Empathy Matters. It Matters a Whole Lot.

I recently got into a rather sad 140 character twitter discussion about teaching social justice in the social studies classroom. This particular coach was adamant that it was not my job, nor his, nor any teacher’s job to teach social justice or empathy in our classrooms. He argued that we are to remain neutral and unbiased and there was no way to maintain that transparency in the classroom if we taught about social justice, empathy, tolerance, social awareness, respect, etc. There came a point in the conversation that this coach and myself were not ever going to see eye to eye no matter what angle I tried. I say all of this to urge you to read the article posted below with this social justice rant. We cannot be neutral on a moving train. Empathy, awareness and social justice are not only important to teach, they are necessary to functioning in our society and living well. We should be promoting these things in every classroom, on every level so that hopefully one day we will have a world full  of aware, empathetic, creative thinkers and doers…not apathetic, ignorant judgers. I mean come on, even FORBES gets it.
“The capacity for empathy builds the socio-economic potential for individuals, and, further, likely holds the key for the success of business in the 21st century. Empathy isn’t just about hugs and pats on the back. It is a skill that can make young people more productive in work environments that require cooperation and in a global economy that becomes more complex with each passing day. It is what turns them into future leaders.”





5 thoughts on “Empathy Matters. It Matters a Whole Lot.

  1. If those who cared about me didn’t teach me about empathy, I don’t think I would be the "empathetic person" I am today. Even though I don’t know the other person’s rationale behind "thinking", empathy and social justice should not be taught, I must still say… for me, it is a little confusing for one to think that a subject or subjects of this sort should not be brought up and/or dialogued about?!?!?! If we don’t teach people who aren’t quite there yet(in their thinking that is), how will they ever move from a level of ignorance (no pun intended–just meaning lack of knowledge)? Even though I really don’t want to go here, but….Could this idea of leaving the "unknowing" not knowing, really be the point…Is there some underlying plan going on that relays the message… in many cases we really don’t want people to be AWARE of certain things/topics??? I’m probably about to get "in to deep" on this topic, but I did want to share my above mentioned thoughts. Side note to Beth…Check out my bio page on our school’s website. I actually mention how I became the "empathetic person" that I am today. Keep teaching what you believe to be best for students/young adults/human beings. ~K

  2. As a former teacher, I get the fears of indoctrination..but you are modeling being an ethical adult as well as giving them info they will need..the action to take is there..anyways I deal with this x10 as a parent now! or maybe just in a more one on one focus fashion.

  3. Learning is about speaking the truth as you understand it. If others have a different view it is their responsibility to speak up. Isn’t this what we want kids to know.

  4. Empathy – the ability to place yourself into the feelings or spirit of others. As a teacher of young children, this is a necessary skill and, in my opinion, a key trait to encourage in children.Children are born egocentric. The world revolves around their needs. As they grow, they start the journey to the realisation their wants and needs are not alone. They are part of a social fabric. Along their journey, they need guidance if they are to develop empathy.I didn’t set out to teach empathy in any formal sense but it was most definitely part of my student’s learning. I taught by example and by reinforcing empathic behaviour of the children. Empathy is not like math or English. It directly influences the way a child interacts with others.Not teach social justice, empathy, tolerance, social awareness, respect, etc… it’s a fundamental role of any dealing in the development of children to consider their social development.Your discussion was with a coach? Did he teach good sportsmanship? What about being part of a team? …and striving to beat your personal best? These are also skills important in being part of society. A team couldn’t function without these. Perhaps the coach is teaching more than he realises. ☺@RossMannellTeacher (retired), N.S.W., Australia

  5. I agree that it is vital to our society that we teach empathy to our students. Not only will empathy help strengthen interpersonal skills in the educational, personal, and employment realm, but it redirects students’ attention from their own lives to the lives of those around them or even total strangers. How do you suggest empathy be taught? Explicitly or through modeling or the study of past events? I don’t know how we can be completely neutral when discussing any topic that has to do with human beings, both past and present. I think it’s possible to teach empathy while still allowing students to follow their own beliefs and values. The Chicago school program, OneGoal, cited by Townsend (2012), in his article, “Why we should teach empathy to improve education (and test scores),” sounds intriguing. The incorporation of social emotional skills within the general curriculum does not seem feasible with the high emphasis placed on standardized tests and concrete academic tasks. However, the OneGoal and Changing World programs both seem show that the social emotional skills enhance students’ learning and performance. Townsend, J. C. (2012, September 26). Why we should teach empathy to improve education (and test scores). In Entrepreneurs. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2012/09/26/why-we-should-teach-empathy-to-improve-education-and-test-scores/. (This response is part of a graduate course requirement)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s