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Can teaching kindness at universities make education better and students happier?

Students’ Anxiety, Depression, Self-Harm, Kindness, Good Education and Happiness

Yes, it is true: “Education is what makes us fully human”

But, the fundamental question is: What kind of education will make us truly human?

This posting aims to concentrate on this timeless question and will endeavour to provide some possible answers.

Where is the life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?-T.S. Eliot

Lest We Forget

Our ‘Greatness’ consists in our ability to project ‘Goodness’ and apply our power to build Kindness and Fairness

Goodness and Kindness is the Foundation of Greatness 

The Sweetness of Being Human

'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 facts which were 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.'-Marsilio Ficino letter to Lorenzo Lippi ( Compiled by Jane Mason)+

Good Universities, Values-led Education and Teaching as the Path to the Good Life

Plato and Aristotle surrounded by philosophers, detail from School of Athens, fresco by Raphael, 1508–11;

in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican.

The classroom and the universities are the community of engaged learners. ‘Together, they must provide not only the very best intellectual resources; they must also provide the social affordances that best support a meaningful community for its participants—both teachers and students.’ ++

I cannot foresee how this vision will be nurtured and fulfilled without being guided by the true human values of  kindness, love, compassion, or beauty, the values that make us human.

I first started teaching at university in September 1980. I have now been an educator for over 40 years. I am dumbfounded and flabbergasted why educators- by and large- won’t talk about kindness, love, compassion or beauty with their students. 

Is it because these cannot be evaluated and measured in the traditional manner to fit into their usual theories or be put into their ‘elegant’ and ‘sophisticated’ mathematical models, and thus, they shy away from them? If this is the case, then, believe me, they are hugely acting against the interest of their students and have failed in their duty of care. 

The Time is Now to Lead with the Power of Kindness, Compassion, Gratitude, Purpose,

Humanity, and Humility to Make the World a Better Place

Photo:Experience Life

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."– Leo Buscaglia, also known as "Dr. Love", Alma mater, USC

“One of the problems in modern society is that people don’t feel psychological safety. It’s an issue of chronic disconnection from the people around us.”-James R. Doty, MD, Founder & Director, The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford 

But, there is one very good solution to this global chronical disconnection: It is Called Kindness!

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

‘When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.’  The Dalai Lama

‘The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humour

and style and generosity and kindness.’ - Maya Angelou

‘Study finds kindness can help reduce stress’

Nota Bene

I was very pleased to read about this hugely important study (see below), given the state of our anxious minds and our troubled world today.

Given my own life journey, experiences and feelings, as well as my long and rewarding years of engagement, dialogue and sharing with my students, I, too, came to the same conclusion: If I want my students to be happy, successful, leading a meaningful life, then, I must cultivate kindness and compassion in education and my teaching. For that I cannot be grateful enough.

And I hope one day very soon, all the universities, the world over, will teach modules on kindness, compassion, happiness, simplicity, beauty, wisdom, nature, poetry, philosophy, and more, regardless of what their students are studying for, being MBA, IT, Engineering, Science, Medecine, ...Whatever.

If they don’t, then, to my mind, they have failed, and failed very badly, in their pastoral care of their students. 

‘We become teachers for the reasons of the heart.

But many of us lose heart as time goes by.

How can we take heart, alone and together,

So we can give heart to our students and our world,

Which is what good teachers do?'-THE HEART OF A TEACHER

In the beginning were the words...They bacame languages...They became poetry...They became how we express and project love, kindness, goodness, commitment and more

Let the words sing to you, dance for you, empower you to become the person you envision yourself to be: This is the mystery of values-led, purposeful and meaningful education.

This is How Wisdom Grows- Educating Hearts and Minds

‘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

What if Universities Taught KINDNESS?

A timeless reflection on two types of teaching and learning

Why Happiness Should be Taught at Our Universities 

Student Suicides at Bristol University: My Open Letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Hugh Brady

A Plea to address Global Youth Depression

University students are crying out for mental health wellbeing modules

Yes, it is true: “Education is what makes us fully human”

Detaching Nature from Economics is ‘Burning the Library of Life’

Now reverting back to ‘Study finds kindness can help reduce stress’.


‘Kindness is more than behavior. Kindness is a quality of being. The act of giving kindness often is simple, free, positive and healthy.’

Photo:The Pictures Quotes Blog

‘Being kind to others is not only a positive way to live life, but can also benefit stress levels and brain function, according to new research.

