Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Does political correctness teach lack of empathy?

Stuart Schneiderman has additional thoughts on why college student's lack empathy:

Here political correctness makes a contribution, especially by teaching young people to be intolerant of differing political and cultural viewpoints. If you tell people that they should only listen to people whose ideas echo their own, you are in the business of producing narcissists. ....

Clearly, something paradoxical is afoot in the land. Dr. Helen Smith identifies the problem clearly. In her view, students are gaining their good feelings on the cheap. They support government programs that are supposed to care for people because they want to feel good about having the right feelings. They have not advanced to the level of wondering about whether these programs are helping real people.

The students are so involved with their own good feelings that they have no sense of the realities of the programs they support. If you really care about other people you care about whether they have jobs. If you support quasi-socialistic experiments that end up costing jobs and then vote for politicians who want to set up more and more programs to take care of the unemployed... does that show how much you care for other people or how little you are interested in their lives?

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28 Comments:

Blogger Cham said...

"In order to dig the hole you'll need a shovel. You can get one from Jerome, he's the fat black guy in the red teeshirt over there."

Say that sentence to a young person today and they will cringe and give you a dirty look. This is because the schools and parents are vehemently opposed to mentioning race and body size. But when I need a hole dug I don't have time to think of creative ways to describe Jerome. Jerome knows he's fat and he knows he's black and he's the guy with the shovels.

As far as non-profit programs are concerned, many of them are great programs. But it is perfectly reasonable, IMHO, to ask about their effectiveness before giving them money or helping them out. I do want to see their balance sheets, and I do want to know what percentage of their income goes to fundraising and overhead. I do want to know who they have helped and in what way. I also want to know whether they have had any negative impact on the community. Any good nonprofit will answer my questions with enthusiasm. When a program representative gets all huffy with my questions then I know I have a lemon.

As far as jobs are concerned, there are some people out there that have too much of a physical disability or psychological challenge to ever have a job. They aren't a big percentage of the population but they are out there.

7:59 AM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger David said...

I'm not really sure the empathy study is all that valid...self- reporting on the kinds of questions asked on the survey is notoriously unreliable.

But to the extent the phenomenon is real: Political correctness may play a small part in it, but I think 30 years of "self-esteem building" is a much more likely culprit, as it focuses the individual so intensely on his own wonderfulness that there is little room to think about anyone else.

To the extent that the reading of fiction helps build empathy, as the study authors believe (probably correctly, IMNSHO), a decline in this sort of reading could be a factor.

10:35 AM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger God Of Bacon said...

College students are people who have the money to attend college, not necessarily our best and brightest.

10:56 AM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

(sigh)

I sat and listened to one of my wife`s children (she`s a children`s aid worker.) tell me she was a superstar and that she was going to ecuador to change those heathens to christianity.

the child in discussion is a religious bureaucrat on grants and bursaries from women`s groups and the catholic church who`s goal is to get her MSW and make people see things her way (her words)

she`s 18.

welcome to the future leaders of our society.

12:12 PM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Dr. Alistair:

Have faith in Ecuador. It's a wonderful country that will provide her with a wonderful hard education about the way things work.

12:21 PM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger redrajesh said...

The problem might be the definition of empathy. It is not mentioned how empathy was measured. It might be that they might have asked questions like if they feel sorry for x group of people etc who have been portrayed as disadvantaged by the PC media. But the students probably know better than to trust the media and may have answered in the negative to such questions based on which the authors might have concluded that empathy is less. It might be that empathy for the politically favoured groups has gone down and maybe replaced with hatred for them because they are perceived as spoilt privileged etc and empathy might now exist for the real oppressed who are not identified as an oppressed class in the PC media

12:26 PM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger Robert said...

Hi,

My name is Rev Robert Wright, Editor for Christian.com, a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the entire Christian community an outlet to join together and better spread the good word of Christianity. Christian.com has many great features like Christian TV, prayer requests, finding a church, receiving church updates and advice. We have emailed you to collaborate with you and your blog to help spread the good word of Christianity. I look forward to your response regarding this matter. Thanks!


Rev. Robert Wright
rev.robertwright@gmail.com
www.christian.com

1:33 PM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger Target said...

Off topic, but with regard to the post above mine.

I am really sick of pushy Christians.

We are all just children and sheep who CAN'T have made our own decisions in life about spirituality and religion, otherwise, JESUS would be our CO-PILOT.

And send in lots of money, because they have to live a very high, tax-free lifestyle (forgetting about the rich man, needle and camel thing).

I really get sick of this crap.

2:54 PM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

Well, religion is great at making human society ridiculous.

Islam: Morally vapid death cult that denies sex to the living and rewards the repressed with a whorehouse in the afterlife, replete with 72 virgins and 28 young boys. They never tell you about the 28 young boys in the US. I suspect the Catholics have proprietary rights on young boys. Advocates only two things--converting non-Muslims to Islam, and killing them if they don't. On the upside, their hummus beats the crap out of yours any day.

