The Mind–The Heart–and Good News

by Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Resource Center, University of San Diego

As I have noted in past blogs, during my junior high school years I delivered the daily newspaper to over 100 customers and I became a newspaper reader. When I became a teacher, I shared my enthusiasm for newspaper reading with my students.

As a school principal responding to teachers’ concerns about student attitudes, behaviors, and an increasing absentee rate, I proposed that we put away the textbooks and replace them with daily newspapers for at least two weeks. There is lot more to this story, but you get the idea.

It worked! The absentee rate dropped dramatically. Kids were coming to school to see how teachers were handling the “no textbook” idea. This headline in our local newspaper at the time said it all: “Using Newspapers as an Educational Tool Improves Literacy and Behavior.”

I wrote about my experiences, found out what other teachers were doing, and what the research was reporting. The result: three books, numerous articles, several speeches, and many teacher-workshops.

Those were the “old days.” Six months ago, I bought a laptop, cancelled my daily newspaper subscription, but kept the delivery of the Sunday edition. I read the news from my laptop. It has been suggested since I’m now into technology that I replace my old desktop computer and upgrade to an iPhone!

Last month, I read Hal Urban’s new book, The Power of Good News. While it is not my intent to write a “book report,” I do want to share some caveats from the book on how and why good news influences our character, our health, our attitudes, and our mindset.

Based on scientific evidence from university studies to the use of “happy hormones in our brains,” Hal lists eleven benefits of consistently reading and watching good news. I am including five here:
1) Improves mood.
2) Contributes to better mental health.
3) Leads to more positive outlook and worldview.
4) Increases feelings of gratitude.
5) Increases happiness.

Hal writes that these scientific studies identify five practical suggestions:
1) Decrease consumption of major media bad news.
2) Reduce time spent around negative people.
3) Increase awareness of the many forms of good news.
4) Understand the positive impact good news has.
5) Form the habit of getting a daily dose of positive input.

There is more good news!

By teaching skills like empathy, problem-solving, and perspective taking, we can help nurture civility in our children. Civility goes beyond being polite and courteous; it involves listening to others with an open mind, disagreeing respectfully, and seeking common ground to start a conversation about differences. Acting with civility requires children to be respectful, reflective, and self-aware.

Learning the skills of perspective taking, empathy and problem-solving helps children understand that their actions and words affect individuals as well as their entire community, encouraging them to rise up and act with civility in tough situations.
– Melissa Benaroya, How to Teach Civility During Divisive Times, Committee for Children, February 2017

Well, you may ask: Where can I find “good news” resources for myself and my students? Here is one example.

The Common Sense Education web site (below) lists 20 sites. They note that “most importantly, all of these [site] options have a few key things in common. They’re unbiased and well-researched, and they dig into a host of topics that students will naturally gravitate toward.”

So as Hal states it: Feed Your Mind with What’s Good for Your Heart!

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.
Director Character Education Resource Center Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences University of San Diego
October Blog-2021

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