A New Way Of Looking At Empathy
And one more look at teaching empathy, this one from an article in the Christian Science Monitor:
“The leadership at a prestigious school in China, Peking University High School, is focusing on a skill its educators believe is the key to success in the 21st century. Not calculus, not computer programming, not filling in little ovals; this forward-thinking institution emphasizes teaching empathy.
‘There’s convincing scientific, psychological, pedagogical, and anecdotal data to suggest that children are naturally empathic, and learn best through collaborating with each other, and at their own speed,’ explained deputy principal Xueqin Jiang.
Xueqin actually sees empathy as the missing ingredient in China’s educational system, and one that is absolutely critical to his students’ future success in a rapidly changing, globalizing economy.
“There’s a consensus that the Chinese system doesn’t work,” Xueqin said. “One question the Chinese like to ask is, ‘Why does China not produce any Nobel Prize winners in the sciences? Why doesn’t China produce innovative entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates?’ And I think that the key here is empathy.”
‘Empathy is the basis for collaboration, as well as communication and creativity,’ he explained.
This is an important way of looking at empathy—as a teachable, fundamental skill, without which innovation, collaboration, and creativity cannot happen. Empathy is more than just awareness and concern. It’s about cultural sensitivity and conflict resolution.
In a world in which more and more people are able to—and are—demanding to have input into products, services, institutions, and systems, the most successful adults are those who can embrace this fluid new world, work with changing teams of collaborators, and see solutions rooted in the needs of others.” Read more here.
This is a wonderful elaboration of our understanding of empathy. We often think of it only in the context of personal relationships—the capacity that allows us to comfort a friend who’s upset, for example. But empathy is also essential in the work world, in the intellectual and creative world—it makes things happen.