EDUU 9802: Reversing the Trend-From Narcissism to Compassion

Encourage your students to find greater happiness and purpose in their lives by reaching out to help others.  This course will help you and your students learn how to reverse the trend!

Course Overview

Welcome to EDUU 9802: Reversing the Trend-From Narcissism to Compassion. Encourage your students to find greater happiness and purpose in their lives by reaching out to help others. Read and view research that substantiates “giving” is a pathway to happiness while in the U.S. the Trend is moving in the opposite direction. Consider how you can help to reverse that Trend.

Course Text

The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Alexander & Iben Sandahl ISBN: 978-0143111719 Assignment A1 requires students watch the movie, Michael Moore - Where to Invade Next? available on Amazon prime (a rental fee may be required)

Course Objectives

In this course participants will have an opportunity to:

  • Read the book The Danish Way of Parenting.
  • Read and study resources about how empathy and compassion create greater happiness for the giver.
  • Communicate ways that you can help reverse The Trend.
  • Share your ideas and take-aways with other course participants.

Course Background and Assignments

Why a Course for Teachers?

In 2003 I was inspired by another to raise funds to build a school in Afghanistan. My friends and I did. I visited the school when it was completed in 2005 and in the interim learned about US involvement in Afghanistan. Observing the horrible living conditions in Afghanistan and knowing that the war we had help fund against the Russians in Afghanistan contributed greatly to those conditions proved to be life altering. I felt compelled to help Afghan families rebuild their lives. In 2004 I founded a non-profit organization, Trust in Education, to provide aid to Afghanistan. Visit for details.

I’ve visited Afghanistan twenty times over the past 13 years. During those visits I became aware of a significant difference between Afghan and American children. Most Afghan children want to be teachers. Very few American children do. Is it just a matter of economics? You made the decision to become a teacher. Why are so few American children not doing the same?

Afghan children also say, when stating they want to be a teacher, doctor, soldier or policeman, “I want to help my people and my country”. I’ve not heard American students express a commitment to “their country” or “their people”. Again, why?

I’ve spent most of my time since 2003 working with volunteers. Early on it became apparent that givers are noticeably happier than those who aren’t. Attending to the needs of others is much less stressful and has been far more rewarding than all other challenges in my life. These observations and others led me to accept the suggestion by George Pickett to develop this course. Why? Because the consensus seems to be that we are raising too many children who lack compassion and empathy, feel entitled, and are more “stressed-out” than happy. What does that have to do with teachers?

Teachers are on the front line of child rearing and often spend more time with a child than his or her parents. Schools are where children interact with others having diverse backgrounds, beliefs, values and capabilities. Campuses are either “melting pots” or “salad bowls” inside which teachers are the most influential ingredient.

I suspect I needn’t convince you of the need for character development in schools. That’s likely the most rewarding and challenging aspect of your job. This course will provide you with links to studies, articles and videos that can be shared with those who might not initially support devoting more time to character development.

The course includes sharing with fellow teachers what you do in your classroom and school to develop character. A best practices list is being maintained that is being shared with all teachers who are interested. Your recommendations could end up on that list. You will therefore be both student and teacher in the formidable task of raising children who are compassionate, caring, empathetic, honest, and proactive, knowing that if they are, they will be happier and more likely to succeed. There are 4 assignments to completed and placed in course Dropboxes, A1, A2, A3, and A8. There are 4 Forums to post to, Forum A4, A5, A6, and A7

Practical Advice from a Former Principal

Teachers have a major impact on child development. Who among us didn’t have at least one inspirational teacher who broadened our outlook on life and made us a better person? I remember several. And, let’s face it, you chose teaching not for the compensation you receive. Your greatest reward comes from the positive impact you have on children who pass through your room on their way to adulthood. Your time with them is surpassed only by the moment they return years later to tell you how important you were.

I called upon several educators, including Bruce Wodhams, principal of Springhill Elementary School in Lafayette, California for twenty-four years, to answer questions I had about what you refer to as “service learning”. I was and to a lesser extent now am a neophyte. Frankly, I needed to know whether to devote time to creating this course or not.

It’s several months later and I’m now convinced that what takes place in schools is essential to addressing our greatest national problem, the decline in empathy, compassion and happiness and the rise in narcissism and a sense of entitlement.

