by Lynn Mandaville
Some respondents to One Small Voice speculate that I watch a lot of CNN. Based on the context and tone, I assume there is something negative in their accusation.
Truth is, I don’t watch CNN at all. I watch some MSNBC and some CNBC.
And I watch some network television, like Lester Holt’s evening news, 60 Minutes, the CBS Morning Show, and CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley.
Besides offering their versions of what is hard news (too much Hollywood fan fodder for my taste), they offer what might be called fluff pieces.
One of those fluff pieces is new on CBS. Long-time “feel good” CBS contributor Steve Hartman is the creator and star of a series called “Kindness 101,” which also features his two children as co-correspondents.
Emmett and Meryl, Steve’s children, ages 11 and 8, respectively, help host this series of segments that takes some of Hartman’s past features about inspiring individuals, and updates them, highlighting their specific qualities of strong character. As the title implies, the focus is on the many aspects of kindness.
The series is quite good. (It has already been nominated for an Emmy.) While you might think it’s aimed at kids, you’d be mistaken. The series is directed at all ages, and its goal is to encourage an attitude of universal kindness.
But endeavors like this to instill kindness of character aren’t new with the Hartman family.
Hancock Elementary School in Chandler, AZ, has been working on kindness as an integral part of the school’s philosophy of educating kids for several years.
My writing about this is not a veiled attempt to brag about my grandson Jack, who was given this year’s overall kindness award for the third grade.
My purpose is to brag about the school’s administrators, teachers, and all support staff who are dedicated to all aspects of bringing up well-educated individuals who are strong of mind and character.
Because Hancock is a K-3 school, the annual kindness award in each grade is not a “nerdy” award.
At these tender ages, kindness is something most children admire, because they value kindness when it’s directed at them.
If you watch young kids, I think you’d find that most of them are, by nature, kind. The kind things they do, they do because they are the right things to do, not because kindness is a competition.
So it is with Jack.
Jack, because of his parents, especially his mother Laura, is by virtue of his upbringing a very kind individual.
And although the award makes him feel good, he seems reluctant to accept the praise that comes along with it.
I think that’s the way kindness ought to be.
It should be humble; it should come from within, as a deep-seated part of every human being.
It pleases me that Hancock Elementary makes kindness a cornerstone of their educational philosophy. And I’m glad that it was that way well before kindness “training” became a fad in education or media.
I wrote recently that I think America is in the throes of a mental health crisis, and that we are doomed as a race (the human race) by our baser tendencies of cruelty toward one another.
That column brought an unkind comment suggesting that I am a perennial “spewer of hatred” for as long as I have written for Townbroadcast.
The truth, however, is that I have written many pieces that did not deal with social ills. I do still harbor hope for humankind, especially because educators here in Chandler have been trying to combat mental health issues and to alleviate cruelty among our children for a very long time.
When positive character traits are as integral in the curriculum as the 3Rs, they become instilled in children, just as do their times’ tables and their reading skills.
Each classroom at Hancock has a large kindness chart, and simple acts of kindness are recorded daily as they are witnessed by the teacher or by the children themselves when someone does them a kind turn, or they witness a kindness toward someone else. (It’s kind of a reverse tattling on their peers if you will!)
Students earn kindness points that can be redeemed for various rewards.
At the end of each month a kindness recognition is presented to the high point earner in each classroom.
Jack has earned a few of these over his four years of elementary school. He always seems surprised when he gets one, because he can’t recall doing anything that is out of the ordinary for him.
That’s exactly how I would want it to be for any child, where they’re not keeping score, and they’re not competing by making empty gestures just to run up points.
The chart should be, and is, an indicator of accumulated random acts of human decency, just because.
I would love to be able to see where these children wind up as adults.
Will these acts of politeness, diplomacy, inspiration, and comfort be a major part of the personalities they develop?
Will this part of their early education affect the careers they choose?
Will they become public servants? Teachers? Doctors or nurses?
Will they run for public office?
If they become successful entrepreneurs, will they also become philanthropists?
Will they see the world as a place where we recognize wealth as a means to a better society for every economic level, every educational level, and every situation that is thrown at us by fate itself?
It is in schools like Hancock and the teachers who devote their lives to the kids where my hopes lie.
It is in the children who I see exhibit kindness as easily as they breathe wherein that hope solidifies.
Don’t let my exuberance about my grandkids’ school downplay the importance of Steve Hartman and his children’s media efforts.
I just feel that kindness needs to be an all-in effort during kids’ formative years in the public-school setting, not just a passing media fad, albeit very well done, that is here today and gone when Emmett and Meryl get too old to be cute doing it, or the network execs put an end to it.
On days like awards day at Hancock Elementary, where several kids in the classes that make up each grade from Kindergarten through third get the ultimate recognition for their natural tendencies, I feel all warm and full of hope.
Maybe our future generations can sustain that natural tendency toward kindness that ours seem to have lost.
And for we jaded adults, we can watch the Hartmans’ Kindness 101 and try to reignite the kindness of our youth.
Hope isn’t too hard to find if we follow the children.