I have been teaching high school for 20 years and trying to teach empathy to teenagers can be like moving mountains. Recently, however, it is becoming an impossible task. Why? Earbuds.
Students are human and don’t like to listen to things that make them uncomfortable and are not aligned to their own beliefs. In my day and age, the parental response was, “Too bad.” Today, students simply put in their earbuds, and every conversation that they don’t like is muted.
Why does this matter (other than it’s difficult to learn if you can’t hear the teacher)? Because the earbud-escape does not force students to listen to others’ opinions, ideas, perspectives, and beliefs; does not force students to see issues from multiple angles; and creates an even more myopic view of the world than they already have.
And what follows is a complete lack of empathy or concern for others.
This isolation also facilitates and reinforces a belief that “it must be someone else’s fault”; a belief that we are all guilty of.
Let’s just agree to share the guilt and collectively work on the solution.
Let’s teach our children the respect due to all human beings, regardless of any differences.
And let’s teach our children to take the earbuds out and learn to listen and care about other’s beliefs, ideas, values, struggles, victories, interests, and perspectives that differ from their own, and then maybe we have a chance of moving those mountains.
Flower Mound, TX