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jlai
08-05-2011, 02:42 AM
http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Should-We-Care-What/128420/

Interesting article. Personally, I think being able to see things from different perspectives logically as a different ability than being able to stand in someone's shoes emotionally or psychologically. For instance, I don't consider myself particularly empathetic, but I can see things from different perspectives, at least logically, because I was able to learn more than one language, become exposed to various cultures, etc.

Aussie Willy
08-05-2011, 03:19 AM
The article reminds me of a 25 year old here at work who was a nightmare for this. She only ever saw things from her perspective and had no ability to read other people, or if she did she didn't know how to regulate her behaviour so that situations didn't escalate. She would claim that no-one was right or wrong, that everyone's opinion was valuable but then wouldn't hesitate to tell you that you didn't know what you were talking about. She showed an absolute lack of respect for others, including our manager. Thank goodness she left the company because everyone found her the same.

I suppose what is being discussed in the article could be defined as the selfishness or sense of self-entitlement that so many people complain about with people of that age group these days.

jeffisjeff
08-05-2011, 03:30 AM
Odd, I find appeals to fairness to be the most successful response I have to requests for special treatment from my students. I generally find that students respect consistency and a desire to treat all students equally.

Prancer
08-05-2011, 03:57 AM
Before we ask what we should do about it, we first should ask whether this study should be considered evidence that something needs to be done.

You can find plenty of articles in newspapers and popular periodicals saying that students are more narcissitic and less empathetic than past generations. What you usually don't see is that there are studies that show that there has been no change at all in narcissism and empathy among young people and past generations, and some that argue that students are MORE empathetic than they used to be. But such studies do exist. They just aren't as popular.

For one very brief overview: http://money.msn.com/saving-money-tips/post.aspx?post=00000065-0000-0000-8303-1b0000000000&_blg=256

I think the evidence should be a little more definitive and clearcut (and not based on "I think it's totally true because it reflects my view of those darn kids") before we start doing something about what may or may not actually be a problem.

Personally, I think a whole lot of people lack empathy and it has nothing to do with age. I've never understood why such studies always focus on college students, aside from the fact that college students are readily available for research. I think there is plenty of evidence that people in general in Western societies aren't feeling particularly empathetic toward their fellow men at this point; that kind of happens when the economy is bad and there is a lot of insecurity and fear about the future.

But I don't think we should do anything about that without a pretty good evidence base, either, because what I think and what there is to know are two different things.

jlai
08-05-2011, 04:54 AM
You can find plenty of articles in newspapers and popular periodicals saying that students are more narcissitic and less empathetic than past generations. What you usually don't see is that there are studies that show that there has been no change at all in narcissism and empathy among young people and past generations, and some that argue that students are MORE empathetic than they used to be.

I think human nature has never changed, but circumstances and environment can accentuate or develop certain traits further. For instance, the emphasis on individualism in the US might have allowed people to carry certain qualities/habits to furthr extreme than what someone in collectivist societies might have done -- for good and bad. Or, wealthy societies might have encouraged consumer spending and "greed" in ways that poorer societies might not afford to -- not that people in poor countries aren't greedy.

I do think there's a lot of "look out for yourself" in the ways kids are brought up and not enough moral education. I confess I was taught by my family to look out for myself, but my schools did provide a good ethics education to counter that type of thinking. Of course, I can't say how effective moral or ethics education is in general.

Japanfan
08-05-2011, 05:12 AM
Personally, I think a whole lot of people lack empathy and it has nothing to do with age. I've never understood why such studies always focus on college students, aside from the fact that college students are readily available for research. I think there is plenty of evidence that people in general in Western societies aren't feeling particularly empathetic toward their fellow men at this point; that kind of happens when the economy is bad and there is a lot of insecurity and fear about the future.

I agree and doubt that students are less empathetic that previous generations of students. Part of the reason for this could be our cultural emphasis on individuality and competition. But I'm sure that empathy is more common among people living in collectivist cultures which put huge pressure on individuals to conform. I lived in Japan for several years and didn't not find the Japanese particularly empathetic. In fact, I found it lacking in certain respects. For example, there are many places in the world where a person will offer a helping hand to someone struggling to carry a parcel too heavy for them. I'll never forget my hour long treck up the many flights of stairs to get out of the airport when I first arrived. I had so much luggage that I had to keep going up and down to move it all in pieces. I was exhausted and kept having to rest on the stairs with all my baggage around me. Not one person offered to help me and I found that surprising because I would immediately offer to help a young woman in that sitatuion.

Matryeshka
08-05-2011, 05:51 AM
I do think there's a lot of "look out for yourself" in the ways kids are brought up and not enough moral education.

As an educator, I am *completely* against any kind of moral education. Morality is not a monolithic idea and is a complex mix of culture, religion, politics, geography, etc. People argue over the most basic things. Look at FSU threads about politeness, or that devolve into threads about politeness. Look at PI. :yikes: I wouldn't consider people that don't have the same beliefs as me to be immoral, but I wouldn't want them saying "this is how to be a moral, good person who will become a good, empathetic citizen."

I'm a wild-eyed atheist liberal. Do you think most Louisianians want teaching their kids morals? Absolutely not, and that's fine. Just like if I had kids, I would protest if a conservative devout teacher was in charge of their morals. In charge of their multiplication tables, fine. But not morality.

Views on empathy are not monolithic as well. In general, with people of all ages and backgrounds, it tends to be, if I need help and no one gives it, they lack empathy. If someone else needs help, that person needs to get off his/her lazy ass, because if I help him, what does he/she learn? Say there's a homeless man on the street who looks young, able-bodied, and not really dirty/unkept. Some would look at him and say the empathetic thing to do is to give him some money or buy him food. Others would say, he looks fine to me, and if I help him today, who will help him tomorrow? Since he looks able, better for him to go without as a catalyst for finding help and finding a job.

Not to pick on you Japanfan, and I'm not saying I agree with this but just to play devil's advocate, it can be construed as kind of self-serving to think that others should help you. If you can't handle the number of bags you packed, you should carry less bags. Other people have things to do and their time is equally valuable to yours. Why should anyone expect others to drop what they're doing, especially strangers, for them? Is it nice to do so, of course, but just because they don't doesn't necessarily imply rudeness. I've travelled and moved a lot, and I've never had the expectation that someone else should help me. It's nice when they do and it's appreciated, but I try to carry only what I can handle so I don't become someone else's problem.

I have my doubts about this study simply by the example given at the top. A student wheedling for a higher grade is not an example of empathy. It's an example of immaturity and not yet understanding consequences. Just because a kid argues about his/her grade does not mean the same kid isn't capable of helping a friend in need, volunteering, etc. This is not an uncommon trait of kiddies. IIRC, a me-me-me world view is if not common at least not uncommon till 25. It's also a common college view--I used to be an adjunct instructor. Most of my students were well into their 30s, and I had the same amount of whining about grades from them as I did from my middle school students. More, actually, because they had cars and phones and could track me down. :P

Haven't there also been many studies that say volunteerism among the youth is WAY up, and volutneering in general is also up?

MacMadame
08-05-2011, 05:52 AM
I can do a quick Google search and come up with 10 stories of young people doing extraordinary things for other people without breaking a sweat. I completely don't buy that this generation of youth are less empathetic than prior generations.

IceAlisa
08-05-2011, 06:45 AM
I stopped reading when the article put Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman in the same sentence.

bardtoob
08-05-2011, 07:04 AM
Children spend less time with there parents learning social cues, less time with their peers learning social cues, and more time with highly customizable technology. Of course they are less empathetic, they spend more time getting their way more than ever before.

Civic
08-05-2011, 07:05 AM
I stopped reading when the article put Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman in the same sentence.

:lol:

Tinami Amori
08-05-2011, 08:03 AM
I stopped reading when the article put Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman in the same sentence.

I almost stopped reading in the very beginning when the author used the story of a student arguing for a better grade to demonstrate Lack of Empathy in Young People. The Grade Story is a classic introduction to articles on Sense of Entitlement in Young People…. :D


For instance, the emphasis on individualism in the US might have allowed people to carry certain qualities/habits to furthr extreme than what someone in collectivist societies might have done -- for good and bad.

