Earlier this week the New York Times reported on a new program that teaches empathy to middle school students as a way to prevent violence and bullying. Imagine the possibilities if everyone practiced just a little more empathy in their lives and at work.
Gossip Girls and Boys Get Lessons in Empathy
By Winnie Hu
SCARSDALE, N.Y. — The privileged teenagers at Scarsdale Middle School are learning to be nicer this year, whether they like it or not.
English classes discuss whether Friar Laurence was empathetic to Romeo and Juliet. Research projects involve interviews with octogenarians and a survey of local wheelchair ramps to help students identify with the elderly and the disabled. A new club invites students to share snacks and board games after school with four autistic classmates who are in separate classes during the day.
And to combat feelings of exclusion, the Parent Teacher Association is trying to curtail a longstanding tradition of seventh graders and eighth graders showing up en masse Monday morning wearing the personalized sweatshirts handed out to the popular crowd at the weekend’s bar or bat mitzvahs.
The emphasis on empathy here and in schools nationwide is the latest front in a decade-long campaign against bullying and violence. Many urban districts have found empathy workshops and curriculums help curb fighting and other misbehavior. In Scarsdale, a wealthy, high-performing district with few discipline problems to start with, educators see the lessons as grooming children to be better citizens and leaders by making them think twice before engaging in the name-calling, gossip and other forms of social humiliation that usually go unpunished.