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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Zoe Weil

  Zoe Weil is President of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). IHE works to create a world in which we all live humanely, sustainably, and peaceably. We do this by training people to be humane educators who teach about the pressing issues of our time and inspire people to work for change while making healthy, humane, and restorative choices in their daily lives. We also work to advance the field of humane education, and to provide tools and inspiration to people everywhere so that they can live examined, meaningful lives

2011-04-11 - Zoe Weil Talks about Empathy and Humane Education

  • Introduction?

    • founder and president Institute for Humane Education

    • offer graduate degree in Humane Education

    • Human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation

  • What is Humane Education?

    • explores connections between Human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation and works to create a generation of solutionaries

    • change makers for solving problems

  • I looked up the word  Humane - is kindness and compassion?

    • I also looked up the word

    • thought human with an e,  e for extra or excellent

    • humans were the cause of the problems

    • definition is also it is the best qualities of being human

    • I started asking my audience what the best qualities of being human is?

      • number one was compassion

    • not a single person has said greed, violence...

  • 3:15 How does empathy and compassion relate in your work?

    • I use the words interchangeably

    • There are 4 elements I try to convey to students

      • 1. Accurate information

      • 2. Foster 3 Cs

        • curiosity

        • creativity

        • critical thinking

      • 3. Foster 3 Rs

        • reverence

        • respect

        • responsibility

      • 4. positive tools for problem solving

    • I see the empathy and compassion piece coming into play in the 3rd element

      • reverence is similar to compassion and empathy

      • when we can appreciate others people, other species, environment - that cultivates our  sense of compassion, and our ability to feel with

      • that leads to acting with respect and responsibility

  • Awe and wonder?

    • Rachel Carson author Silent Spring, talks about awe.

    • tries to cultivate a sense of wonder

    • justice as a motivation - right and wrong.

    • many of us have Wonder as a motivation and ignites our action

    • when working with students want them to have a sense of wonder, awe, reverence

    • Create Activities

      • students stand on milk crates to feel what it's like to be a chicken in a battery cage

      • tying knots link children in a rug factory

      • helps awaken empathy and compassion

    • Activities for wonder

      • Wonder Walk: going into nature and using senses

      • if we experience empathy that way it inspires up to protect

  • 8:15 My looking at the stars as a child

    • yes, exactly

    • I remember that too - had tears of wonder

  • I'm focusing on the empathy part, looks like role playing is a way you tap into it?

    • sometimes I show picture and movies

    • sometimes role play

    • also, council of all beings

      • imagine being this being

      • make masks

      • talk in a council

  • 11:00 How do we create a culture of empathy?

    • Social physiology experiments

    • The Stanford Prison experiment

      • the students acting as guards started acting in a horrible way toward prisoners

    • Mailgram  experiment

      • giving shocks to students

    • About obedience to authority

    • Tells us that empathy doesn't just come from within us and that we act upon all the time

    • We are susceptible to the situations and systems we are in

    • To build a culture of empathy we need to be sure the systems and situation around us are humane and sustainable and just.  Because we will go with the flow

    • If that flow is going to be cruel and destructive, that will suppress our empathy

    • even though we all are empathetic, and have capacity for tremendous kindness, and compassion

    • we can also go in this other directions

    • To build a culture of empathy, we have make sure the systems in place, food systems, transportation systems, clothing, product systems are humane and sustainable. and just

    • it takes a lot of effort to buck the system

    • We have to work on changing those systems

  • 15:00 What can we do to change the systems to support empathy?

    • I don't know how to change all the systems, there are so many out there.

    • I have the method to get to that answer

    • The method is humane education

    • It's embracing a different purpose for schooling

    • if we educate our students at all levels to understand what is happening in the world and to find solutions

    • Students can think of how to change those systems

    • As they get older they will begin to change the systems

    • There is not one way to change the system, it's going to require all of us.

    • It will require all of our ingenuity, creativity coming from a place of empathy and compassion

    • invite students to use their great hearts and minds in the service of solving these problems.

    • Then we will see the systems change

  • 17:40 Seems that we need to start with an intention?

    • corporations can pursue profits but not at the expense of environment

      • corporations want a level playing field

    • we can't impose empathy

    • there are systems in place that prevent it

    • need to look at each of those systems

    • we have seen things change, and that change has come mainly from empathy and compassion

    • I don't think we can impose it from outside but rather cultivate it from within

    • and we all have it within

    • we have to make sure that those systems don't prevent us from living according to our own deepest values

  • 20:15 - Have you seen systems that are fostering empathy?

    • everywhere all the time

    • there are community gardens, schools

    • the challenge lies in dismantling large systems

    • they create alienation

    • the challenge is to bring it home

    • we have other qualities that are not so kind and we struggle with those

      • story of 2 wolves, one greed, violence the other empathy compassion

        • which is going to win?

        • the one you feed

        • we need to feed our empathy

        • we live in a society where we are always feeding the violence

          • with movies, music, video games, etc

  • 22:00 How has empathy developed personally in your life?

    • some people said I was born overly sensitive

    • I was always attune to to others suffering

    • remember as a child seeing movies and I could stop crying

    • found a way to put it toward good use

    • I was just born with it.

  • 24:00 Animal rights people are attacking and judging me for fishing?

    • calling anyone a terrible person is terrible thing to do

    • none of us is making perfectly empathetic choices all the time.

    • is fishing really aligned with your value system?

    • my Achilles heal is traveling for vacation and the environmental effect

    • wrote book: Most Good, Least Harm

  • 27:00 I don't think we can build a culture of empathy with judgment.

    • we need to empathize our way to a culture of empathy

    • we judge all the time, but should not be judgmental

    • I try to help people do the best they can

    • the helping is humane education and that's what we try to do.

Empathy Blogs by Zoe