Photos: Amie Bassett, Melissa Kirtley, Nicole Powers, Robert Welker

Welcome to Empathic Education: A Call To Arms


Photo/Video Credit: George C. Anderson Photography Inc.

American education is broken and no one knows how to fix it.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 has declared that the mark of an educated person is a number, a test score.

Our educational system, based on an agrarian calendar of 100 years ago, designed to produce highly competitive, emotionally detached worker bees, is hopelessly outdated. Our educational system is designed to send graduates out into the world to literally "beat the pants" off one another.

The term Empathic Education was first introduced by best-selling author and visionary, Jeremy Rifkin in his book, The Empathic Civilization. Rifkin further defined it in an article in the May, 2010 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Empathic Education is a belief that our schools must help children aspire to be collaborative and cooperative human beings who interact in a world where energy sources are diminishing, commerce has become global and the rise of social media has made our "neighbor" not just someone who lives down the block, but also across the globe.

What Empathic Education Is: Reflection and Immersion

Empathic Education is a system of education where empathy, the "walking in the shoes of others, " is taught through reflection and immersion. In Empathic Education, students read about empathy, they write about empathy, and they actually delve into the world of others and experience the joy and pain of people who are "not exactly like me."

Immersion can occur in many ways such as individual contact, through service learning, by creating empathic situation simulations or through the idea of teaching kids empathy by reaching them where they live...through immersion in video games.

Mirror Neurons: The Empathy Neuron

Empathic Education would only be a nice little idea, relegated to the backseat in educational reform, except for one vital factor.

Empathy is part of the makeup of the brain. Empathy can be taught.

Mirror Neurons, the empathy neurons are part of the soft wiring in the brain. This discovery was made about 20 years ago by a group of Italian neuroscientists in a laboratory in Parma, Italy. During those 20 years, mirror neurons have been applied to the education of autistic children.

Up until now, however, these empathy neurons have not been transferred to the educational system in general.

It is time.

Multiple Intelligence: The Backbone

Empathic Education is not the total answer in American education. But it is part of the answer.

The concept of Multiple Intelligence needs to become the backbone of the American educational system.

Multiple Intelligence takes into account the unique talents of all kids... not just their score on a standardized test. There are six areas of Multiple Intelligence: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, kinesthetic and personal. Empathic Education is part of personal intelligence component of Multiple Intelligence.

Together We Can

This country needs to look at educational system, sorely in need of not just a cosmetic makeover through testing, but in seeking the inner talent of every child, finding that talent and mining it like gold.

Again, welcome to Empathic Education: A Call To Arms.



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