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“If we could change ourselves,” we can change the world: Empathy & the Possibilities for Transformative Education

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Our education system emphasizes a set of narratives that promotes profits and power over human needs. A number of scholars, including but not limited James Baldwin, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Henry Giroux, Paulo Freire, bell Hooks, Martha Nussbaum and Raymond Williams all seem to agree on this point. One might say that we educate to serve some particular societal desire to gain or maintain power over others, and that we do so at the expense of finding agency with others, of seeing our own humanity in others. This educational paradigm produces, alienation, othering, and stratification that increasing poses a threat to the human species and other living things. An alternative equality paradigm, one that recognizes our interdependence, our connectivity, and our need for empathy and cooperation with others may allow for a new sense of genuine sense of belonging, where students and humanity as a whole might thrive and flourish, confronting humanity’s urgent challenges and allowing for personal and social transformation on a global scale. Using a sociohistorical, explorative approach, I analyze contemporary practices of education, especially in the United States, with a specific focus on the question of the Other, that is arguably needed if we are to transform education in ways that promoted cooperation and the common good. Specifically, I explore: What can we do pedagogically and more generally to help compassion and empathy become integral to our ways of interacting socially, in ways that allow us to create a better future for students and for all of humanity.

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“If we could change ourselves,” we can change the world: Empathy & the Possibilities for Transformative Education

Our education system emphasizes a set of narratives that promotes profits and power over human needs. A number of scholars, including but not limited James Baldwin, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Henry Giroux, Paulo Freire, bell Hooks, Martha Nussbaum and Raymond Williams all seem to agree on this point. One might say that we educate to serve some particular societal desire to gain or maintain power over others, and that we do so at the expense of finding agency with others, of seeing our own humanity in others. This educational paradigm produces, alienation, othering, and stratification that increasing poses a threat to the human species and other living things. An alternative equality paradigm, one that recognizes our interdependence, our connectivity, and our need for empathy and cooperation with others may allow for a new sense of genuine sense of belonging, where students and humanity as a whole might thrive and flourish, confronting humanity’s urgent challenges and allowing for personal and social transformation on a global scale. Using a sociohistorical, explorative approach, I analyze contemporary practices of education, especially in the United States, with a specific focus on the question of the Other, that is arguably needed if we are to transform education in ways that promoted cooperation and the common good. Specifically, I explore: What can we do pedagogically and more generally to help compassion and empathy become integral to our ways of interacting socially, in ways that allow us to create a better future for students and for all of humanity.