ed-3-levelsIn this speech, Six Seconds’ Chairman Karen McCown shares the definition, process, and purpose of teaching emotional intelligence. Karen founded the renown Nueva School in 1967 as a laboratory for integrating academic and emotional development for gifted children (it went on to win two Federal Blue Ribbon Awards for Excellence in Education). Drawing from that success, she published the pioneering emotional intelligence curriculum, Self-Science, in 1978, cited in Goleman’s 1995 book as one of the two models for teaching emotional intelligence. In 1997 she became the Founding Chairman of Six Seconds, and in 2009 she help start Synapse, Six Seconds’ lab school, as part of her commitment to spread the skills of emotional intelligence around the globe.


I am pleased to be here and to have this opportunity to speak with you about emotional intelligence, the important role it plays in our lives, and the expanded role it could play in our schools. I have three objectives for this talk:

  1. To share with you my conviction that teaching emotional intelligence is a basic, core curriculum;
  2. To define teaching emotional intelligence, and describe a program for doing so; and
  3. To encourage you to become a catalyst and an advocate, a change agent, a driving force, and a resource for teaching emotional intelligence.

I am going to begin with some statistics that you may already be well aware of. Nevertheless, seeing them together like this always reminds me that we must make changes, we must take action, we must implement systemic solutions that will dramatically change the lives of our students and their families, teachers, and potentially, our society.

Why We Urgently Need Emotional Intelligence in Education

I have always believed that what is now popularly called “emotional intelligence” is essential to combat these kinds of statistics. Building EQ will help reduce these risks — it will give children the tools and skills to make choices in their lives that have positive and productive outcomes — and, when they do experience adversity, these skills will increase the possibility of their coping — and rising above the troubling events.

Emotional intelligence is essential if students and teachers are to become whole, healthy human beings.

My mission, my passion, my commitment, my noble goal is to support myself and others to become “human beings.” To live that whole, healthy life.

Over thirty years ago, this impulse led me to create a new kind of school. Intuitively, I knew that it was possible to redefine the concept of “education” to include the social-emotional domain.

In the sixties, there was a great deal of focus on the human potential movement. We were seeking ways of understanding ourselves and others. We were inspired by idealism. Hope for a world that was more caring, loving, inclusive. A world where people were empowered to live as whole, healthy Human Beings.

In that context, I believed that it was important to redefine the concept of education to include not just the domain of the intellect, but also the social-emotional domain.

At that time, no one talked about “emotional intelligence.” And no one had a picture of a school based on emotional intelligence. How such a school would function.

In order to explore that vision, I put together several groups of community leaders who were interested in joining an advisory group to envision an educational environment that would make a difference in the lives of children and the future of our community. We met over a two year period to define a new kind of school.

One of the powerful aspects of this process, was meeting with a group of Nobel prize winners who were asked to spend a day with the advisory committee. Their task was to envision what would have been an ideal school environment for themselves. What it would have looked like, how it would have been different, how they would have spent their time, and what they would have learned.

Noble Prize Winners: Your Ideal School

It was an amazing meeting. Collectively they agreed that their own experiences in school had often been difficult: they were isolated — different — and this affected their friendships, their social skills, their emotional development. There was something missing from their education — they agreed that spending more time on social-emotional learning would have enhanced their experiences as they were growing up — and would not have in any way deterred them from their intellectual pursuits.

They believed that having skills — having a high level of emotional intelligence, would have enriched their lives and the lives of their families and their communities.

This is an important point in a “back to basics” era — the point is that emotional literacy IS a basic — maybe even THE basic — and that putting time and energy in this area does not diminish academic achievement.

Emotional intelligence enhances academic performance. In the last year there have been a number of books, articles in newspapers and magazines, and a whole new industry developed to support emotional intelligence in the workplace. There seems to be widespread agreement that these skills are essential. It will be a great day when the education world has the same level of commitment.

The noble prize winners, the most academically “successful” people I could find, uniformly agreed that social-emotional education and cognitive education support one another.

And this was the premise on which we launched the Nueva School in 1967. It was as an experiment to see what would happen if we made the emotional development of the children and the community as important as the intellectual development.

