in one’s social, professional and personal life. What if the first teaching of kindness applied to students themselves ? How can one love and respect oneself if one does not love and respect others?
Ben-Shahar, T., & Collon, H. (Eds.). (2011). L’apprentissage de l’imperfection. Paris: Belfond.