Empathy + Empowerment [Culture 101]

Empathy doesn’t just make us nicer, it makes us better problem solvers (and incidentally more employable). This is your classic win-win, a reason to be optimistic about the future. Economics aligning with morality? Yes please. Want that. But we need to do some work to get it. So as we listen to Brene Brown explain the process of developing empathy, we should think about traditional schooling.

The twelve to sixteen year battery of testing to prove that we’re smart enough creates a fear of vulnerability and inhibits empathy.

Worse, when the purpose of education is a competition for academic success, the humans who aren’t successful academics look like failures. This explains why numbers of emergency psychiatric hospital visits increase among children so dramatically during the school year.

But when the purpose of education is to pursue individual purposes, they look like humans successful at nonacademic purposes. And with social freedom, we can even process stress positively. Kelly McGonigal explains how:

By now you get it; our current education system was designed for an industrial economy. We can frame this optimistically as a necessary evil to reach today’s information economy, which can return to us freedom that has been sacrificed in the name of past economic conditions. Freedom makes humans happy, and happy brains function better. Shawn Achor with the science:

When we listen to the science and endorse freedom to pursue human purpose as the ultimate source of human motivation, we create optimal conditions to promote a psychologically healthier population of empathetic, empowered humans. There’s untapped potential for human happiness out there. So let’s tap that.

Redesigning institutions is remarkably easier than trying to cultivate empathy within institutions that undermine empathy. For example, when we stop segregating students by age and allow for autonomous social interactions, they magically become more empathetic. Okay, it’s not magic. It’s basic psychology. But it sure seems like magic.

Speaking of freedom and happiness, traditional schooling is the most antidemocratic institution in this country. This problem illustrates how 96% of a congress with a 14% approval rating got re-elected. Once our education system conditions an entire generation to practice democracy, humans will be able to employ the power of social technology where social accountability has been wholly disregarded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *