http://news.yahoo.com/bullying-teachers-more-damaging-online-era-131037020.htmlI think it’s harder, in some really significant ways, to be a teacher, a school administrator, or, for that matter, either a parent or a kid than it used to be. But after reading this article, and after thinking and talking with people a lot, after thinking about the incivility (and sometimes, the abysmal intolerance) that now exists, even among adults, whether it’s in our Congress, our politics, at sports games, between members of one group, religion, culture, etc. vis-a-vis members of another, it really makes a person wonder. Wonder about a whole lot of things…..
Years ago, I saw a really powerful and thought-provoking PBS, Bill Moyers
special called something like, “What Can We Do About Violence?
” There was one segment of it that particularly stuck with me, that focused on adolescent and twenty-something girls in a prison. These girls had been convicted of at least one, and often of more than one murder or some other heinous crime.
What became clear to prison and outside professionals who were attending to them, wanting, hoping to find a way to rehabilitate them (and to prevent others from going down the same path), was that for whatever reason (most of us immediately think of parents or other significant adults in their lives), these young women had never learned empathy
. They, for some reason, were devoid of an ability to place themselves in another person’s “shoes,” in another person’s place. So, they really didn’t and couldn’t have any real understanding of the sometimes devastating impact of their cruelty, of their actions on another human being, and often, on the family members of that human being.
Somehow or another ( I don’t remember), probably partly through role-playing, group counseling (and maybe having victims or victims’ family members come in and talk with them), the prison featured in the PBS program strove to teach these young women empathy. They wanted to teach them how to imagine being in another’s position, (or, how to imagine that one of their family members was in that other's position), particularly in their victims’ or in their would be victims’ place, hopefully, as a prophylactic for when they might be released back into society.
Maybe the most memorable scenes in the program were of a couple of lightning bolt moments that a couple of the girls finally had in the midst of group therapy sessions. The girls they showed, these girls who had either killed or (psychically or physically) tortured another, looked shattered. A couple started crying inconsolably.
Finally, all this time later, they’d been able to gain insight into the terror that their victims probably had felt when being subjected to what these girls and their associates had put them through. Only then, did they have any real comprehension of the psychic (and other) pain they’d been responsible for. Only then, you couldn’t help but think, was there going to be any chance at all that these individuals maybe would be rehabilitated. That maybe they really never would be capable of doing those things, again.
I think of that show, about empathy or the lack of it, all the time when I read about one person’s cruelty toward another. I, personally, can’t think of anything that’s more important to teach kids, to have modeled in our families and our schools, if we want to have a decent society.
I had absolutely NO intention of writing this, actually, of posting at all this morning. I’m super aware that the great majority of people at the Forum won’t, probably, even look at this post, and if some do, that many of those, probably most, will just shake their heads.
But I saw this article, and I just couldn’t help but think that this stuff is important for people to think about. It helps a lot that I know that nobody has to read what I or anybody else writes here. That everybody gets to choose.