A study, carried out by Stanford and UC Berkeley, has found that kindness kick starts a physiological reaction that can reduce the stress hormone cortisol.

Too much cortisol can impact the memory and impair how the brain works, so anything that reduces the hormone is a good thing.

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on the mind and body which is why it is so important to find ways to control it. Cortisol increases glucose into the bloodstream, which then enhances the brain’s use of sugar.


Being kind inspires others to be kind, creating a positive feedback loop.-Photo: Uplift

'Co-author of the study Professor James Doty, clinical professor of neurosurgery at Stanford said: “When someone acts with compassionate intention, it has a huge, huge positive effect on their physiology. It takes them out of the threat mode and puts them into the rest and digest mode.”

The trial involved 51 people who were randomly selected and recruited into Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Training program.

For 10 weeks they asked twice a day, every day, whether they felt anxious, calm, alert or fatigued at the time of questioning.

They were also asked to complete a survey which encouraged them to assess their feelings.

The researchers said: “During [the training] there were significant decreases in anxiety and increases in calmness. With each successive rating, participants were less likely to want to reduce their anxiety and fatigue, as well as less likely to want to enhance their feelings of calmness and alertness.”*

A selection of related articles:

Unlocking the Magic of Compassion and Kindness

Photo: Uplift

The Science of Compassion

Research Reveals a Surprising Solution for Anxiety

The Neuroscience of Compassion

The art of kindness

Kindness improves our nervous systems

Kindness and Compassion for Students

9 Tips For Teaching Kindness in the Classroom


A selection of related readings from our GCGI Archive:


Eruption of anxiety, depression and suicide in Britain

What is Happiness? What is the Good Life? Lessons from the ancient philosophers to help improve our lives today.

Why a Simple Life Matters: The Path to peace and happiness lies in the simple things in life

Adam Smith and the Pursuit of Happiness

Why Love, Trust, Respect and Gratitude Trumps Economics

The scar on the conscience of Britain: The neglect of its children, youth, students and more

The Time is Now to Explore the Benefits of Nature-Based Education in Our Teaching Models

Our Emotional Inheritance and the need for Emotional Education 

Why We All (Children and Grown Ups) Need Emotional Literacy, Now More than Ever

The Time is Now to Explore the Benefits of Nature-Based Education in Our Teaching Models

Nature the Best Teacher: Re-Connecting the World’s Children with Nature

On the 250th Birthday of William Wordsworth Let Nature be our Wisest Teacher

Poetry is the Education that Nourishes the Heart and Nurtures the Soul

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

The Value of Values: Values-led Education to Make the World Great Again

Are you physically and emotionally drained? I know of a good and cost-free solution!

‘What They Forget to Teach You at School’: Fix Education to Fix the World

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


We must never forget how neoliberalism and values-free education have destroyed kindness and humanity

‘Pastoral care is essential in schools’

‘The days of dedicated school nurses and educational psychologists are gone, to the detriment of children and society.’

‘Sonia Sodha’s article should be cut out and pinned up in every politician’s kitchen, where the day begins and ends (“The kids aren’t all right – and the government has stopped caring”, Comment). She establishes clearly how the 21st century began with hope, vision and investment, all three of which are now consigned to the dustbin by Boris Johnson’s so-called government.

During the 1970s, I was a deputy head in a comprehensive school in north Hackney, London, and remember how, under the Inner London Education Authority, we were resourced to have a school nurse on site, two independent learning centres for children in difficulties, a reading centre for pupils who needed extra personal tuition, a scheme of health and sex education tuition for all 14-year-olds, placements for students on work experience, and we built a careers centre that the then prime minister, James Callaghan, opened.

Alongside the school was the John Scott health centre, whose foundation stone had been laid by Aneurin Bevan, from which the school received weekly visits by a child and educational psychologist. All this was possible with a well-funded local authority, the ILEA, but this was demolished by Mrs Thatcher in 1990. For a while, that nexus of support was continued by Hackney, until the demise of the Labour government in 2010.

The cost of all that provision and support for families and children needs to be set against the greater cost of the damage of Tory policy since 2010.

Simon Clements

Former HM inspector of schools

Sheffield’- Observer Letters, 4 April 2021



*Excerpts as quoted in Diabetes, UK, 6 April 2021

++The School as a Community of Engaged Learners