In a world grappling with inflated social complexities, the importance of compassion and emotional learning (CEL) has never been more evident. CEL, a formal PEP, CSEC and CAPE process of acquiring the skills necessary to manage emotions, build relationships, and make responsible compassionate decisions, is, in my view, crucial for personal and social well-being.

Recognising this, Jamaica needs to take a bold step forward by introducing compulsory CEL education in its schools. Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Portugal, Finland, Spain and Chile have all been among the nation-states that have reaped the first fruits of such quiet and intelligent CEL-like investments.

My urgent idea can be transformative because it comes at a time when Jamaica, like many nations in these parts, faces a racing rip-tide of violence and narcissism and a concerning normalisation of cruelty. As Kristen Gyles aptly points out in her rather insightful November 17 Gleaner column, ‘The Epidemic of Heartlessness’, the prevalence of these issues underscores, to me, the need for a societal transformation anchored in empathy and compassion, a Jamaican society that reflexively rejects and abhors, not habitually adores and absolves, dumpster truck-loads of self, self-love and narcissism.

This proposed compulsory CEL curriculum would serve as a powerful catalyst for this transformation. By integrating CEL into the core curriculum from early childhood to secondary education, I believe that Jamaica will beget and foment a generation of young people equipped with the skills and values necessary to navigate an increasingly interconnected, though individualistic, and callous world.

The benefits of CEL are multifaceted and far-reaching. Studies have consistently demonstrated that CEL/SEL programmes positively impact students’ self-awareness, social awareness, self-control, relationship skills, decision-making abilities and inclination to kindness. These skills, in turn, lead to improved academic performance, reduced behavioural problems, and enhanced emotional well-being.

Furthermore, CEL will foster a sense of belonging and school safety, greening a nurturing environment where students feel happier, supported and empowered to thrive. By cultivating a school culture of kindness and compassion, CEL programmes could effectively address the root causes of violence and cruelty that have plagued, stifled and stunted Jamaican society.

The introduction of compulsory CEL education is not merely an educational reform; it is proposed as a societally invasive investment to yield a better, brighter future in Jamaica. By nurturing a generation of empathetic and compassionate citizens, Jamaica will lay the foundation for a more harmonious, just, and thriving society.

This transformation will require a smart, collaborative evidence-based intervention from the ministries of culture, education, and national security. Working together, these people-ministries can develop and implement a comprehensive CEL curriculum that is both effective and sustainable. Additionally, but not as a must-have precursor, mental health support services should be readily made available to address the psychological factors that may contribute to our peculiar violence, crudity and cruelty.

As Jamaica embarks on this journey of transformation, it is crucial to adopt what I clumsily call an “agri-cultural” approach, cultivating kindness and compassion as we would cultivate the crop in a banana or sugar-cane field. By creating supportive environments where these values are not only taught but also actively practised and celebrated, Jamaica can become a garden, nay, a plantation of kindness and compassion, where empathy and understanding flourish and the sundry noxious weeds of toxic self-love wilt, wither, retreat and fall to the ground seedless and sucker-less.

This transformative move will require the dedication and commitment of not only educators but also parents, entertainers, media, communities, government functionaries and political leaders. However, the rewards are far-reaching and immeasurable.

By investing in CEL education, Jamaica would be investing in the future of its young people, and in turn, the future of its three-million-people-nation.

Here is the thing: Let us embark on this journey of Compassion and Emotional Learning teased and provoked by a reawakened and re-enlightened culture ministry that, beyond applauding achievements, incubates and nurtures the precious talents and fuels the promising sparks of a society where mindfulness, kindness and compassion are not mere ideals but can be the very foundations upon which we build our future.

Together we can cultivate a kinder, more compassionate Jamaica, where the seeds of empathy and understanding blossom into a bountiful and fecund harvest — a consistent reaping of mature quadruple-vesicled (4-pegged) Jamaican fruit. One that refreshes our people with hope, with healing, with peace and with prosperity in its satiating succulence.

PS: I so wish that Professor Winston “Winty” Davidson were still living on earth, orating, kicking, ministering, treating and singing away for this Fortis goy and other goyim from KC and elsewhere. All through second to fifth form, we sat next to each other, by choice, in school and for a year on the KC Choir. I loved my friend and feel it for his beloved Sonia and the exemplary girls that they raised. Among his last words to me were: ‘I always lift you up in prayer, Dennis.’

Join me, dear readers, in lifting that family of Davidsons up now.

Winty did so much good for KC, for Manning Cup football, for Jamaica, for Public Health, and for Humanity.

What a man!

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