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Teaching Empathy

 
 
Reply Wed 10 Jun, 2009 02:26 pm
Empathy and concentration are a couple of the most important skills to teach, I feel, since it is something that will be lacking with the desensitization and multitasking technology has brought us. But how does one go about stimulating empathy in the classroom? How do we teach, rather than educate, empathy. Is this the focus of current pedagogy? Obviously teaching empathy must be experiential, unless somebody has a miraculous rationalistic theory on how to do so. I am also wondering, are all people capable of empathy?

I just think this is going to be a huge problem in the near future so that is why I bring it up.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 2,317 • Replies: 27
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GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Jun, 2009 02:55 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Well you might could beat all the children one by one in the exact same way with everyone watching. That could effectivly teach empathy, or possibly something less effective but the same idea, manufacture some sort of senational experience for everyone to experience and witness others experience.
richrf
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Jun, 2009 04:26 pm
@GoshisDead,
Hi Holiday,

As you said, from my experience empathy is experiential. People learn it from their own lessons in life. Often I observe friends doing the same thing over and over (including myself), until the lesson is learned. Empathy is one of these lessons. Always empathizing can also get you into lots of woe, so learning to not empathize is another lesson I learned in life.

Rich
0 Replies
 
Elmud
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 03:34 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;68090 wrote:
Empathy and concentration are a couple of the most important skills to teach, I feel, since it is something that will be lacking with the desensitization and multitasking technology has brought us. But how does one go about stimulating empathy in the classroom? How do we teach, rather than educate, empathy. Is this the focus of current pedagogy? Obviously teaching empathy must be experiential, unless somebody has a miraculous rationalistic theory on how to do so. I am also wondering, are all people capable of empathy?

I just think this is going to be a huge problem in the near future so that is why I bring it up.
sometimes i wonder if empathy is something that we are either born with, or we are not. Dunno.
0 Replies
 
sarathustrah
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 03:58 pm
@Holiday20310401,
well i work in a preschool. mostly in the 4 year olds room but occasionally in the 3 year old room...

one day a little boy went in another boys cubby and took out his bag of m&m's he had for snack. he opened them and dumped them on the floor, making the other boy cry. he just laughed. when i asked what his mom would say if she were here he said she wouldnt care. so i changed my tone of voice (with little ones tone of voice is the only thing you ever need - as a professional caregiver striking a child or mentally abusing them is never ever ever even in the back of my mind) but yeah... i just changed my tone of voice and said "You are being a bully! how would you like if i ruined your snack and you couldnt have it no more! You should feel bad." and i gave him the harshest look i could. and it brought tears to his eyes. then all i had to say was "what should you say to _(him)_" ... he turned and said "sorry"

this teaching empathy and teamwork... sharing... concentration... politeness and tolerance... its an everyday thing for me... and its much easier than you think when you treat them like humans instead of dogs or circus animals getting trained. it takes alot of patience... much more patience than striking and calling it lesson learned. (the only thing that teaches is violence is a solution)

they love rhymes too... teamwork makes the dreamwork... 1 2 3 eyes on me! things like that... kids are very easy to inspire and influence... thing is most people dont exerpt that extra patience and get on there level... get right out silly with them... then they respect you... more than they respect people who simply try to force behavior and scare or impose authority upon them...
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 04:21 pm
@sarathustrah,
I envy your patience. Smile

But the problem is once these kids get older that trick no longer works, the "how would you feel" perspective only works if one is motivated to empathize in the first place. I've seen what happens. An older person looks at the comment and thinks to him/herself, how can I make myself look better than you.

See I don't know as your method does the trick. There are at least two possibilities in the scenario you presented. Raising your voice at the child with the outcome of crying could happen because

  1. child feels threatened
  2. remorse and sympathy towards the person being bullied

