Today’s children are growing up at a time of unprecedented change and escalating challenges. How can we best equip them with the social-emotional skills and ethical dispositions needed to manage complex emotions, build positive relationships, and assume active roles within their local and global communities?

A new Mind & Life Institute digital dialogue, “Education of the Heart,” offers rich insights from leading scientists, scholars, and educational practitioners aimed at education renewal. The multimedia site summarizes presentations and discussion from Mind & Life’s 33rd Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, “Reimagining Human Flourishing,” held in Dharamsala, India in March 2018. Over five days, Dialogue participants explored new frontiers in education rooted in science and contemplative wisdom. 

The Dalai Lama has written extensively on the need for an “education of the heart,” prioritizing the teaching of secular ethics and calling on education systems to embrace the teaching of social-emotional skills such as empathy and perspective-taking, and universal values such as generosity, compassion, forgiveness, and peace. “The time has come,” the Dalai Lama told conference participants, “that seven billion human beings should learn to live as one small community.” 

“Education of the Heart” offers insights and practical tools toward this vision, using education as a critical starting point. Featured are remarks, dialogue, and occasional debate by scientists, scholars, and educational practitioners—along with videos and a resource library with links to relevant organizations and curricula. Visitors will learn about:

  • The science of human development underlying social and emotional learning (SEL) and recent findings on the effectiveness of SEL interventions.
  • New generation SEL programs that emphasize the training of attention, ethical dispositions like kindness and compassion, and systems-thinking skills that foster an appreciation of interdependence and community and global engagement.
  • Tools and approaches for helping students and teachers manage stress, and how to go about cultivating ‘a culture of compassion’ in the classroom.
  • The use of SEL programs focused on self-awareness, emotional regulation, and attention training to address a growing “crisis of emotion” among adolescents, as reflected in rising rates of anxiety and depression.
  • The importance of whole systems approaches to education, including efforts to promote the emotional wellbeing of teachers and creating caring and nurturing school environments.

“In today’s increasingly interconnected world, it’s critical that young people develop the skills to be active citizens and bridge builders,” said Mind & Life President Susan Bauer Wu. “Building on the tremendous strides made in the area of social and emotional learning over two decades, “Education of the Heart” seeks to advance holistic educational models aimed at nurturing compassion and ethical understanding among students, parents, and educators.”

As noted in the Afterword of “Education of the Heart,” the Dialogue touched on the need “for a wider re-imagining of the aims and practices of education in ways that place human flourishing at its center, at its heart.” Such an education would emphasize not only academic development but the education of the “whole child”—equipping students with attentional skills, social-emotional skills, systems-thinking skills, and ethical virtues such as fairness and compassion. Implicit in educating the heart is preparing young people to view themselves as embedded in an interdependent context and to cultivate actions and behaviors that contribute to the collective good.

“Education of the Heart” introduces innovative programs aimed at cultivating these human flourishing skills, while pointing to the larger systems-level changes needed to prepare current and future generations of young people to build more peaceful, equitable, and sustainable societies.

Mind & Life Connections