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‘Education of the mind without education of the heart is no education at all.’-Aristotle

“The one continuing purpose of education, since ancient times, has been to bring people to as full realization as possible of what it is to be a human being.”-Arthur W. Foshay, author of ‘The Curriculum: Purpose, Substance and Practice’

Kindness University: The 'Antidote' to an Unkind World

Given the state of our world today: What if Universities have been Educating for compassion, empathy and kindness too? 

Kindness and the Good Education 

'Some say that my teaching is nonsense.

Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,

this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,

You reconcile all beings in the world.'- Lao Tzu

Surveys after surveys are noting that Kindness is the single most important quality that pupils and  students want in their teachers and lecturers; schools, colleges and universities.

With mental health problems spiralling among the younger generation this matters more now than ever.

For photo credit see: 

An Open Letter to University Leaders: Students’ Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Must Be Our Priority

The  phenomenon that pulls humanity together — Kindness

Kindness is What Makes Us Human- Lest We Forget

Neoliberal Education has Eroded Values of Kindness and Compassion.

To All Striking Academic Colleagues in Britain: Turn the Strike to a Force for the Common Good

As long as this inhumane and false ideology reins, we will not know what it means to be human.

Photo: The university has become an anxiety machine

Neoliberalism and the rise in global loneliness, depression and suicide

As it has been noted (+): ‘There is a considerable body of literature which explores the effects of neoliberalism on education policy and practice, eroding and replacing everything that was once good, with all that projects badness, ugliness and harmfulness to the point where it can seem futile to argue that their effects may not constitute either educational or the common good. 

Given this, as it has been observed (++),  there is now a compelling need for compassionate academic leadership in our universities in both a national and international context. We should always remember that,  universities are, or ought to be, ‘caregiving organisations’, because of their role and primary task of helping students to learn. However, the relentless neoliberal instrumentalisation and marketisation of higher education has eroded that premise. Yet universities still have a duty of care; a moral and legal obligation to ensure that everyone associated with the institution, whether this be students, employees or the general public, are fully protected from any personal physical and/or emotional harm. Care, kindness and compassion are not separate from being professional; rather, they represent the fundamentals of humanity in the workplace. Compassion and kindness should now be a crucial and core concern in tertiary education. These are the true human values, what makes us human.

Arguably, in my opinion,  in the future, universities that can demonstrate their compassionate credentials and pedagogy will be the successful universities, and this requires kindness in leadership and compassionate institutional cultures.

University leaders must now demonstrate their willingness to respond positively to the compelling need for compassionate academic leadership in our universities the world over. They must become beacons of hope by providing inspiration that demonstrates change is possible in the academy, and that, University of Kindness is indeed viable and possible. Carpe Diem!

Unveiling opportunities for hope: is it too much to ask for a University of Kindness?

Marsilio Ficino to Lorenzo Lippi, the rhetorician: greetings.

'Let them (your pupils) study to be good rather than learned, for learning begets envy which goodness destroys. Goodness is both more useful to men and more pleasing to God than learning. It is also more enduring. We forget more quickly some fact which was quickly learned than we lose principles of conduct which we have attained by arduous daily practice. Learning in itself brings little of value, and that for only a short time, while goodness is eternal and leads to the realisation of God. Therefore, following the example of Socrates, advise your pupils to use human learning to dispel the clouds of the senses, and to bring serenity to the soul. Then will the ray of truth from the divine sun illumine the mind, and never in any other way. That is the only useful study. A man who acts otherwise labours vainly and miserably.'

In a global climate of increasing complexity, competition, intolerance and impatience, there has been a steady erosion of public trust in both public and private sector organisations and their leaders. At the same time, there are calls for a more responsible and respectful form of leadership in business and society, for a leadership that fosters a sense of inclusion, connection and belonging.

Those of us who live in English-speaking countries or speak English on a daily basis, will hear the word “kind” very often. It is one of the 500 most frequently used words in the English language. Kind actions are praised and remembered: they have a “boomerang” effect, Kindness begets Kindness. Such acts cost nothing to give but create significant value.’

Given the above, then, surely, the pertinent and timely question must be: What if Universities Taught KINDNESS?

‘You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.’ -Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see’- Mark Twain

‘So much of what we value is in fact preserved by kindness and is compatible with it. We can be kind and successful, kind and exciting, kind and wealthy and kind and potent. Kindness is a virtue awaiting our rediscovery and our renewed, un-conflicted appreciation.’- The Book of Life


In the last week or so, my life has taken a turning, a turning for good, beauty and kindness, I must admit. Let me explain.

Last week I posted a Blog, celebrating the World Kindness Day: Today is World Kindness Day: Embracing Kindness to Defeat the Political Economy of Hatred

The reaction, comments that I did receive were very heartwarming and positive. 