Below are the questions I posed and the answers Bruce gave;

  1. Importance of Providing Service Learning in Schools
    1. How important is it?
      Answer: Service Learning (or Character Development) is an integral aspect of any school’s curriculum and not limited to the elementary setting.Almost all high schools now have a service requirement for graduation and it is now becoming more evident at various colleges and universities. It is imperative that there be a coordinated continuum of skills and activities to be learned and practiced from preschool to college; unfortunately, such offerings at the moment seem to be random, sporadic and too hit-or-miss to have the same impact as other traditional areas of a school’s curriculum (e.g., math, history, etc.)

      Character Development is important for a variety of reasons. Our culture is a heterogeneous one in which the traditional means of providing structured moral and ethical lessons (e.g., church, extended family, etc.) are not necessarily provided anymore. If we are to flourish or even exist anymore as a culture, it is imperative to provide a systematic approach to deliver those common values of a democracy (i.e., the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights as well as the responsibilities implied by those same freedoms). Such values will not be achieved through osmosis. Democracy requires cooperation and that demands a systematic and consistent approach.

      A culture in which laissez faire capitalism is the objective of so many of those in power and a marketplace that places undue emphasis on isolated technological pursuits cannot survive without a strong ethical foundation which, in our pluralistic society, can only be practically delivered by the public school system.

    2. What do we hope to achieve through service learning?
      Answer: Character Development needs to emphasize those basic values that are embraced by all recognized mainstream religions and are encapsulated, again, by our Constitution’s Bill of Rights and succeeding amendments. In my view, these values are best represented by Michael Josephson’s Six Pillars of Character (from his program Character Counts): Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Caring, Fairness & Citizenship.
    3. Is there any empirical evidence or studies that support service learning? Answer: Yes, there have been studies that support the teaching of character in schools that have shown reduced absenteeism, truancy, vandalism, discipline issues, etc., by those educational institutions that promote a schoolwide, systematic delivery of a character curriculum. For specific data, I would suggest you go online to Character Counts ( They have extensive data that answers many of your queries better than I.
  2. Buy in by Parents, Teachers, Administration, School Boards
    1. What resistance is there to devoting time to service learning? Answer: There will always be resistance to such innovative curriculum due to the following:
      1. Not enough time in the day to add more to an already bursting curriculum;
      2. That character development is the parents’ or church’s job, not the school’s;
      3. You are trying to indoctrinate my child;
      4. A plethora of other complaints from those who are fearful of change.
    2. What are the best ways to overcome resistance?

