Saskatchewan·Point of View

'If schools have gone soft, I for one am glad': The benefits of teaching kindness

"I have been bracing myself for her to be bullied. I have been bracing for schoolyard justice and exclusion. But so far, I see people going out of their way to embrace our family."
Amanda Marcotte (right) poses with her daughter Evie. Marcotte says she is glad schoolchildren are being taught to be kind to others. (Supplied/Amanda Marcotte)

This piece was originally published on Sept. 12, 2018.

Many lament how "soft" our kids are these days and how school is to blame for treating children like "delicate snowflakes."

I am a mom of a child with special needs. When I dropped my daughter off for her first month of Grade 1, I was grateful that kids are being taught to be kind to one another. 

The reality is many teachers are going above and beyond ABCs and arithmetic to teach students how to be compassionate, good and hard-working citizens. 

My daughter has a rare genetic disorder that presents as moderate autism and makes it difficult for her to co-ordinate her body. She cannot carry on a conversation. She doesn't like to colour, because holding a crayon is hard. She can't ride a bike. 

By all rights, I should be happy she can walk. Half of people with her condition can't. For her, participating in daily society takes the resolve of an Olympic athlete. Only those who get to know her will know the effort she puts in.

I believe nothing is impossible, but a participation medal may be all she will get, thanks to a random roll of the genetic dice. 

Amanda Marcott'e daughter Evie has a genetic disorder that makes it difficult for her to co-ordinate her body. (Supplied/Amanda Marcotte)

I have been bracing myself for her to be bullied. I have been bracing for schoolyard justice and exclusion. I know the world is going to be a difficult place for her. It is inevitable.

But so far, I see people going out of their way to embrace our family. I see what should be bratty little Grade 6 boys stopping to say hello to my daughter. I see some older kids waiting so she can have a turn to press the button at the spray park. I see her peers helping her take her shoes off so she can get on the trampoline in our backyard and get to have fun. 

I know great parenting is playing a role, but I suspect school is as well. I have seen the school teaching that everyone has a gift to offer society. Some assignments, even as early as kindergarten, revolve around teaching students to be good and kind citizens. 

We should not mistake being kind and helping others with being weak.- Amanda Marcotte

The students still get evaluated on academics, but are offered so much more. Let's face it. Not everyone is going to get straight As. Not everyone will end up with the same job. What a boring world it would be if we all did. 

I like awards. Lord knows I won a lot of them as a teacher-loving nerd who lived for school. I'm not saying we should stop encouraging excellence. It's just that sometimes excellence cannot be measured in marks. Sometimes excellence is having the determination to get up every morning against incredible odds and simply do your best.

Amanda Marcotte's daughter Evie brough this home from one of her first days of Grade 1. (Supplied/Amanda Marcotte)

Life isn't always fair. People are different. Some people's struggles are written plain as day in the way they walk and talk. Others struggle invisibly.

Believe it or not, my daughter has a lot to teach other kids. If there were not a beautiful, inclusive space for her, no one would have the chance to learn. She has an iron will, but is also fragile —​ just like you. 

So don't pretend you're not a delicate snowflake. Deep down inside you are. We all are. The more care and kindness we deliver to each other, the better. More civility means less war, less unrest, less poverty, and better physical and mental health. 

We should not mistake being kind and helping others with being weak. These are the most heroic things we can do in such strange times.

I think it's what the world needs now. So if schools have gone soft, I for one am glad.


This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amanda Marcotte is a writer, journalist, and mom from Saskatchewan. She also pops up from time to time as a sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan School of Journalism.

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