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Eastman tells of his grandmother teaching him to give away something he cherished most—his puppy—so he would become strong and courageous.

A pioneering German educator once observed that all young people desperately need some sense of purpose for their lives.   Youth in modern society, however, do not have roles in which they can serve, and thus suffer from the “misery of unimportance”. Hahn advocated volunteer activities that tap the need of every youth to have some “grande passion”.  During the Hitler years, he went to England, where he developed the basis of the Outward Bound movements.

Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Korczak, and many others also wrote of the importance of teaching youth the values of compassion and service to others.  A century ago, William James noted that war always has filled young men’s need to be valuable to their community.

The following discussion highlights the increasing emphasis being placed on developing prosocial values and behavior as an antidote to hedonistic, antisocial lifestyles that characterize many modern youth.

1. Redl’s psychodynamic model departs from traditional Freudian views that children experience too much guilt.  Today, many children seem not to have acquired the most basic sense of human concern. They suffer from too little guilt, and they hurt or exploit others wit impunity. Treatment of these children, Redl proposes, might involve “guilt squeeze” life space interviews to foster empathy with victims, or massaging numb values” to foster internalization of caring values.

2. Behavioral research suggests that teaching techniques to manage anger is not enough. Youth will choose prosocial alternatives only if they can move beyond egocentric moral reasoning.  Thus, cognitive moral education is part of Goldstein’s aggression replacement training. Everson (1994), from the Boys Town program, advocates teaching social skills as a way of fostering moral development. The goal is to create moral dilemmas in once self-centered youth.  Now empowered with prosocial skills, youth have new options to act in caring ways.

3. Sociological group treatment models seek to “make caring fashionable” and to make youth uncomfortable with selfish, hurting behavior and thinking patterns.  Positive peer culture programs teach youth to show concern by helping group members and then give them abundant opportunities to generalize helping behavior through service learning.  For example, delinquent youth at Starr Commonwealth regularly “adopt” residents of nursing homes as grandparents. And they serve as basketball coaches to younger community children.

4. Ecological programs address the children and families who are alienated from community bonds.  Re-ED involves students in community service in a variety of ways, including helping the elderly, operating a “road-block” to solicit funds for a hospital and distributing food and toys to needy families.

EDMS 512, Hood

Summer 2006

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