Lady Gaga, Yale launch “Emotion Revolution” in U.S. schools

It’s time to stop telling American high-schoolers to “suck it up” and swallow the pressures of young adulthood, say Lady Gaga and leaders of Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. Instead, the somewhat unlikely duo wants to empower young people to make schools and communities places where emotions matter and all students can thrive. Enter, the “Emotion Revolution.”

New research from Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence shows 75 percent of 22,000 U.S. teens responded with negative emotions when asked the straight-forward and open-ended question, “How do you feel at school?” Tired, bored (70 percent of the time) and stressed (80 percent of the time) were the most popular negative responses, followed by anxious, annoyed, sad, alone and depressed. Indeed, these eight negative emotions were among the top 10 that teens disclosed, experts said.

The findings of this first-of-its-kind survey were released at a day-long event last weekend sponsored by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) and Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. The Emotion Revolution Summit brought together several hundred students, teachers and school officials, as well as a handful of sponsoring companies. I was honored to participate on behalf of Microsoft.

On the plus side, 74 percent of students said that when they put in the effort at school, they feel good about the result; 62 percent said at least one teacher is aware of their interests, and 61 percent said they’ve learned how to complete projects from start to finish.

Still, only four in 10 said what they’re learning is relevant to their goals in life; even fewer (38 percent) said they receive meaningful homework, and perhaps more poignant for technology companies: 36 percent said people had been mean and cruel to them.

The new data on meanness and cruelty appear to be in line with research Microsoft conducted in 2012, at least as they pertain to online bullying. (Results would be down significantly compared to our results on in-person bullying.) Microsoft’s 2012 survey focused on the various negative behaviors young people may encounter online. We polled more than 7,500 youth, ages 8 to 17, in 25 countries. Thirty-seven percent said they’d been bullied online (29 percent in the U.S.), and 72 percent said they’d been bullied offline (83 percent in the U.S.).

To help address bullying and other very real pressures of teenage life, BTWF and Yale launched the Emotion Revolution as a way, in the words of Lady Gaga, “to explode the conversation” — about feelings and emotions in the classroom, at home, on the playground and certainly online — and to laud the benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL).

Microsoft is a proponent of SEL and has been for several years. SEL helps to prepare young people for adulthood and success in the 21st century by emphasizing, among other things, communication skills, a focus on achievement and concern for community. It also promotes positive classroom behavior and academic excellence. Conversely, it helps to reduce in-school conduct problems, aggressive behavior and emotional stress. Given global cultural and societal differences, SEL is by no means a singular response to negative behavior among youth, but it is one approach to consider.

I commend BTWF and Yale, as well as all the school superintendents, principals, educators, students and other experts, on such a powerful, topical and relevant event. It was clear that those involved know what needs to happen in our schools. The key is in deciphering the how.

Microsoft has been partnering with BTWF for close to four years. The Foundation’s mission is to create a kinder, braver world through youth empowerment. Marrying our aims, Microsoft envisions a kinder, braver and safer online world, and we hope the Emotion Revolution takes hold digitally as well. “Exploding the conversation” and calling attention to the issues through data are a solid first step.

For more information about the Emotion Revolution, visit Born This Way Foundation and the Yale Center websites. To learn about Microsoft’s commitment to online safety and digital civility, visit our website, and check out our collection of educational resources at the Microsoft YouthSpark Hub.

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