The Key Ideas

#69 Make empathy education, conflict resolution and violence reduction key aspects of the Scottish school curriculum

Over the longer term, we should help people's attitudes to change through our school system. For many decades now there has developed a very strong understanding and practice in conflict resolution education. This just means helping people to understand how to resolve conflict and disagreement through means other than violence, disengagement, and hatred. Conflict resolution should be something taught to all school pupils from the earliest possible age. Empathy education is also developing fast. This simply means teaching pupils how to recognise, understand, and respect the feelings of others. A good example of the need to do this is in helping pupils better respond to LGBTI issues and education on this should be a fundamental part of empathy education in every school. Finally there is good educational practice on violence reduction and how to manage feelings such as anger and a lack of self esteem in ways which do not manifest in hurting others. In tandem with a more equalities and citizenship focussed PSE syllabus, we will begin in the classroom to interrogate and unpick traditional power structures, with analytical tools which will last a lifetime.

These practices—learning to resolve conflict, encouraging empathy, and teaching people alternatives to violent responses—will have benefits for all of society. Violence and aggression have an impact on everyone (young men are most likely to face the direct consequences of violence), but in combination with the other factors of discrimination and constraints faced by groups such as women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, and LGBTI communities, the benefits of reducing aggression and violence would be particularly beneficial. This must, of course, be partnered by the best support systems possible for women, asylum seekers, transgender people and others who are victims of violence.