Forum Keynotes

Richard Weissbourd
Director, Human Development and Psychology Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Toward Caring and Justice:  Making Concern for Others a Priority
Sat. Oct. 21 | 8:00am
Today’s culture as well as parents and schools tend to be intensely focused on children’s happiness and achievements. But the preoccupation with these two factors—and the constant praising of kids that goes with it—can undermine children’s capacity to care for others and their investment in the common good. Further, concentrating so much on happiness risks making kids not only less caring, but ironically, less happy. And in the current socio-economic climate, where tolerance and empathy seem to be in short supply, it’s more important than ever to help children develop concern for others and our collective fate. This talk will explore these current trends and provide concrete strategies for raising empathic, caring, justice-minded and happy children.
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Richard Weissbourd is a Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he directs the Human Development and Psychology Program, and the Kennedy School of Government. His work focuses on moral development, vulnerability and resilience in childhood and effective schools and services for children. He co-directs the Making Caring Common Project, a national effort to make moral and social development priorities in child-raising and to provide strategies to schools and parents for promoting in children caring, a commitment to justice and other key moral and social capacities. He is currently working with numerous college admissions officers to elevate ethical character, reduce excessive achievement pressure and increase equity and access in the college admissions process. He is also conducting research on how older adults can better mentor young adults and teenagers in developing caring, ethical, mature romantic relationships.

He is a founder of several interventions for at-risk children, including ReadBoston and WriteBoston, city-wide literacy initiatives led by Mayor Menino. He is also a founder of a pilot school in Boston, the Lee Academy, that begins with children at 3 years old. He has advised on the city, state and federal levels on family policy and school reform and has written for numerous scholarly and popular publications and blogs, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and NPR. He is the author of The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America’s Children and What We Can Do About It (Addison-Wesley, 1996), named by the American School Board Journal as one of the top 10 education books of all time. His most recent book, The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin 2009), was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 24 books of 2009.


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