We need to teach our kids argument and empathy - expert

Increasingly digitised classrooms call for a new way of teaching, with more focus on critical analysis and argument, argues one Kiwi academic.

Professor Stuart McNaughton is Director of the Woolf Fisher Research Centre, developing educational programmes for communities in South Auckland.

"Our children, generally speaking, are not very good at having an argument. Now my grandchildren tell me that you shouldn't argue," Professor McNaughton told Newshub Nation.

"In fact, there are good ways to argue and the critical reasoning form of argumentation is a form in which you are able to think about the other person's position."

He is also a contributing author in The Big Questions, a collection of essays from academics and experts about the future of New Zealand.

In his chapter, titled "What skills do our children need in the digital future?" Professor McNaughton says actively teaching social skills is crucial in building emotional resilience, particularly in the social media age.

"Now we know something between six and ten percent of kids in primary and secondary school say they will have experienced some form of bullying online each week,

"In order to develop the resilience around that we've got to teach children more self-control… and to reduce the bullying itself we've got to teach empathy and perspective."

Professor McNaughton says the impact of not teaching children emotional resilience is obvious in New Zealand.

"If we don't adopt this focus we're not going to deal with the harm of the shameful mental health data that we have."

While he says more research is needed into exactly how these skills will be taught, he stresses that he isn't suggesting social skills be taught in place of regular subjects.

"I'm not talking about teaching empathy in some classroom at the back of the school,

"I'm saying through each of the fields of knowledge you can do this. You can do it in mathematics. You can teach collaboration, you can teach consideration of another person's position."

As for concerns about more screens causing less face time with teachers, Professor McNaughton says the opposite can be true.

"Among the things that digital tools enable teachers to do is to spend more time, paradoxically almost, on those things that are quintessentially human - talking, discussing, elaborating."

Watch the video got the full digital exclusive interview.

Newshub Nation.

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