An unlikely best-seller is revolutionising attitudes to education in the US. Reva Klein talked to the author.
In two years, Dr Daniel Goleman has achieved a level of success that most writers can only dream about. His groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence, has become a best-seller in 20 countries since it was first published in the US in 1995.
It has made it to number one in the paperback top ten lists in five European countries and taken Latin America by storm. It is one of the highest-selling books ever published in Taiwan. In Japan, not only has it sold as many copies as in the US, but Dr Goleman's term EQ (emotion quotient, as opposed to IQ for intelligence quotient) has entered the language. He is asked to give talks all over the world, having recently received an invitation from the Department of Education in Shanghai. Perhaps most impressive of all, and confirmation of his status, was an endorsement on the Oprah Winfrey show.
The author, on extended leave from his job as science correspondent of the New York Times, has been overwhelmed. "I anticipated a response," he admits, "but nothing quite like this. I didn't know that the need for understanding and hopefulness was so universal."
Dr Goleman has done a lot more than just write a popular book, however. In the US, Emotional Intelligence has helped to revolutionise the way educators think and practise their craft. It has spawned the Social and Emotional Learning movement, which argues that social and emotional skills should be taught alongside maths and reading from kindergarten through to high school, rather than crammed into a short module and then forgotten about - or not tackled at all.
It is as if the world had been waiting for a book that would confirm what so many had been thinking: that to fulfil your true potential, you need to be able to acknowledge, communicate and control your emotions and impulses. You can have a whopping IQ and be at the top of your class in school and at university, but still underachieve in your career and be unhappy in your personal life. In his book, Dr Goleman writes: "Academic intelligence offers virtually no preparation for the turmoil - or opportunity - that life's vicissitudes bring. Yet even though a high IQ is no guarantee of prosperity, prestige or happiness in life, our schools and our culture fixate on academic abilities, ignoring emotional intelligence, a set of traits - some might call it character - that also matters immensely for our personal destiny."
This argument carries strong echoes of the recent spate of complaints from British industrialists that school-leavers and graduates alike lack, among other things, basic communication and social skills. Which is another story that Dr Goleman is in the process of writing about in his new book on "emotional intelligence in the workplace".
He passionately believes that while genetic heritage has a part to play in the determination of temperament, it is not omnipotent. Drawing on the research of Harvard developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan, who studied shy children from infancy through to adolescence, he says: "Genes alone do not determine behaviour; our environment, especially what we experience and learn as we grow, shapes how a temperamental predisposition expresses itself as life unfolds. " Crucially, he believes that emotional intelligence can be taught, and that when it is taught as part of a sustained, long-term programme, behaviour can be turned around.
His message will be reinforced later this month with the publication of a book in the US called Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators, written by a group of academics calling themselves the Collaborative for the Advancement of Emotional and Social Learning (CAESL). The book, intended to be a practical blueprint for implementing the concepts of emotional intelligence, is published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the professional organisation of school superintendents and principals. It will go out to 100,000 association members in the US, and education policy-makers all over the world, giving the arguments in favour of an emotional intelligence programme, laying down guidelines for putting the ideas into practice (see box), and offering examples of work from existing programmes in US schools.
According to one of the authors, Professor Maurice Elias of Rutgers University in New Jersey, "The book would never have come to be without Daniel Goleman's book. Emotional Intelligence galvanised and captured what many people have felt was the missing piece in the socialisation of children and in society generally. And while his book is not devoted to education, we wanted to take his beginnings and build upon it with specific application to schools."
Professor Elias speaks passionately of the need to get emotional and social learning into the curriculum in a sustained programme, not as part of the "inoculationist mentality" that holds that if you give a child a dose for one or two years, it will last. "We're producing a nation of emotional illiterates," he says. "The system's been cheating children. To pretend that education can occur outside the context of relationships is dangerous."
