Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Can Empathy Be Taught?

A Midwestern university questioned whether "Empathy can be taught?" in an "Empathy Experiment" where students took their in-school education to the real world through volunteering projects. The study argues that teaching empathy is a key aspect of a student's education, especially with the rise of social media tools and narcissism among youth. A University of Michigan psychologist found that empathy in today's college students declined 40 percent compared with peers 20 to 30 years ago. 

That statistic doesn't surprise me since social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook encourage their users to be selfish. Keep updating your status because all of your "friends" care about what you are doing every second of the day! 

In terms of the research question about empathy, I think students in a classroom can learn how to be kind and considerate, but there needs to be more to "empathy education" than completing one "good" act. There needs to be the reflection piece where students question the implications of their actions. I think this is necessary because often when students are asked to do service, they don't get anything out of it besides a signed piece of paper and a wasted afternoon. I think it is also important to question how much it is possible to understand what another person is going through. Maybe we should just strive to do our best and be considerate of others instead of attempting to "understand" them or walk a mile in their shoes. 

I think I'm still wondering if it is possible for every person to get over their own insecurities and problems and truly care about another person. Is that something we acquire with age and life experiences?


1 comment:

  1. I think you are onto something, especially the thought regarding reflection. Reflection requires a person to USE their brain. So much of "experience" nowadays is "passive" and presented electronically ... not to mention, when children are told WHAT to do and not to do, but aren't given reasons or helped to figure out reasons ... and sometimes, the "personal responsibility" model goes too far; sure, people are often the authors of their own misfortunes, but not always ... takes some critical thinking skills to question situations and draw conclusions that aren't "surface" obvious.