One thing became very clear, given the comments, the pertinent question that I was being asked was: How KINDNESS may become a vehicle for positive change in the global economy?

Does being kind have any role to play in achieving real and lasting gains in social and economic justice? 

This was a challenge that I gladly accepted. Please see  the link below: 

Wouldn’t the world be a better place with a bit more kindness? Harnessing the Economics of Kindness 

I then continued to receive many more kind comments. But now, many wanted to know: What if Education was for Kindness? What if Universities Taught KINDNESS?

Again, these questions were very close to my heart. Thus, gladly, once again, I accepted the challenge.

What if Education was for Kindness?

What if Universities Taught KINDNESS?

It’s the pursuit of excellence, not kindness or happiness, that is built into every university mission statement. But what do we mean by excellence? Excellence by who, for who and for what?

It is where the values are valued!

Photo: thechronicleofeducation.com

N.B. I began my academic career in 1980, when I became a teaching assistant at the Department of Economics, University of Windsor, Canada.  After nearly 40 years of teaching experience, engaging with thousands of students and young people in different universities, countries and continents, I’ve come to believe that effective educators and practitioners must abide by common tenets, including honesty, a commitment to doing good, a tendency to be kind, generous and forgiving, and the foresight to work proactively and the ability to communicate well. 

To ensure that I remain an effective and purposeful educator, I have always tried my best, not only be an instrument of a rigorous academic discourse, but also show my utmost respect and kindness to my students and to ensure their total wellbeing whilst under my care. For that privilege, I remain most grateful.

I do know that there are many other academics, everywhere, who have been practicing the same values and principles as I have. I salute them all.

But, given the educational and societal changes in recent years, there is much more to be done. Much more to be kind. Much more to be compassionate.

This, in a nutshell, is the gist of this Blog.

What is a University?

What is the point of higher education with its strive for  ‘Excellence’, if it doesn’t make the students and faculty happy, kind, caring and thoughtful?

After chasing academic excellence for so long, students are now realising the toll that academic rigor has taken on their sleep, mental health, and sense of social connectedness; their purpose in life and what it means to be human. Their sense of vulnerability is driving them to search for meaning in academic courses and beyond.

In my research to enable myself to answer this question to the best of my ability, I came across a wonderful report, which very eloquently reaffirmed what I knew well already. This was truly pleasing for me. The story goes as follows:

What do students want most?*

An academic at a British university recently led  a survey of students across his/her university at all levels of study. The research group wanted to discover what students felt they did well so they could encourage more of the same and celebrate their successes, hoping to improve their scores in the National Student Survey and the teaching excellence framework

However, the findings took the researchers by surprise.

Photo:Good News Network

The feedback from the 1,000 responses was pleasingly positive in some areas. They felt smug that their students largely appreciated their efforts. But there was an unsettling, underlying narrative in the responses which felt shocking. Students were essentially asking: why don’t academics have more humanity?

The students highlighted the lack of kindness, integrity and understanding when academic staff were interacting with them. Seemingly these are the things students really want more of – and so they should. We all deserve these in our lives.

Of course, this was not the only point the students raised. There were more familiar complaints about the lack of free printing, better IT systems, better organisation and timetabling of lectures, 24-hour library access, and so on.

But the responses made the researchers  wonder what has gone wrong. 

Students identified kindness, integrity and understanding as the most important things that would improve or change their student experience. These things are fundamental. 

The research group came into conclusion that they were wrong to have assumed that all academic staff would simply be kind and treat students with respect to begin with.

Then the penny dropped. Maybe some academics have little appreciation of how their behaviour impacts on and influences students.

When asking for understanding, students highlighted the importance of acknowledging difference – different experiences, backgrounds, personal commitments and prior learning. They didn’t want to be treated like a homogenous group.

When alluding to kindness, students talked about wanting academic staff to have empathy and compassion, to smile and encourage. Most revealingly, they asked academics “to treat and talk to me as though I’m a person”. This is pretty devastating: it’s hard to see how anyone can learn and develop when they feel like that.

Some academics act with contempt and irritation for the very people they should want to inspire, educate and collaborate with. Perhaps we have lost our self awareness. Maybe we have forgotten the point of higher education. It is possible that we are so browbeaten ourselves that we’ve lost our sense of common decency.

How did this happen? Maybe we have been co-opted into believing this is how higher education is, repeating a mantra like “they’re adults”, “it’s spoon-feeding”, “they’re here to read for a degree” or “if you’re nice to them they’ll just want more”.

Perhaps we need to stop and take a moment to think about the damaging effect of this type of behaviour. If we all took a bit more responsibility for our own actions and the actions of others, we could make a difference. We could change the culture and be more collegiate, care a little more and perhaps even begin to reprioritise the most important things.