The good news is that he and his colleagues have found "tens of thousands" of teachers who have read Dr Goleman's book and are teaching its ideas informally, as well as more than 1,000 elementary and high schools that already have formal programmes. In the New Haven, Connecticut school district, where a "social development" programme incorporating many of the concepts Dr Goleman writes about was introduced six years ago, there has been a significant improvement in behaviour and a fall in suspensions. In the state of Rhode Island, so taken have policy-makers been with his ideas, says Dr Goleman proudly, "that they are attempting to make the whole state emotionally intelligent, integrating a programme throughout education, health and social services".
The next step, says Dr Goleman, is to introduce impartial evaluation of the programmes. "We need to be setting up quality controls because there is such schlock in education, so many mini-industries that are never evaluated. I'm a psychologist by training, and all my work was based on control studies. I'd just assumed that education worked on the same principles. So I was astounded when I found that there was no testing to prove that curricula worked."
That the time is nigh is without question. The tough, often violent, realities of the modern world demand that the parameters and definitions of education be overhauled, that schools work with parents and the community to create, in Dr Goleman's words, "a network of caring".
THE LIGHT TOUCH
The Social Competence Promotion Program for Young Adolescents suggests the following six-step framework for solving a range of real-life problems. A traffic-light poster is used to display the process.
Stop, calm down and think before you act.
Say the problem and how you feel.
Set a positive goal.
Think of lots of solutions.
Consider the consequences.
Go ahead and try the best plan.
The traffic light links a familiar image to three central, sequential phases of problem-solving. The red light - stop phase - symbolises stopping to calm down in preparation for problem-solving thinking and action (step 1); the yellow light - thinking phase - is for identifying problems and evaluating options for implementation (steps 2-5); and the green light - go phase - represents taking action to resolve the problem (step 6).
Using the six steps, teachers and students learn a common language and framework for communicating about problems. Furthermore, the traffic-light poster may be used as a visual reminder to prompt students to apply problem-solving throughout the school (for example, in the cafeteria, playground) and at home.
From Promoting Social and Emotional Learning
KEY COMPONENTS OF EMOTIONAL LITERACY
Understanding the causes of feelings; being able to name and recognise emotions; recognising the difference between feelings and actions.
The ability to manage anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness; avoiding aggressive or self-destructive behaviour; monitoring self -criticism.
Being able to talk about feelings effectively; being a good listener and being able to ask appropriate questions.
Examining your actions and understanding their consequences; distinguishing between thoughts and feelings when you make decisions.
Being sensitive to others' feelings and having the ability to see things from other people's perspectives.
The ability to analyse, understand and solve problems in relationships; being considerate; being able to work as part of a group, to share, co-operate, negotiate and resolve conflicts.
from Emotional Intelligence
HOW TO IMPLEMENT SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING PROGRAMMES IN SCHOOLS
Set up programmes for health promotion and "problem prevention skills"(smoking, drugs, bullying, HIVAids, sexually transmitted diseases and so on).
Put in place mechanisms for conflict resolution, and support groups (for children suffering from bereavement or whose parents are divorcing). These can be classroom-based or delivered individually or in small groups.
From the beginning of their schooling, give children the tools to develop a sense of service and community, caring for people around them and for their environment. School-based activities may include in-class and cross-age tutoring and mentoring, community service, and providing "buddies" for students with special needs.
The methodologies used to deliver these skills depend on the age group. Often, it will be a combination of discussion, role play, games and posters.
from Promoting Social and Educational Learning
THE BRITISH EXPERIENCE
The BT Forum, a think tank on "interpersonal communications", is the major exponent of emotional literacy in this country. Among many activities, including conferences, it supports research and projects such as the Place 2 Be, which provides emotional and therapeutic help for children.
In addition, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority has sent out draft guidance for consultation on how to deliver "spiritual, moral, social and cultural development" which integrates many of the concepts of emotional literacy that Dr Daniel Goleman has set out in his book.
Marianne Talbot, who is leading the SCAA task force, says: "The national curriculum talks a lot about the what and the how of education. This work provides the why, because we want children to be fully rounded human beings. "