Can empathy help bridge the divides that fracture us as a nation and world?
In this Text to Text, Jennifer Finney Boylan’s personal essay “Bring Moral Imagination Back in Style” and Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed “How Do We Increase Empathy? Both pieces acknowledge that while learning to feel empathy may be challenging, it is a skill worth nurturing.
Nicholas Kristof writes his column out of frustration.
He is upset about what he calls “one of this country’s fundamental problems” — an empathy gap — and he sets out to describe what researchers know about empathy and how to nurture it. Kristof writes about his friend, Kevin Green, ”a warm and helpful man who floundered in a tough job market, hurt his back and died at the age of 54.” The column was a call for empathy for those who are struggling, but, predictably, scolds complained that Kevin’s problems were of his own making. Activity Sheets: As students read and discuss, they might take notes using one or more of the three graphic organizers (PDFs) we have created for our Text to Text feature:• Comparing Two or More Texts• Double-Entry Chart for Close Reading• Document Analysis Questions_________Text 1: Excerpt from “Bring Moral Imagination Back in Style,” Jennifer Finney Boylan, The New York Times, July 22, 2016I came back from the beach one day to find my grandmother and her nearly deaf friend Hilda playing gin and drinking vodka.
Researchers have found that reading literary fiction by the likes of Don De Lillo or Alice Munro — but not beach fiction or nonfiction — can promote empathy.
I used to be cynical about student service projects, partly because they seemed so often to be about dressing up a college application, and trips so often involve countries with great beaches. ) Then there was The Washington Post’s report about the Mexican church that was painted six times over the course of a summer by successive waves of visitors.
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This piece picks up where an earlier Op-Ed, “Where’s the Empathy? It makes him ask the question, “So what do we know about empathy and how to nurture it? “She’s Not There,” by the Zombies, was playing on the radio. Not long ago I was searing a steak in my apartment when the place filled with smoke and the fire alarm went off. I had to do this about a half-dozen times before the thing stayed off, and each time I climbed up, my ears — already damaged from a lifetime of playing in rock ’n’ roll bands — were less than two feet from the piercing alarm.
”By pairing these two texts, we encourage students to think about what responsibility people have to try to empathize with others different from themselves, and how it may — or may not — help make the world a better place._________Key Questions• What responsibility do we have to try to empathize with others who are different from us? This was a little strange.“Why is Hilda listening to WFIL? “She thinks it’s classical.”I’ve told this story lots of times since it happened, back in 1968. When the noise finally stopped, my hearing was “traumatized,” as the otolaryngologist later described it. Now I keep thinking about Hilda, whose handicap struck me more as the stuff of comedy than of compassion.