      1. It is imperative to keep it simple, stressing those factors that everyone can agree on (i.e., The Six Pillars of Character);
      2. Providing of factual data showing the improvement in school atmosphere from other schools;
      3. Having parents participate (especially those already in a leadership role) in workshops and being integral team members in the implementation of the program;
      4. Make it fun for the students (parents usually react positively if their children are reacting the same).
  3. Buy in by Students –
    1. What role should the student government and leaders within each class play? Answer: Have school-wide student government be an integral part of implementation as well as elected representatives from each classroom whose sole elected responsibility is towards the operating of the program. Make it fun; have classroom and school-wide objectives with appropriate rewards for ALL students. Have every aspect of the school day reflect the character traits the school is promoting.
    2. What service learning projects/programs do students enjoy? Answer: Some projects should be individual, some team oriented, that include home and community (i.e., local businesses, local youth organizations, other schools, etc.). For fund-raisers, include local, national and international causes, but allow the students to choose these causes with appropriate adult guidance. Community projects that include actual physical activity and group participation off-campus are usually popular.
    3. Which projects and programs have the greatest impact? Answer: The school, home and community projects that are the most successful are those that are generated by the students. It is not a matter of how much money might be raised, for example, but what kind of buy-in and participation comes from the students. The number one goal is to support the growth of character, not to necessarily be #1 in raising money or support for a particular cause.
  4. Service Learning Projects/Programs that have proven successful;
    1. Those that don’t involve raising money. Community service; visiting retirement homes, hospitals; community beautification projects; campus beautification projects; any project that promotes team building while addressing one or more of the character goals.
    2. Those that involve raising money. Definitely local causes; also national and international causes that may have a personal connection to students (e.g., American Cancer Society for a student going through cancer treatment).
    3. Those that can be undertaken by a single class Campus beautification and improvement projects; bake sales/Jamba Juice sales, etc. to raise money or awareness for a special project; classroom projects that promote team building.
    4. Those that involve more than one class – grade level(s) and entire school. All of those previously mentioned can be a classroom project, a school wide project or a community project with other organizations or schools.
    5. Those that can occur during lunch or on the playground Campus cleanup efforts or small garden projects are feasible.
    6. Those that involve the community. Cooperative programs with scouts, churches, other schools, youth sports, etc., at some point (perhaps not at the very beginning) are effective and rewarding.
    7. Those that include the family (parents and siblings) Individual student “contract” pursuits (showing good character traits at home and being rewarded at school and/or home); goals/objectives for both home and classroom; parents volunteering for various aspects of character developing projects.
  5. What doesn’t work and why? Lessons learned.
    Answer: Do not let it be top-down implementation; buy-in from staff, students and parents/community is imperative. All stakeholders need to be involved at the very beginning of pursuing a program. Do not try to do too much right off the bat; let the program evolve and grow naturally. Let the “personality” of the school be reflected in all of the character pursuits.
  6. Is enough time being devoted to service learning?
    Answer: In most schools, there is not enough time devoted to Character Development. It needs to be integrated across the curriculum, not set aside as a discrete subject to be taught; school wide assemblies focusing on Character Development, particularly in the beginning of the program, are necessary. Use literature, history and current events as a springboard to discussions and assignments regarding character. Bruce is highly respected in the Lafayette community, one who practiced what he preached. He and I spent several weeks meeting with teachers and principals to get their feedback. We were astounded and encouraged by how receptive everyone was, knowing full well that teachers are already overly burdened by what they are expected to accomplish. Whether a Character Development Program is developed in Lafayette remains to be seen. Reasonable men and women will differ on what it should include or whether one should be adopted at all. You needn’t wait for the design and implementation of a program in your school. You control the time you have with your students and yes I’m well aware of the pressures placed upon you and your students to do well on “the tests”. In hindsight, however, how important was it for me to learn algebra and trigonometry and know when the Delaware was crossed? I could have used more time devoted to character development and where to insert a comma.

The Case for Giving

We all know that giving makes the giver “feel good”. We should, therefore, expect that those who have more give more. The opposite is true. There are studies to prove it. Submit the question to google should you need verification.

Why is there an inverse correlation between wealth and giving? The answer most frequently given is that the poor know what it’s like to be poor and thus more likely to come to the aid of someone who is. Whatever the reason, character development includes teaching children to be more empathetic, compassionate, caring and giving. It’s for their own good. They will be happier!

Should you need to persuade others of the value of these traits I’ve copied and pasted an article below, that may be helpful. The article, Five Ways Giving is Good for You, was written by Jill Suttie and Jason Marsh and published in the December 13, 2010 Greater Good Magazine.

Five Ways Giving is good for you” by Jill Suttie and Jason Marsh

“A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier). Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, saw similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.

In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin. In laboratory studies, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathy towards others, with “symptoms” lasting up to two hours. And those people on an “oxytocin high” can potentially jumpstart a “virtuous circle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s,” says Zak.

Giving is good for our health

A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly. In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.

A 1999 study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers, even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking. Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan saw similar results in a 2003 study on elderly couples. She and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t. Interestingly, receiving help wasn’t linked to a reduced death risk.

Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.

Giving promotes cooperation and social connection

When you give, you’re more likely to get back: Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.

These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. As researcher John Cacioppo writes in his book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection . . . the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.”

What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

Giving evokes gratitude.

Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, co-directors of the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, found that teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall. A recent study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person.

Barbara Fredrickson, a pioneering happiness researcher, suggests that cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” she writes in her book Positivity. “And in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”

Giving is contagious.

When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community.

A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

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Budd MacKenzie


Budd MacKenzie was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion” in 2014.

Trust in Education, founder, a grass roots non-profit helping Afghans rebuild their lives;

Wrote and Published “Off the Couch into the War for Hearts and Minds”.

Recognitions for his humanitarian work include Lafayette Citizen of the Year, the Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Lafayette Rotary, the Peace and Justice Award from the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, and the 2018 Choice Humanitarian Award for Contra Costa County.