As academics, we might fear the repercussions of questioning our behaviour. Maybe we don’t have the energy, believing it to be too difficult. But I hope we do it, because treating our students with humanity is vital.

*Anonymous academic, via Academics anonymous, The Guardian

See the original article HERE

See also: Academics anonymous

(+) Neoliberalism, the Knowledge Economy, and the Learner: Challenging the Inevitability of the Commodified Self as an Outcome of Education

(++) Developing Compassionate Academic Leadership: The Practice of Kindness 

Kindness in Leadership**

'An oft-overlooked attribute in successful leadership, kindness potentially holds the key to rebuilding trust in business'

Photo:The value of kindness in corporate leadership

What is EDUCATION if it is not about VALUES?

What is the Value of MBA and Business Education?

‘Kindness’ is seldom mentioned as a desirable leadership trait in MBA or executive programmes, but it can have enormous benefits for organisations.'

‘In a global climate of increasing complexity, competition, intolerance and impatience, there has been a steady erosion of public trust in both public and private sector organisations and their leaders. At the same time, there are calls for a more responsible and respectful form of leadership in business and society, for a leadership that fosters a sense of inclusion, connection and belonging.

Those of us who live in English-speaking countries or speak English on a daily basis, will hear the word “kind” very often. It is one of the 500 most frequently used words in the English language. Kind actions are praised and remembered: they have a “boomerang” effect, Kindness begets Kindness. Such acts cost nothing to give but create significant value.

The idea of kindness having a positive effect on humanity is present throughout religious thinking: it is both a virtue and a practical act, a behavioural as well as a cognitive or emotional response to others. As well, the world’s great philosophers have discussed and written a great deal about kindness. The Confucian “Golden Rule” of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” has been an inspiration throughout the ages.

Yet research has indicated that kindness is not regularly considered in the leadership programmes at business schools nor in the leadership literature. In the words of Mary Farebrother, former Director of London Business School’s Senior Executive Programme: “While working in executive education, I didn’t come across an organisational value statement or leadership competency framework that mentioned kindness. Although integrity, respect, collaboration and teamwork were highlighted, kindness was absent.”

We hope, therefore, that our new book, Kindness in Leadership, will open the door to a consideration of the strengths that kindness can bring to an organisation and the commitment and trust it can inspire among employees.

Kindness-based behaviours

We sought input from 200 leaders around the world in public and private sectors in both large and small organisations. A number of these had been participants on Saïd Business School’s Oxford Advanced Management and Leadership Programme and others came from the authors’ own wide networks, including members of EFMD and European Women’s Management Development Network (EWMD).

Irrespective of their country of origin, these worldwide leaders emphasised that kindness in leadership has a universal appeal and is characterised by a variety of kindness-based behaviours. These included: adopting a humane approach; fairness and equity; accommodating personal issues; treating others with respect; caring and being responsive; communicating with a personal touch; sharing information in a transparent way; explaining logically; listening intently and valuing the views of others; counselling and mentoring; and being inclusive as a leader.

A garment finishing company in Bangladesh, for example, showed kindness through the provision of nutritious meals to all employees to ensure their health and wellbeing. At a large retail chain in Turkey, the foremost element in the code of conduct is respect. This has been found to promote harmony and happiness, leading to high-quality consumer services: “happy employees create happy customers”.

A large number of respondents reported that they avoided impersonal emails or written office memos to communicate on personally sensitive issues, preferring instead to deal with issues via one-to-one or small group meetings. Simple gestures were found to matter a great deal. Vivian Unt, owner-manager of the Vivian Vaushoe salon in Estonia, said: “Most commonly, kindness is expressed through little gestures that are not part of required conduct but are said and done because they make people feel good.”

Kindness-based beliefs

The leaders also subscribed to beliefs that gave them a rationale for adopting kindness in their leadership style. In many cases these became part of the values and culture of the organisation that they led. These included beliefs that:

  • people are central to the success of any organisation, contributing to success through their imagination, vision, inspiration, problem solving abilities and personal drive
  • equity and fairness are important ideals in enhancing employee self-confidence and loyalty
  • respect and care stimulate ownership and commitment

It appears from our interviews that kindness in leadership can be facilitated across the whole organisation if leaders share these types of beliefs.

Sally Waterston, founder and director of the UK business and IT consultancy Waterstons, states her beliefs as follows: “We believe completely in people first – we don’t have fixed hours, we don’t have fixed holidays – we measure people on what they do and not when they do it. People said it would not work but we are still here 22 years later and making a profit. I am absolutely passionate about kindness but not from a paternalistic point of view. I think it should be within the company, it should be peer to peer and we see it every day in our business.”

