ABU DHABI, 7th June 2017 (WAM) – The Majlis of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi, hosted today a lecture about moral education for children and teens, delivered by educational psychologist Dr. Michele Borba.
The lecture, titled “Why Moral Education is Essential Now More than Ever?”, was attended by H.H. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council.
Also present were H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, H.H. Sheikh Dhiyab bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Sheikhs, ministers and senior officials.
Dr. Borba, whose proposal “Ending School Violence and Bullying” was signed into California law in 2002, warned of what she called “a global character crisis”, which she said is defined by a steep descent of moral reasoning, empathy, and civic responsibility, and a sharp rise in cheating, materialism, incivility, narcissism, hate crimes, bigotry and cyberbullying.
The future of our children and societies in the whole was at stake as a result of changing behaviors, which focus on gaining personal fame and fortune at the expense of traditional ethos, including serving the common good.
“Real Altruists are made not born,” she said. she said, pointing out to a study conducted by social psychologist Samuel Oliner, who interviewed 1500 rescuers involved in saving thousands of lives in Nazi-occupied Europe at grave personal peril. She said Oliner discovered that the way these life-saving heroes were brought up had a whole lot to do with their humane and moral behavior. His study showed that these men and women were raised by parents who expected them to be kind, who themselves served as role-models of kindness while also insisting that their children care about others.
She praised the UAE’s efforts to launch a moral education initiative at schools as well as the initiative of the Year of Reading in 2016, which she said contributes to raising empathy levels among children.
Dr. Borba, who started out as a schoolteacher, said that effective moral education should consist of three elements that should be implemented wholesomely to end the character crisis of the age and produce caring and morally-oriented citizens. These elements are: Moral Knowing, Moral Feeling, and Moral Action.
She explained Moral Knowing as the cognitive part of moral education, noting that as wealth and privilege increase, empathy and moral identity shrinks so children depend less on people and more on things. She said one way to enhance moral knowing among children. “It doesn’t matter whether we are a home or school or a nation, we need mantras,” she said, adding examples including “We always do the right thing” or what her first-grade teacher used to say when she spotted bad behavior: “Was that helpful or hurtful?”
“We need to teach our children to care about one another,” she said as she discussed the need for Moral Feeling. She said the crisis in this area is felt through the fact that empathy has dipped 40 percent in teens in just 30 years and narcissism rose by 58 percent. Self-absorption kills empathy, she said, which means parents and the society should teach their children to think in terms of “We” not “Me.” This can be done by familiarizing children with the lives and deeds of moral role-models such as Mahatma Gandhi, she said.
Dr. Borba said that the ultimate goal for parents and educators should be getting to the behavioral component of the remedy, which is Moral Doing. “The real seeds of morality is not how you talk, it’s what you do and how you walk,” she said. “Becoming morally excellent is acquired by practice and hard work. But children practice everything but moral skills. To become good people, children must exercise their moral muscles and prosocial behaviors.” Volunteering is one way to teach this moral skill, she pointed out.
Dr. Borba is best-selling author of 24 books, including “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All About Me World Parenting & Child Expert”. She’s a frequent guest at some of America’s top TV shows, including NBC’s TODAY show, Dr. Phil, the Doctors and Dr. Oz, where she talks about a variety of social and psychological issues such as parenting, bullying and character development.
The Ramadan series of lectures is part of the efforts of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces to spread the spirit of knowledge and learning in the United Arab Emirates, by inviting renowned scholars, experts, officials and entrepreneurs to speak at his Majlis at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi. The lectures are attended by senior government officials, diplomats, business leaders and others.