Academic Excellence and Emotional Intelligence Work Together

Our intention was to create a model where we committed to academic excellence, to using the latest educational research and best practices in teaching, and where emotional and social intelligence was as central as academic pursuits. It was a place where we redefined achievement to include all aspects of human development.

And it worked.

Not only did the concept work in our school, but it began to catch on in society. This movement to return to wholeness was apparent in the many self-help books that were written, the proliferation of workshops and programs addressing these issues for adults, the resurgence of therapy in all forms. But the focus was still primarily on adults — and primarily on intervention.

So, on the one hand we had many adults seeking this kind of growth, and on the other, we had a whole new generation of children growing up with few opportunities to learn these skills at an early age. Particularly in view of the breakdown of some our institutions — like the nuclear family — that once taught those skills.

Recognizing this need, I created a curriculum that focused on emotional intelligence, called Self-Science, The Subject is Me. Self-Science is a curriculum to enhance children’s EQ.

The basis of the curriculum is self-investigation to see the relationship between our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. To identify and recognize our patterns of responding. To recognize that all of our patterns — all of choices — have costs and benefits to ourselves and to others. To explore alternative choices so that we are not prisoners of our patterns.

As we developed the program, it was exciting to see the changes in the school community — and in individuals. We had parents begin to ask for their own Self-Science classes.

Goleman: A Model for Teaching Emotional Intelligence

We also had visitors who commented on the fact that children were learning emotional skills and competencies for negotiating the world. Skills that adults wished they had developed when they were in school.

time-magazine-EQThe most frequent comment on our weekly tour was, “I wish I could have attended a school like this — and I wish there was a school like this in my town.” At one point, we had over 2000 visitors each year. A few years ago, Dan Goleman — the author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence — was one of those visitors, and as a result of his visit, our Self-Science program became nationally known. Goleman calls the program a “model for the teaching of emotional intelligence,” and as you know from reading his book, he devotes an entire chapter to this area.

It was exciting to see the popularity of Goleman’s book — it was so encouraging to see “EQ” on the front of TIME magazine. To sense this resurgence of humanism and the understanding of the importance of our emotional selves was a step forward toward my noble goal of helping myself and others to become human beings.

We are now seeing that a well developed EQ is an essential preventative solution for many of today’s problems instead of struggling with short-term interventions.

It’s Time to Change the Statistics About Children

We are at a point where we can effect the devastating statistics I showed you earlier. We now know that emotional literacy is an important part of the solution and that it is teachable.

  • What will it take for us to change those statistics?
  • What will it take to teach it in your schools?
  • What can we do to come closer to helping every person become a whole “human beings?”
  • What will it take to expand our definition of education to include emotional literacy?

Images help me focus my commitment. So I would like to share with you an image that I use to maintain my focus on this work.

I like the metaphor of the iceberg because approximately, 15% of the iceberg is visible, and 85% is invisible, below the surface. Unseen. Unknown. Unexamined.

“I think of the iceberg as myself. 15% of who I am is visible — to me, and to others. And 85% remains a mystery unless I am committed to knowing.

We live most of our lives in the 15%. It includes what we have, where we live, what we do, who we know, what people think of us, what we strive for, what we accumulate, who we are trying to impress, and so on. I don’t want to get into a psychological debate, but I call that s15% “ego.” It is where most of live, most of the time. It is about me at center.

The ecosystem, the other 85%, is about our wholeness. It is about others, the whole, the center. It is inclusive. It is about our essence, that which makes us truly human beings. And in this 85%, there is power, connection, passion, fulfillment — love. Yes, independence is important and necessary, and interdependence is the foundation for a better world. Remember that the iceberg floats in an ocean that is shared by all other icebergs.

We all live in our egosystems — it is how we’ve grown up; it is how the world operates. But as we begin to have a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, as we become emotionally literate, we are able to move from our egosystems towards our ecosystems. This shift is available to us. It involves life long learning. And on a daily basis, we can move closer and closer to being in our ecosystems.

Learning to Work Together

I’d like you to make two columns on a piece of paper. Title the left-hand column “Ego-system” or “me” — and the right hand column, “Eco-system.” or “we”– or whatever words work for you.

Take a few moments to write some adjectives in your two columns that describe these concepts for you.