The impact of kindness in leadership

These examples suggest that these kinds of leadership behaviours and strong beliefs in the value of kindness can have a positive impact on the culture of an organisation, its well-being and its performance. For employees, kindness can result in greater happiness and contentment, higher motivation and energy, higher engagement and participation, and greater loyalty and commitment. The relationship between teams and management have also been found to be more creative, innovative, collaborative and positive when trust is more prevalent.

This parallels evidence from the growing field of research into factors affecting employee engagement, which consistently shows that levels of engagement are linked to a sense of being valued, having the opportunity to develop and progress within the organisation, and enjoying positive relationships with colleagues. Furthermore, being known as “a great place to work” helps to attract and retain the best talent. This positive impact was stressed by Richard Everard, chairman of Everards Brewery Ltd in the UK: “Kindness is at the very heart of our philosophy, but it demands that everyone lives and breathes it every day. The human, financial and societal outcomes are tangible and will endure through future generations”.

Educating for compassion, empathy and kindness

If kindness can have a positive impact on organisations and on society that these leaders suggest, should it not also be more central in education and development programmes? We looked at a number of initiatives around the world and found that a growing number of primary and secondary schools are stressing the importance of kindness, compassion and empathy in their objectives and curriculum. Several schools have kindness as a core value and celebrate World Kindness Day each year on 13 November.

 In 2016, Harvard Graduate School of Education published a report called Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions. It tackles the intense focus on personal achievement and academic performance and the advantages enjoyed by more affluent students. It calls for an admissions process that also focuses on a concern for the common good, citizenship, empathy and kindness. Compassion is now a core value at a number of universities, especially those that have signed the worldwide Charter for Compassion, committing to building a more compassionate world.

There is also a growing number of training and research programmes, focusing on compassion and empathy and related behaviours, including kindness. Some of these have been pioneered through medical schools and research centres following breakthroughs in neurological research and have been targeted at the healthcare sector where compassion, kindness and empathy can be core organisational values. These initiatives could certainly be relevant to business schools, their faculty and to degree students and executive education participants. However, as we saw at the opening to this article, kindness does not yet really appear on the leadership agenda within business schools. But perhaps the door is opening?

Putting kindness on the business school agenda

Although few business schools put kindness to the fore in their MBA and/or executive programmes, behaviours, concepts and approaches that have links to kindness are increasingly emphasised. Emotional intelligence, for example, has been widely embraced in leadership teaching. A Coursera online course, “Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence,” developed by Richard Boyatzis at Case Western University in the US, focuses on emotional intelligence, hope, mindfulness and compassion and their role in alleviating stress and building leadership capabilities.

Mindfulness programmes are widely integrated into MBA and executive programmes and loving-kindness meditation aims to create a powerful inclination to act kindly whenever we can. Much work has been done through the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business to foster awareness of the importance of compassion in the workplace. Ross has formed the Compassion Lab, a network of scholars working in this are around the world, www.compassionlab.com The Roffey Park Institute’s work on compassion is also significant. It was featured in Global Focus in 2016 and the Institute has now developed an online tool to assess individual propensity for compassion. Other initiatives include increasing our understanding of the power of empathy and compassion through the arts: improvisation, drama, poetry and literature, for example. In addition, programmes that emphasise responsible business conduct and responsible leadership will certainly cover areas linked to kindness in the broader societal context.

John North, Managing Director of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI), spoke about the importance of empathy when he was interviewed for Kindness in Leadership. He said: “Really empathising with less advantaged people may require business leaders to make decisions that may not be in their own interest. This will be truly ‘heroic.’

Kindness: the MBA reaction

As well as interviews with business leaders, we sought perspectives from MBA/EMBA students at three institutions with which we are directly involved: the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; EADA in Barcelona; and students on the MBA programme at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN). In all three schools, we found that students were very intrigued by thinking about kindness. One wrote that kindness was central to his Buddhist faith and that combining this with his work was a great challenge. Another said: “It’s likely to be a hot topic in future. An organisation with a reputation for kindness would attract [students]”. Our interviews suggested an appetite for the inclusion of kindness in the leadership curriculum.

We would suggest, therefore, that the time is ripe for incorporating kindness into business school MBA programmes and research. If business schools are to address the calls for a more responsible and respectful form of leadership, kindness could be a central to making this happen. Kind and kindness are simple words and easy for everyone to grasp. In an inclusive world, we urge business schools and management centres to give them greater attention.’

Read the original article HERE

 Values, Ethics, and the Common Good in MBA rankings: Where are they? 

What is the Value of MBA and Business Education?

 My Economics and Business Educators’ Oath: My Promise to My Students

Plant seeds of kindness and watch the world grow into a better place