The Value of Empathy

In Alan November’s book Who Owns the Learning?, November digs into thinking about students as global communicators and collaborators. He taps various experts and their thinking to better understand the path forward; the information triangulates back to a powerful point –  learning empathy.

“Americans are often inexperienced in valuing other culture’s perspectives. Top global talent must understand and value other peoples’ points of view. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans think, ‘If the world doesn’t look like us, it’s broken.” (p 65, November)

Does that statement, made by the CEO of one of the world’s largest banks, surprise you? Do you feel defensive? What do we need to think about and what is this comment telling us about what skills and attitudes we are fostering with our students? What are the opportunities to shift and change what students experience?

The writing is on the wall. We are a global world and no amount of looking after only number 1 is going to change the fact that we exist in an diverse and multi-view community. In fact, a great opportunity is at hand! Never before have we been so clearly able to see the angst, fear and worry that a lack of understanding and empathy brings. It is time to empower and guide student thinking, as the future leaders of our world, toward developing empathy and inclusive collaborative leadership. Whether we are thinking about our advisory program, daily classroom outcomes or a new student leadership model, it is time to begin working together, listening to understand and finding common ground to forge the best path forward. it is time to value empathy for what it is: a foundational pillar of the present and future.

November, A. C. (2012). Who owns the learning?: preparing students for success in the digital age. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.


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