And now please share your list with your neighbor — and feel free to expand your list and share ideas.

What I’d like you to understand is that emotional literacy allows us to know the whole iceberg. To escape the trap of the egosystem. To move towards wholeness.

We all know that to make any change in our belief systems, our thought patterns, our feelings, and our actions requires commitment. In fact, this change requires that we be inescapably committed.

I am committed to knowing, understanding, and living my life in the 85%. It is a lifelong task. And every day, I have to remind myself of my inescapable commitment. And every day I have to work on it — I have to do something.

Take a moment now, to think about your own commitments. In particular, your commitments to your self as a life-long learner, to your students, and to making emotional intelligence a cornerstone of your educational system. What is the legacy of your commitments? Will they lead to the whole iceberg?


What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is a way of understanding and shaping how we think, feel, and act. As Goleman illustrated in that book, research suggests that emotional intelligence shapes success at home, at work, and at play.

KCG-model-clearAt Six Seconds, we divide EQ into 3 basic parts, know yourself, choose yourself, and give yourself. And all the fundamentals of EQ fit into that structure. There are many models, so the purpose here is not to say this is THE model — but just one mechanism to give us a framework to discuss the ideas

Know Yourself includes

  • developing language for naming and communicating emotions — which is a big piece of emotional literacy;
  • building self-awareness — which includes seeing those emotions at work in ourselves; and
  • recognizing patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting — and the effects of those patterns on oneself as well as others.

Choose Yourself includes

  • self-regulation/self-control — which includes managing emotions, behaving pro-socially, acting with accountability, responsibility, and trustworthiness;
  • applying consequential thinking — in other words, seeing the positive and negative effects of our choices and patterns — and re-choosing them as necessary;
  • engaging intrinsic motivation; and
  • choosing optimism.

and finally,

Give Yourself includes

  • creating empathy — which requires that you apply all those excellent “know yourself” skills when you interact with others. Empathy allows you to understand, support, and nurture others — to build interdependence by feeling what others are feeling. And lastly
  • commit to a noble goal — a goal that reaches out beyond yourself, gives to the larger world, and makes a positive contribution through service.


Creating a Vision

I’d like you to imagine, that in ten years, you are going to pick up the newspaper, and you are going to see a headline that makes your heart smile. It is a headline that confirms that society is genuinely moving to discover the iceberg. What does the headline say?

Take a moment, and share your headline with a partner.

Now, if that headline is going to come true, what do you need to do tomorrow — or even right now — to move in that direction?

My headline is “Kids Love School,” so today I am here talking to all of you about what we could do to co-create schools where kids feel whole. And tomorrow, I am committed to taking more steps. And these steps also are part of my noble goal because building emotional intelligence, helping children love school, these are part of supporting myself and others to become human beings.

So what are you going to do?


Self Science – Teaching Emotional Intelligence

The next question is, how do you build these skills into a school?

Self-Science is a process that fuses emotional and cognitive learning. It is based on some very simple assumptions:

  • there is no thinking without feeling — and no feeling without thinking.
  • the more conscious you are of experiencing, the more learning is possible.
  • the more self-knowledge you gain, the more likely it is that you can respond positively to yourself and others.

Through experiences, discussion, and self-reflection, Self-Science helps build learning communities based on respect, responsibility and resiliency. Communities where problems are addressed before they escalate. This curriculum focuses on prevention and on teaching tools and skills that students will use every day.

Central to Self-Science is learning that thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected. Ultimately, they are inseparable,

When we developed Self-Science, we wanted a specific curriculum, and we also wanted a school-wide culture. We infused the self-science norms, skills, and tools into the whole school community. For instance, we made agreements about the ways we talked to each other.

Language is a critical area — words are so powerful, we actually created a rule called “no killer statements.” — and we did not have many rules.

“No killer statements” means that we do not diminish the essential being of another person — we don’t “kill” a part of who they with our words. Words that embarrass, shame, degrade, words like “stupid,” “geek,” even words like “shut up” — because those words wound.

There are also killer tones of voice and killer looks… we are sadly good and usually have a wide repertoire of “killer statements.”

I’d like you to jot down on your notebook a killer statement that you remember from your childhood.

A killer statement from someone important to you in your adult life.

