Teenagers, so into social media and devoted to their circles of friends, value “caring about others” more than anything else. Right?

Wrong—very wrong, according to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, whose researchers report that 80% of teens identified “personal success”—achievement and happiness—as their preferred value. Rick Weissbourd, of Harvard’s “Making Caring Common” (MCC) project, was surprised at the findings from a survey of 10,000 teens in 33 middle and high schools across the nation. The project aims “to help educators, parents, and communities inspire children to become caring, respectful, and responsible human beings.” (link to the MCC Project)

Evidently a lot more help is needed, not least from clinical social workers working in the schools and with families and adolescents. The teens may be selfish, but it is the adults who need to understand the consequences of their own behavior—the examples that they set and the values of the cutthroat competitive systems, in schools and in sports, that they’ve created.

The teens may lack compassion, but Harvard surely knows the cause. Perhaps the MCC ought to shift its focus to a different age group.


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