Education = Empathy
“I always struggled with why we never learned how to deal with a broken heart in school, why we had detention instead of meditation. I never understood the mold itself.”
WHAT WOULD BE BEST ABOUT EDUCATION IS IF IT WOULD E NABLE US TO UNDERSTAND WHY SOMEONE ELSE DISAGREES WITH US JANE ADAMS — SYMPATHETIC IMAGINATION THAT STRIVES TO UDNERSATND HOW SOMENE ELSE CAN BE RIGHT, LEADING TO COOPERATION.
“Education, from Addams' perspective, must not merely make us more adept at defending ourselves against those with different agendas. Education should increase our powers of empathy and our ability to act in concert with others.”
(18) (Required) Quotables: Identify one of your favorite quotes from the theorists we’ve studied and explain the meaning and significance of the quote. Why is it one of your favorites? Why is it memorable? In your discussion, be sure to identify the publication (including all citation information). But your real purpose is in establishing (or convincing your reader of) the importance of the quote in context of the theorist’s contributions.
One of my very favorite quotes from a theorist we studied this semester is from Jane Addams. In Democracy and Social Ethics, Addams writes:
“We have learned as common knowledge that much of the insensibility and hardness of the world is due to the lack of imagination which prevents a realization of the experiences of other people…We know…that if we grow contemptuous of our fellows, and consciously limit our intercourse to certain kinds of people whom we have previously decided to respect, we not only tremendously circumscribe our range of life, but limit the scope of our ethics. …Thus, the identification with the common lot which is the essential idea of Democracy becomes the source and expression of social ethics” (1902/1998:95-96).
I absolutely love this quote from Addams, and I think it is a fabulous representation of her concept of social ethics. To me, this quote means that we lack the ability to be sympathetic with others, and to imagine ourselves in other people’s positions. I love that she says that if we become hostile to those around us, and only associate with those whom we already admire and enjoy, we will “circumscribe our range of life” and “limit the scope of our ethics.” I love that she is making a call for human beings to interact with human beings of all kinds, and to be sympathetic, and to not limit themselves by only associating with people they deem ‘worthy’ or ‘respectable.’ I love that she calls all people to identify themselves with the “common lot.” In her social ethics, Jane Addams called for all people to align their individual interests with the interests of the common good, and the common good must reflect that “injury to one is an injury to all” (Lengermann and Niebrugge 1998:74).
For Addams, the role of the sociologist was the reform and improvement of society. She saw the work of the sociologist being found in analyzing the present situation in order to generate ameliorative social change (Lengermann and Niebrugge 1998). Jane Addam’s also argued that the sociologist is called to be participate actively in the lives of people, and to help alleviate struggles. She also argued that the sociologist can gain a knowledge of social life only through social experience, and that the sociologist should play the role of the “sympathetic observer” (Lengermann and Niebrugge 1998).
By ethics, Jane Addams meant: “Individual and collective standards for right conduct in social interaction” (Lengermann and Niebrugge 1998:80). She also argued that our present day demands a collective social ethic, where people need to learn to practice kindness. Addams wrote that in order to practice a social ethic, individuals must learn to identify their own individual interests with the common good, and that this is achieved through interactive practice, as the social ethic must be learned, through living it (Lengermann and Niebrugg 1998).
Jane Addams’ personal theoretical perspective and approach to sociology informs the quote at the top of this post. For Addams, if individuals do not embrace and practice the social ethic, they limit their range of life and they limit their social ethics. She was calling all people to develop an individual social ethic that reflected a concern for the good of the collective, and called sociologists to engage in a form of sympathetic observation in order to study the social world and generate ameliorative social change. I really love Addams view of the world as needing a social ethic, and I love her approach to sociological methods, and I think this quote from her is lovely.