January 26, 2004

Youth & Education
Safe and Caring Schools in Safe and Caring Communities

The meeting was attended by 13 members, 5 friends and 41 guests.


Dr. Desmond Berghofer, Co-Founder of the Institute for Ethical Leadership, welcomed everyone to the conference. He briefly mentioned the role of the Institute as a membership association concerned with enhancing the common good. The Institute works in five theme areas, and mini-conferences will be held throughout 2004 as follows

  1. Youth and Education theme on “Safe and Caring Schools”—January 26
  2. Business and Sustainability theme on “Envisaging a New Energy Future for Greater Vancouver”—March 22.
  3. Stewardship and the Environment theme (topic to be announced)—May 31
  4. Re-gathering (after summer break)—September 27
  5. Relationships and Personal Development theme (topic to be announced)—October 25
  6. Health and Wellness theme (topic to be announced)—November 22

The work arising from all of these mini-conferences in 2004 will form the basis for a larger interactive conference called Connections III, planned for February 2005.

Desmond acknowledged the large number of guests in the room from the following jurisdictions: New Westminster SD, Langley SD, Coquitlam SD, Surrey SD, Richmond SD, West Vancouver SD, Vancouver SD, Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School, and Mulgrave School. Participants included teachers, school administrators, school board administrators, trustees, students, parents, other guests, and members and friends of the Institute.

Introduction to the Program

Dr. Bill Borgen, Chair of the Youth and Education Sector and Professor of Education at the University of British Columbia, introduced the program. Bill referred to the 4 pillars of education in BC: Literacy, Numeracy, Writing and Social Responsibility. The fourth, Social Responsibility, is the focus of this program. It is still relatively undeveloped, but we know from research and experience that children can't perform well on the other three functions if they don't feel safe in school. Building respectful relationships among students, parents and teachers is key.

Bill referred to research on the program “Roots of Empathy” that has identified two key elements that make Social Responsibility programs effective:

  1. A safe and caring school environment
  2. Intentional teaching of desired attitudes and skills.

He also referred to research by Carol Battaglio (also present in the room) on school bullying that has shown that a lot of the interventions are not as effective as we would like. Intentional teaching of values and social skills is key.

The focus of this evening's program is directed at this key element of intentional teaching using the Living Values program. The reason for this mini-conference is to provide an overview of Living Values. The Institute for Ethical Leadership is interested in assisting schools and school districts with implementation and evaluation of interventions using Living Values.

Building a Culture of Safety

Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, Co-founder of the Institute for Ethical Leadership, spoke next about the importance of building a culture of safety. She made the following key points:

Dr. Schwartz then introduced Gudrun Howard, the National Coordinator for Canada of the Living Values program. Gudrun is a former teacher now working as a volunteer in Canada and other countries to bring the Living Values program to schools and jurisdictions that choose to use it.

The Living Values Program

Gudrun described the origin of the Living Values program as an initiative in 1995 of the Brahma Kumaris, an international non-profit organization, who compiled a report on the prioritized values of people from many cultures and presented this to the United Nations. The values are: Peace, Respect, Cooperation, Freedom, Happiness, Honesty, Humility, Love, Responsibility, Simplicity, Tolerance and Unity.

This is not an exclusive list. Rather they are umbrella words that other values like “compassion,” for example, can fit within.

Responding to a request from UNICEF for more materials, 20 educators from around the world worked for several years to create the 7 books that now comprise the Living Values curriculum. They cover ages from 3 to 25 and include guide books for teachers and parents.

Living Values is now a partnership of UNICEF, UNESCO and the Brahma Kumaris. It is part of a global movement to create a culture of peace. In Canada training programs for teachers (and parents) have been held in Halifax and Calgary, while in British Columbia a number of individual teachers and schools are using the program. Canada Mental Health is also interested in the program.

Gudrun stressed that the Living Values program is designed in such a way that it does not add to the teacher's work load for it can be integrated into any subject. She gave several examples of how it has worked exceptionally well in improving relationships among children and adults in the most difficult and violent conditions in areas of the world like South Africa, Brazil and South East Asia.

The program is very easy to use. There is an accompanying CD of songs for young children. There is no jargon. The books are inexpensive ($23 each and $12 for the guides). The publishers and primary author have waived all royalties so that proceeds from the sale of books can be used to support their introduction into poorer countries.

While no formal evaluation has been done on the various programs around the world, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of how the behaviour of children has changed after exposure to the teaching. In a book entitled The Quiet Revolution the author concludes after critically examining the program and its benefits that it “teaches children how to deal with complex situations from a position of strength and self respect and how to develop a stable inner world.”

More information can be found on the website at www.livingvalues.net. The first unit on peace can be downloaded from the website free of charge.

A Personal Perspective

Susan Close, Assistant Superintendent from New Westminster School District, described how she was personally invited through the United Nations to participate in the initial meeting in India from which the Living Values curriculum eventually emerged. It was a powerfully impressive experience.

New Westminster School District, working with the Institute for Ethical Leadership and the Faculty of Education at UBC, is considering how to introduce the Living Values program as part of its Social Responsibility mandate in 3 or 4 sites. This will be done at a deep, systemic level. She believes that students will become richer human beings from the experience and she is very excited at being a part of this effort.

Questions and Answers

A brief question and answer period followed the presentations. One question concerned the role of parents. This was regarded as key. The Institute expects that parent participation will be designed into the program. One way to do this is through the PAC committees.

Another question asked what kind of follow-up is provided to teachers after they have been trained. All agreed that this is important and needs to be a formal part of the implementation design.

Russ Pacey, Associate Superintendent from New Westminster commented that the power of the Living Values program is its integration with the rest of the curriculum. We can also expect to see an increase in performance on the academic curriculum with the building of a culture of safety and respect.


Participants met in several discussion groups to consider the following questions:

  1. What is the need for a culture of safety and respect in schools?
  2. What is currently being done in schools and jurisdictions that you are familiar with?
  3. How could the Living Values program be helpful?
  4. What might be done next?

Main points reported from the discussion groups

There was general agreement that building a culture of safety and respect in schools is

Other Comments

Concluding Remarks

In her concluding remarks Gerri Schwartz told the meeting of the experience in Quebec during the 1960s when key decision makers decided to give French speaking students the same opportunity for academic success as Anglophones. Over the decade the whole system was transformed. The same could happen in BC with the values agenda. It begins with key people stepping forward to act.

She encouraged everyone in the room to seriously and thoughtfully consider how they can act. The Institute for Ethical Leadership is interested in partnering initiatives. One way we can do this is to sponsor training programs. If this is of interest, contact us (604-734-2544 or desgerri@direct.ca). The Institute can also offer focus groups led by Dr. Bill Borgen. If this is of interest, contact him (604-822-5261 or borgen@interchange.ubc.ca).
As initiatives develop, we will put them on our website www.ethicalleadership.com

If you are interested in what the Institute is doing in this and other areas, please consider joining us as a Member or Friend of the Institute.

Next Steps

Please review these highlights with the view to considering how you might move forward on this agenda. Many books were purchased on January 26. To purchase a book or set of books contact Gudrun Howard at maya@silk.net.

Teacher training is the key starting point. Contact Gudrun to discuss potential dates. If others who were not at the January 26 meeting would like us to come to an after school or lunch meeting to explain the program, contact Gerri Schwartz at desgerri@direct.ca. If you would like Bill Borgen to lead a focus group or discuss evaluation, contact him at borgen@interchange.ubc.ca.

Finally, keep in touch with us and plan to attend Connections III in February 2005. We will provide further details of that event as it develops.