Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Ultimately, Universal Education aims to tackle intolerance and conflict that arise from moral and cultural relativism. Gilda believes that many conflicts, from large-scale military campaigns between nations to small-scale arguments within families, arise because people believe in their idea of truth and are disinterested in differing perspectives. Often, when people discover that their views are incompatible, social conflicts may arise, unless they are able to learn from such different views and empathize with one another and resolve their differences with mutual respect. From a pedagogical perspective, Gilda argues that moral and cultural relativism is the result of educational methods that attempt to teach values which reflect a particular context or worldview, whether a specific religion, philosophy, socioeconomic, or cultural background. At best, this leads to the internalization of values that mirror a highly specific view of reality; at worst, it imposes certain ethical and moral norms on teachers and students, and prevents them from developing the empathy, wisdom, and compassion that are necessary for genuine tolerance. For example, the following scenario was recently posed to children in the pilot and control groups of two Guatemalan schools, one in a wealthy community and another in a poor indigenous community: You and your brother are waiting on the sidewalk to cross the street, and a fancy new car drives by. Your brother exclaims that the car is horrible, but you personally think the car is special. What do you say to him? Children in the control groups of both schools said they would tell him that he must be wrong to think that such a car could be horrible. By contrast, children in the pilot groups said they would investigate their brother’s mental context in order to understand his view, at the same time they would explain their own conditions for saying otherwise, since everyone is standing in different angles of life and opinions are based on such personal experiences. According to Gilda, trying to teach children values merely aggravates the moral and cultural relativism that complicate interpersonal relationships. Children will imitate the values their teachers and parents are trying to teach. In the best-case scenario, this instills in children the habit of reflexive response without internalized empathy or developed wisdom, thus failing to equip them to respond morally in unfamiliar situations. In the worst-case scenario, this habit of imitation can later lead to copying more pernicious behavior. Gilda believes “attitudes” begin to develop very early in childhood. Some children will naturally develop compassion and empathy on their own, while others do not or are never given the opportunity.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Years of work in artificial intelligence and travel throughout the Far East and South Asia led Gilda to wonder how formal education facilitates human beings to develop the ability to empathize and make ethical decisions with wisdom. After extensive graduate study and personal encounters with monks and philosophers in Nepal, India, and Hong Kong, Gilda created an educational platform that aims to instill empathy, compassion, and reflective thinking in young children. Gilda's platform, known as Universal Education, builds children's social and emotional skills in the classroom and complements this by also working with teachers and parents. This innovative system enables children to make their own ethical decisions, rather than teach, transfer or inculcate a specific set of values.