Saturday, November 20, 2010
I've been thinking about this empathy deficit most of the week. The New York Times ran a piece recently on a program designed to prevent bullying in Canadian schools. As they headline put it, they're "fighting bullying with babies." Beginning with kindergarten classes, about once a month educators bring infants into the classroom for the kids to interact with. The kids are encouraged to see things from a baby's point of view. Basically, the program is nurturing empathy -- the ability to see life from another person's perspective and to understand what it feels like to be that person. The program apparently works -- schools that use it have seen a decrease in disruptive behavior, less bullying, and the kids just being generally nicer to each other. Now if we could only come up with a similar program for adults . . .
C-SPAN began the morning with an open phones segment that focused on extending unemployment insurance benefits. The latest extension is due to expire at the beginning of December, but the economy is still in the toilet. People are hurting. The jobs simply aren't out there. But is that reality sinking in with the people who still have an income? Of course not. Their own lives are still peaches and cream, so obviously the folks staring homelessness and hunger in the face are a bunch of useless slackers just trying to suck off the government teat. There seems to be an absolute inability to imagine themselves in a different situation, to be able to recognize that the fact they're secure today doesn't guarantee they're going to be equally secure tomorrow, and to consider what life might be like if someone jerked the rug out from under them.