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“It’s Not My Problem”: Overcoming Apathy with Empathy

“Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.”

In 2014, Anita Nowak opened her talk on Empathic Action at TEDx Montreal Women with this description:

Imagine you look up at a mountain and begin to see a slow moving avalanche.

Like in animation, snowflakes begin yelling back and forth as they tumble down the mountain, screaming at each other over the roar:  “This is not my fault,” they tell each other.

How more visual can you get in describing a common attitude in the world today: “It is not my problem.”

As an educator, I am constantly combing the literature for research on new and better educational methods that ‘teach’ attitudes.  In a recent article, I read that the curriculum should change from the usual math, science and literature.  This prepares the student to continue studying other subjects, but does not prepare the student to face the world as it is.

[E]ducation needs to move beyond passing on or creating “content” and beyond even “problem-based learning” to Accomplishment-Based Education, where the students spend the bulk of their time and efforts, starting in the earliest grades, solving real-world problems.

This new learning begins with the ability to empathize.  Anita Nowak, who teaches in the Master of Social Impact at Claremont Lincoln University, believes that empathy is the most positively disruptive force on the planet — but only when it leads to Empathic Action.

She states,“If we engage in more empathetic action, it forces us to confront social injustice as a participant.”

With empathetic action, it forces us to confront social injustice as a participant. Click To Tweet

As an example of empathic action, take a look at Acumen.

Acumen recently held an online course on The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Stories Beyond the Headlines.  The students in the course, from all over the world, were asked to write a welcome message to the refugees.  Take a look at the powerful words and compassion that was expressed:

At Claremont Lincoln, we believe that in order to affect change, one must first understand oneself in order to cultivate compassion.

This ability to feel compassion will open you to facilitate a shared understanding of one another, and, as Anita Nowak says, to engage in more empathetic action.

Join Nowak’s Facebook page and listen to her TEDx talk on empathic action now:

Anita Leffel

Anita Leffel

Dr. Anita Leffel is the Dean of the Social Impact program at Claremont Lincoln University. She received her Ph.D. in educational human resource development at Texas A&M and a master's in education from the University of Houston. Dr. Leffel received the Acton Foundation for Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Entrepreneurship Education in 2007.

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Anita Leffel

Anita Leffel

Dr. Anita Leffel is the Dean of the Social Impact program at Claremont Lincoln University. She received her Ph.D. in educational human resource development at Texas A&M and a master's in education from the University of Houston. Dr. Leffel received the Acton Foundation for Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Entrepreneurship Education in 2007.