How do we teach “empathy”? It’s a fair question, followed up with, “How do we have the time to teach something like ‘empathy’ in our academically rigorous classes?” Often bundled up and pushed aside as non-compulsory “character education”,
However, the science shows there is nothing further from the truth. In fact, an empathic school is a smarter school.
Multiple studies have now shown a strong correlation between student empathy and academic achievement. Vicki Zakrzewski, Education Director at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, notes,
- Scientific research is starting to show that there is a very strong relationship between social-emotional learning and cognitive development and performance.”
- In fact, “Children as young as 18 months exhibit compassion, empathy, altruism, so these characteristics are part of who we are. But, at the same time, these skills have to be cultivated, because the environment can inhibit their development.”
And the numbers say empathy is currently on the decline, which could put our students at a notable disadvantage. A study, done by Dr. William Axinn of the Populations Study Center shows that the average level of “empathic concern” declined by 48% between 1979 and 2009, with a particularly large decline between 2000 and 2009. The authors suggest that the decline might be due to a number of factors, including the rise of narcissism in youth.