Which one is more likely though? The first one I think. And the first one only teaches empathy if the child makes that association between the 'threatened/inferiority' experience to the experience of another person being bullied.
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William
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 06:08 pm
@Holiday20310401,
IMO, there is not such thing as "teaching empathy". We all have it. It is the ego that prevents it from having an effect and rationalization is the mechanism that allows that to happen. To be un-empathetic, one must be blind to it or rationalize it for it is impossible to live with it for it is "woeful". Empathy shouldn't exist; neither it's twin, envy. The feed off each other and we are stuck in the middle. Subconsciously we are starving to be empathetic for it gives us a sense of well being as we rationalize "that could be me"; but of course I am wiser, smarter, saved, cautious, lucky, gifted, white, in control, etc, etc, etc.. See what I mean. Ever been driving down the road and all of a sudden traffic comes to a standstill only to find out there is a wreck and everyone slows down to witness it. We get a morbid satisfaction out of witnessness bad things happen to "other" people. It makes us feel safe somehow. That is the ego in high gear. Of course we need that to survive in this world. It is hard to be empathetic and those whom you have empathy for would just as soon not be the victim of your empathy. I can assure you of that. We can't hide from it no matter how hard we try because in the end we will all suffer as we slip down that slippery slope and find pleasure in a lesser pain as we witness those who have more pain than we. My God, what an existence. Empathy and envy have to go as we eliminate that which causes us to be empathetic or envious. We can do that. Rich is right, for his responsiblity is to his family and it seems he is answering to that responsiblity and his mechanism is rationalization as it is the case with most "successful people". I can't blame him for that, but he is efforting to educate others as am I. I lost my immediate family in a divorce because of the antics of the bigger family we are all a part of. They had more influence over my family than I did. Now when I witness that which makes me feel empathetic, I get angry and energize to do all I can to reach that bigger family I belong to who cause the situations that tend to make us feel sorry for and pity others in the first place. No one should have to suffer in this world. No one. And to my dying day I will do all I can to end that suffering. IMMHO.

William
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 07:34 pm
@William,
William, this is an interesting perspective, however I don't agree with all of it. To me, we are all isolated enough from each other, I don't really want to lose empathy. What would happen to poetry, narratives, wisdom???

What about justice, what about Socrate's famous quote. "if you know what is right you will do what is right". Without empathy, would we not revolve around moralizing to understand?? Is this quote meaningless now? What of empiricism?!

I agree there is too much suffering in this world. Those who suffer a lot, suffer A LOT, those who suffer little, suffer rarely.

I see what you mean though. If I say that I envy you for a certain quality, you are saying that I envy this quality since I don't have it and I don't actually want to have it.

I think it is very sad though that you'd say people would not want to be victims of another's empathy. From my point of view, that it to say there is no hope of any better connection with humanity than solace; that we'd prefer to be isolated people. "Just me and my ego here, me and my rationalism, that's all I need to keep me alive, that's all that matters, me me me. There is no humanity. Phft, we're all 'one' anyways".

When a poet writes, why does he/she write in the first place?

There are two ways we may view another's pain. Two approaches a person has towards the experience of another. One may rationally, emptily, logically understand what the other is going through, and then by default sympathize for the other for the simply sake of mutual gain. This is hollow though. This is the ego at work.

But then the other approach is empathy, the idea that one can experience and feel another's experience, whether it be pain or pleasure. Perhaps you are saying though that empathy isn't possible?
nameless
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 07:50 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;68090 wrote:
Empathy and concentration are a couple of the most important skills to teach,

One can, maybe, be taught to 'concentrate' on something, maybe (depending on the person's nature and Perspective).
But 'empathy' is not a 'skill' to learn. It is, as some might say, a spontaneous feature of 'spiritual advancement'.
It is in a 'selfless' context (egolessPerspective), that 'empathy' is most often found. Perhaps one can be 'taught/pointed' to a selfless ('path') context where, like 'enlightenment' or 'epiphany', 'empathy' either spontaneously occurs (why it cannot be a 'command performance') or not.

Bye the bye, 'empathy' is an at-one-ment with another person/Perspective!
'Both' are one, sharing the same 'feature' ('feeling', 'thought', etc...) No longer is there a state of 'division', me/you (me vs you), but a merging ("original state") of the apparent 'two' into the One.
We are 'self'.


'Empathy' can occur at any moment to any one, but it is a spontaneous event. One finds increased occurrences in a 'selfless context. Most 'spiritual paths' lead in this direction, and if followed successfully, find increased occurrences of 'empathy'.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:00 pm
@Holiday20310401,
I agree with William.

Empathy is hardwired into us. This is true intuitively, but it's clearly demonstrable in experimental circumstances. I remember one experiment in which they interviewed 4 year olds and gave them two questions. The first was something like "The teacher says it's ok to stay home from school today. Would it be ok to stay home?" They all said yes. The second was "The teach says that today you can hit other children in the class. Would it be ok to hit other children?" And they all (or mostly) said no. In other words, they know that there is something beyond rules dictated from on high that makes things right or wrong.

Empathy fundamentally is identifying with others. This can absolutely be cultivated, and the best way is to model it.
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:03 pm
@nameless,
I don't think spontaneous vs. gradual is a necessary way to look at this. If we can determine how empathy occurs then we can understand why some can and cannot empathize. It'd be really interesting to see if there is a neurological link to empathy, just thinking of what elmud said though.

Perhaps empathy comes from relating experiences and "maximizing our experience" helps in this. I'm sure there would be a correlation between those who read literature and those who empathize.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:05 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;71571 wrote:
It'd be really interesting to see if there is a neurological link to empathy, just thinking of what elmud said though.
There is. It's demonstrable in animals, too.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html
0 Replies
 
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:11 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;71569 wrote:
I agree with William.

Empathy is hardwired into us. This is true intuitively, but it's clearly demonstrable in experimental circumstances. I remember one experiment in which they interviewed 4 year olds and gave them two questions. The first was something like "The teacher says it's ok to stay home from school today. Would it be ok to stay home?" They all said yes. The second was "The teach says that today you can hit other children in the class. Would it be ok to hit other children?" And they all (or mostly) said no. In other words, they know that there is something beyond rules dictated from on high that makes things right or wrong.

Empathy fundamentally is identifying with others. This can absolutely be cultivated, and the best way is to model it.


This proves nothing. The children in this experiment realize that everyone has this 'privilege'. They want to be part of the norm as usual. They realize they would be hit as much as hitting others, and 4 year olds are peaceful, they don't want a fight just yet, because such youngsters hardly feel just yet. Ask a 4 year old whether they'd hit a guy with the permission and support of the teacher and everyone else around him (except the victim ofcourse).
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:15 pm
@Holiday20310401,
I don't agree with you -- if there is one thing 4 year olds do NOT understand, it's consequences. And if there is one thing they do understand, it's rules.

And I can tell you that my son even when he was under a year of age could tell when we were happy, sad, anxious, etc. It's ingrained in us to understand the emotions of others.
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:26 pm
@Aedes,
Oh come on. A 4 year old is going to get that if hit upon, they can hit back, and vice versa. There's bound to be a correlation to those who are hesitant to those who have brothers and/or sisters.

And if ingrained then where does it wander off to when they get older?
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:29 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Just because something is ingrained doesn't mean that it can't be overcome by other forces within us. Breathing is ingrained, but you can still hold your breath.

And if you're interested in the volume of cognitive science research that shows empathy among not only young humans but also nonhuman primates, start with the article I've linked and you'll find a whole lot more.
0 Replies
 
William
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 09:10 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;71556 wrote:
William,
I think it is very sad though that you'd say people would not want to be victims of another's empathy. From my point of view, that it to say there is no hope of any better connection with humanity than solace; that we'd prefer to be isolated people. "Just me and my ego here, me and my rationalism, that's all I need to keep me alive, that's all that matters, me me me. There is no humanity. Phft, we're all 'one' anyways".


