An impromptu discussion with my young students this week on the topic of empathy found a connection my head with the Equity Unbound project. I am not sure quite yet how those pieces fit, but they do. Maybe it is because empathy for others allows one to make change for better equity for all. And empathy is an upcoming discussion theme and thread for Equity Unbound.
Empathy, as defined at Wikipedia, is:
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
The comic above captures some of the thoughts of my 11 year old students as we discussed what empathy is and why the world might be a better place if more people showed deeper empathy. (I’m looking at you, Trump).
I was thrown off a bit by this response by Ruth.
On the other hand, sadist and torturers are said to be quite empathetic. They can appreciate how much their victims suffer. https://t.co/Pa7zqugDJY
— Ruth Joy (@RuthJoy96960173) September 22, 2018
But I responded:
That’s one way to think about it, I guess. I’d prefer the optimistic approach … that, for most of us, learning to be attuned to others is a good thing. #unboundeq
— KevinHodgson (@dogtrax) September 22, 2018
And Terry added:
I might add that there can be no deep communication in writing without empathy. Most writing fails at this important point because we just can’t imagine our audience’s needs. We cannot empathize with their position as reader. #unboundeq
— Terry Elliott (@telliowkuwp) September 23, 2018
The last panel of the comic is interesting in light of Equity Unbound (which is an online dispersed course with university students and professors from around the world mixed with a bunch of open participants like me), and the topic of how some digital spaces may work to discourage empathy is something my students and I will explore more in a few weeks during our Digital Lives unit. But the fact that it was so prevalent in the discussion with young people is both alarming and perhaps a door open for exploration.
Peace (may it come to you),