CATHERINE CADDEN knows what it takes to change the world – willingness to make empathic connection the basis of our actions. Since 1987, she worked in U.S. public schools, Montessori, and Waldorf classrooms, witnessing firsthand the devastating effects of the educational system, both mainstream and ‘alternative’: racism, materialism, apathy, alienation, and violence. She watched the nurse’s office go from being a place that children went to for empathy and to lay down with a headache to becoming the pharmacy where they went to for their daily dose of Ritalin and other psychotropic medications.
In 1997, Catherine walked out of the known systems of education. Inspired by writings of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she opened the doors of TEMBA, a K–8 academic school founded on empathy, self-responsibility, and the tenets of nonviolence. To address everyday challenges, she eschewed the advice of armchair educational theorists, instead seeking advice directly from expert peacemakers: H.H. the Dalai Lama, Jack Kornfield, and Marshall Rosenberg. In its eleven years of operation as a true multi-age, multi- race, and multi-class classroom, TEMBA became a beacon of hope for the communities that it served, a place where parents, students and teachers thrived. TEMBA graduates went on to become leaders in their high schools and colleges, initiating outdoor education programs, creating coalitions between youth and police, and resolving peer conflicts – all while making “four-point-oh” grade point averages within “the system”.
Catherine’s “peaceable revolution” didn’t stop at the classroom. In 2007, concerned about the rising tide of violence in Afghanistan, she led a grassroots project to bring Nonviolent Communication training and gifts from TEMBA students to sixty-four Afghan men, women, and children. Deeply affected by the grief she witnessed while in Afghanistan and the power of Nonviolent Communication to offer healing, Catherine organized the first International Day for Empathic Action on October 2nd, 2009, sparking hundreds of events in eleven countries across six continents, including a twenty-four-hour global empathy hotline in four languages.
Today, Catherine is putting the inspiration and practical knowledge for creating a safer, more joyful, and peaceful society into the hands of people worldwide through speaking engagements, workshops and her book, Peaceable Revolution Through Education. Further information about her work can be found online at zenvc.org.