Thank you for being so very honest. Empathy is so very sad. People don't want others to feel sorry for them or pity them. Would you? Holiday, there are many in this world who "use" pity and the heart of those who are compassionate, to make fortunes. Personally speaking I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me or pity me. I share a home with a man who is a quadraplegic and autistic. I don't pity him, I treat him like a human being. It is not my concern to try and console him for he gets dependent on that. That is to me condescending and I never go there. He has to make the best of what he has and I help him do that, but I ask first. That's all and he respects that. He is extremely intelligent in his own way and absolutely routine in all he does and gets extemely upset when that routine is interferred with. I have learned a lot from this man by observing him. When I offer my help, he abruply says no if he can possibly do it himself, so I have learned not to ask. When he needs help he comes to me and I cheerfully oblige. He lost his legs due to peripherial artery disease only four years ago. But you would think he had been in that wheel chair all his life. He gets around a hell of a lot better than I do, and faster. Ha. Yes, holiday we should by all means help people who "can't" help themselves. We must ask their permission to do so, not take on our own to ease our conscience, so to speak. That's insulting, IMO. Let me tell you about people. This gentleman goes out on the streets and highways and collects cans. He calls that his "job". He putters around in his motorized wheel chair with a standard size kitchen waste can on the front of it. He has developed quite a reputation in the area for complete strangers who care not to be recognize will come and leave the cans they have accumulated by the house and leave. You would think he would slack up at his job, but he doesn't. He has a job to do and he does it. Ha. Yes it is compassion, but it is anonymous compassion and he has no choice but to accept it. Ha. He would rather not, though. No one wants to be treated like a "victim". or "handicapped" or an "in-valid" (god I hate that word). Treat them humanely with respect and consideration and when they need our help, they will ask for it. If they can't then of course we have no choice. I promise you those we feel empathy for sure don't won't to be where they are. Feeling sorry for them only makes matters worse. I hope this helped in explaining what I meant. Smile
William

---------- Post added at 10:49 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:40 PM ----------

Aedes;71569 wrote:
I agree with William.

Empathy is hardwired into us. This is true intuitively, but it's clearly demonstrable in experimental circumstances. I remember one experiment in which they interviewed 4 year olds and gave them two questions. The first was something like "The teacher says it's ok to stay home from school today. Would it be ok to stay home?" They all said yes. The second was "The teach says that today you can hit other children in the class. Would it be ok to hit other children?" And they all (or mostly) said no. In other words, they know that there is something beyond rules dictated from on high that makes things right or wrong.

Empathy fundamentally is identifying with others. This can absolutely be cultivated, and the best way is to model it.


I agree to an extent. Modeling it is, I think impossible for we don't walk in their shoes or can imagine what they think. We can only help them from our perspective without delveing into theirs. IMO. And we need their permission to do that.

William
0 Replies
 
Caroline
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2009 01:03 am
@Holiday20310401,
The children said it it is wrong to hit another child because they are taught it is wrong, not necessarily because they understand it'll hurt the other child, they just know it's wrong. If you look at socio-paths who have no empathy at all which is why they can committ murder etc with no emapthy for the other person because at some point in their childhood they were never taught empathy, it's all about them. So i disagree with empathy being hardwired, it's something you're taught. A young child say a toddler has no idea that hitting another will hurt that person and so will hit them. I have been trained by a qaulifiied child/social worker that when a child grows into a psychopath it is because they were never taught to feel empathy which tells me that it's something you learn not something that is hardwired into you.
0 Replies
 
sarathustrah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2009 09:16 am
@Holiday20310401,
wait a minute... we're not putting pity into the definition of empathy are we? empathy is definitly not pity or feeling sorry for someone... thats sympathy.

empathy is if you watched a little kid on faces of death get theyre wrist cut off for stealing... you would pity them cause that seems like too harsh of a punishment... but EMPATHY is when you see it happening and can literally feel a tingling in youre wrist because your imagination is allowing you to empathize with what that kid is going through... not just emotionally, but the whole spectrum of the predicament.

empathy is always a good thing... its the do unto others as you would want done unto you thing. empathy is something to value! its understanding the effects of what you do, and stopping yourself if you know its gonna make someone else feel horrible.

please dont confuse it with sympathy... and pleeease understand its importance.
Elmud
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2009 03:36 pm
@sarathustrah,
sarathustrah;71750 wrote:
wait a minute... we're not putting pity into the definition of empathy are we? empathy is definitly not pity or feeling sorry for someone... thats sympathy.

empathy is if you watched a little kid on faces of death get theyre wrist cut off for stealing... you would pity them cause that seems like too harsh of a punishment... but EMPATHY is when you see it happening and can literally feel a tingling in youre wrist because your imagination is allowing you to empathize with what that kid is going through... not just emotionally, but the whole spectrum of the predicament.

empathy is always a good thing... its the do unto others as you would want done unto you thing. empathy is something to value! its understanding the effects of what you do, and stopping yourself if you know its gonna make someone else feel horrible.

please dont confuse it with sympathy... and pleeease understand its importance.
I always thought that it meant that you felt someone elses pain and suffering.
 

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