- In “collectivist societies” people stick together out of need and fear, because most collectivist societies are totalitarian, and the system is enforced.
- In “developing societies” people are often forced to share because of shortages and lack of resources...
- In “lawless societies” people must keep many friends and know people to barter sympathies, goods and services.
- In “old rural societies” people gather in town square at night because there is no electricity in the houses.
- In “Nordic societies” people cuddle together because it’s cold….. etc……. :lol:

In Western Society people are able to obtain one of the most desired states of existence for most individuals: autonomy in every aspect of one’s life.

- A man does not have to take a wife so that she cooks and cleans for him – there is Whole Foods Market, Costco and 1-button washer-and-dryer.

- A woman does not have to take a husband to protect her and fix her roof – there are many services for hire, and a Glock is sold at a gun shop.

- A neighbor does not have to listen to your sob-story for hours about a Bad Boyfriend just because you work in a meat market and have access to meat. She can buy her own meat in 25 competing stores in her neighborhood.

Just because many people from the Old World come from an atmosphere of emotional abuse, private space infringement, enmeshment, and all other negatives which force people to sit on top of each others’ heads and minds, does not make them more compassionate. It makes them “damaged goods”.

Autonomous and self-sufficient individuals when showing care and compassion are likely to do so for the right reason, and for sake of “real care and compassion” rather than practical considerations.

The myth of Poor but Happy Dancing Peasants and Sweet Pastorale was invented by Marie Antoinette who never left the grounds of Versailles.

Prancer
08-05-2011, 11:03 AM
I have my doubts about this study simply by the example given at the top. A student wheedling for a higher grade is not an example of empathy.


I almost stopped reading in the very beginning when the author used the story of a student arguing for a better grade to demonstrate Lack of Empathy in Young People. The Grade Story is a classic introduction to articles on Sense of Entitlement in Young People

I think the part of the anecdote that was supposed to illustrate lack of empathy was not the grade grubbing, but rather this:

"But," the professor counters, "think of the students who worked hard all semester to read, take notes, and study, and who sacrificed time from other important activities to earn good grades. Don't we need to take them into account and be fair to everyone?"

The student may agree that he doesn't want to be unfair, but he remains convinced that he deserves a higher grade.

The student lacks empathy not because he is grubbing for a better grade, but because he does not look at his request from the POV of his peers when the professor appeals to his sense of fairness.

It's still not a good example.


Children spend less time with there parents learning social cues, less time with their peers learning social cues, and more time with highly customizable technology. Of course they are less empathetic, they spend more time getting their way more than ever before.

I don't know what they are learning, but children actually spend more time with their parents now than they did in the past (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/surprisingly-family-time-has-grown/). I have no idea if children spend less time with their peers than they used to. Interesting question. Of course they spend more time with technology; there wasn't much technology to spend time with in 1980.

And again, it has not been established that young people are less empathetic than they used to be--or that this is actually a problem if it is in fact true. How empathetic should someone be and how can that be quantified? Did college students in 1980 achieve some sort of perfect state of empathy that can rightly serve as the yardstick for all who follow? Having been there and done that, I'd say no, but again--I have no evidence. Does anyone?

Aceon6
08-05-2011, 03:02 PM
The student lacks empathy not because he is grubbing for a better grade, but because he does not look at his request from the POV of his peers when the professor appeals to his sense of fairness.
It's still not a good example.

Agree. I read that as an example of selfishness, not an example of lack of empathy. The two aren't the same.

For me, empathy is the ability to properly process things from another person's perspective. It starts with "If I was in Mrs. X shoes..." and goes from there. It's not a moral thing, it's a skill and I think it needs to be taught.

gkelly
08-05-2011, 04:08 PM
As an educator, I am *completely* against any kind of moral education. Morality is not a monolithic idea and is a complex mix of culture, religion, politics, geography, etc. People argue over the most basic things.

Agreed.

I think there are contexts in which it would be valuable for educators to prompt students to consider moral issues and the implications of various kinds of choices, but I don't think it's appropriate to instruct them on what choices to make or what values to hold. Except for broad areas of obeying laws or school rules.

But by secondary school they should be able to distinguish between the value of rules to maintaining an orderly society vs. the value of any specific rule, and appreciate a set of rules for changing those rules that have lost their value. :)


Haven't there also been many studies that say volunteerism among the youth is WAY up, and volutneering in general is also up?

Do these studies take into account more schools requiring and/or giving credit to community service hours than was the case in previous eras?

And does that count as teaching morality?