A killer statement you have made.


Social Emotional Learning Throughout a School

At Nueva, Self-Science was part of the every day life of the children — including within the “academic” classroom. Teachers learned to asked questions that engaged children’s emotions. They designed curriculum that lead children to consequential thinking, to recognizing their self in relation to the larger community. These kinds of lessons throughout the school made the “course” part of self-science even more powerful.

This infusion can happen in may ways. The point is that whatever is already happening in the school can be extended to include the self-science norms.

Let me give you some examples of Self-Science woven into any classroom:

  • Practicing penmanship. One of our teachers was required to teach handwriting, so she used EQ quotes, such as, “Behold the turtle, he only makes progress when he sticks out his neck.”
  • Current events. Stories that interest you, anger, community, loneliness, fear, victim, hero, courage, sharing.
  • Discipline. What are you feeling and how do you want to feel? Want ads for ideal classroom/student/teacher.
  • Literature. Questions about feelings, motivations, role-models.
  • Math: golden rectangle as a metaphor — or any shapes as a metaphor. Mistakes, meanings.
  • And even just the day to day questions. Research says that 75% of the questions in today’s classrooms and textbooks are low order, rote questions — and if teachers ask a broader range of questions, then students can use more aspects of themselves in answering.

In addition to this “weaving,” there are other skills that are best taught in their own time and space. This can be a specific class with its own meeting time, or it can be a specific time within a self-contained classroom. In this class, children develop EQ skills and they practice them in a safe environment; that’s really what the Self-Science book covers.

Self-Science lessons follow two formats. One kind of class is the open-agenda session where the students bring up current inter and intrapersonal issues, and the group follows a process to generate ideas and possible solutions.

The other kind of self-science class uses a shared experience, like a game or activity, followed by a debriefing. Debriefing is critical because it helps transfer the one experience into a larger understanding. Debriefing can be a discussion of open-ended questions, journal writing, an art project, a skit, a think-pair-share (like I’ve had you do today). What is important is that both cognitive and affective inquiry occur. “How did that feel?” and “What did you do?” as well as “what do you think and what did you tell yourself about this experience?”

The goal is to generate cognitive tools that children can use in their daily lives.

One of the first challenges of Self-Science is simply to give kids the language to speak about their feelings and ideas. Since this kind of literacy is not a part of the larger society, children need this tool. Then, once they can talk about thoughts feelings, and actions — talk precisely and carefully — then we can move on to examine patterns and their effects — both positive and negative — so that we can make better — more thoughtful — choices. Really, this is the point of any learning. The goal is to have many good choices in any situation.


How to Teach Emotional Intelligence

We’ve now covered two of the three points I promised — and of course we’re almost out of time. But this last piece is so critical. Again, my final goal for today is to encourage you to become a catalyst and an advocate, a change agent, a driving force, a resource for teaching emotional intelligence.

I know that you are already on the road to filling this role. You have a better chance than most to create change, to provide the support network for teachers, for students — and for each other.

There are several key points I’d like you to walk away with, and my intention is that these will be tools for you to start the work we’ve talked about today.

  • EQ is critical and teachable.
  • EQ is central to success
  • To reach our human potential we need to connect to the 85% — to our ecosystem, to that portion of the iceberg beneath the surface.
  • Educators daily face society’s low EQ — counselors and teachers daily face the consequences of the lack of emotional intelligence in our society, so your work in intervention is nearly overwhelming.
  • Prevention is essential if we ware going to change the system.
  • You are the people to initiate, and sustain, prevention programs that teach basic emotional literacy.
  • Counseling will be more effective when emotional skills and tools are part of everyone’s regular education

I invite each of you to make a commitment to taking some action that will raise the level of social-emotional learning in your institutions.


Here are some possibilities:

  • Growth comes from small steps. Talk to one person, one colleague, one administrator, one teacher and initiate change.
  • Start a discussion group of peers.
  • Meet with a group of students to discuss how EQ can become a bigger part of their school.
  • Send a letter home.
  • Spend an hour on Six Seconds’ website.
  • Read some of the books listed in your handout.

I thank you again for the work you are doing to create a better future, and my team and I are here to support you.



This article first appeared on www.6seconds.org 9.30.99

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