Christianity: Along with Hinduism, one of the most hysterical fairy tales the world has ever seen. Overlooking the pornographic self-absorption of the whole martyrdom complex, its mythology is matched only by Hinduism's claim that Lord Ganesha was born of Shiva and the Goddess Pavarti, has the head of an elephant and is the god of obstacles, literature and similarly contemplative endeavors. Why not mix the two fairy tales and have one god with the head of an elephant who can come back from the dead? Your eternal savior: ZOMBIE DUMBO!

Scientology: The perfect mixture of science fiction and stand-up comedy. You can forgive someone for believing in the previous and equally laughable mythologies, but this one needs another four hundred years in the oven before the cake batter even sets. Xenu. Kirstie Alley. Tom Cruise. 'nuff said?

Oops. One more...

Catholicism: You better put a cork in the choirboy's rectums before Monseigneur Fitzgerald tries to drill for holy oil. How this wealth-obsessed charade managed to survive the past thousand years is testimony to how utterly silly its followers allow themselves to get.

Religion is popular with Al-Anon for a simple reason. When they take away your vodka, religion will f*ck you up just as fast.

Just look at Chuck Pelto.

I rest my case.

6:12 PM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I'll stand by my previous assertation that empathy burn-out plays a role. I see it in my own kids. They're told constantly they should care about nearly everything.

A week or two ago, my 17 year old son complained that "everybody" cared about this and that and these people and that person but would they care about him. "No," he said.

Given the reality of his experiences at school and outside of his family, he has a point, although exaggerated. Almost all the caring he sees centers around politically correct talking points and not day to day reality. In that sense political correctness contributes to the lack of empathy.

Additionally, political correctness gives a double message. To one group is says, "You should care more." To the other group it gives the message, "Others should care about you more, give you more, etc." All of it detached for reality.

Thus we have groups told to care about things and people that reality tells them don't need caring about or deserve it and other groups feeling entitled even though they're not. Much of this goes on in our screwed up educational system.

9:26 PM, June 01, 2010  
Blogger don said...

Interesting comments on, off and around the topic such that i am tempted to add my bit.

Could it be that people are just addicted to be 'appreciated'.... and all this political correctness and coughing up empathy is just so exhausting after a while, when all most folks want is for it to be about themselves.

Now I, in my foolish 40's took my family to this Ecuador to 'help' for 3 full years... funny to hear it mentioned here above. Like Cham, hopefully the place will show your daughter a little reality, but... not likely as people see what they want to see unless it is 'unavoidably and painfully obvious' and then only a maybe.

I saw more than enough of people wasting their time and lives 'pretending' to 'help' but very little to show for it. Most all lived dishonestly and in full delusion; all in 'service' to their own good feelings about themselves.... twisted to an extent that i would call... 'self empathy'. How can they have empathy for others when they are so needy themselves and all clamoring to be the next victim in the spotlight just for the attention.

Unlike Cham, i would call out at least 80% of NGO's and church missions as being total bogus. Been there, done that.

As to the wack job pushy church dude above... just stupid sick.

1:58 AM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger don said...

Only partly agree with Kevin above as to trashing Christian faith.

Being from less faithed Pacific NW, i was down last week in N Carolina to take part in a TV show. Never been in the Bible Belt as such other than a bit in Texas. Very friendly and enjoyed my time there. But after a few days, kind of felt the 'are you saved' thing around every corner, which is new for me. I didn't like it one bit as it seems like more of a vaccination than anything.

Just... think it is better lived out which is enough challenge than to spout it and not be able to live up to it. Likewise, better to practice empathy than put out empty words.

2:05 AM, June 02, 2010  
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4:35 AM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger br549 said...

Life is an incredible journey. So much so, that I prefer to pursue my own convictions, based on personal experience, and live as a hermit in a cave as much as humanly possible.

5:37 AM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Due to my current employ I spend a good bit of time walking around in odd places. I tend to meet the people who live in the tents and live under the bridges. Many of them have psychological issues and drug problems. Some of them DO get help and turn things around rather spectacularly. I do talk to many of the homeless and I make a point of asking the ones seem to be doing better who "helped" them. The same organizations seem to be mentioned repeatedly. Some of the organizations are public, some are private but they have a few things in common. They are very large, very well organized, have been around for years and have a long history of knowing what to do.

If you are 18 and think you are going to "help", you won't. Here is what you need to do if you want to help the homeless. Go to college and get a degree in social work. Then go to the largest homeless shelter and work there for 10 years. Learn everything you can about drug addiction, alcoholism and psych problems. Learn from those that have been working there for years about how to approach people and talk to them. Learn what works and what doesn't. Once you've done that you might, just might, be able to help somebody. Otherwise, you will just be in the way.

7:43 AM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Cham,

You make a very good point - without a career dedicated to certain problems, like social work, public defender or professional fundraiser, a person's effort to help a social problem is going to be in manual labor (handing out flyers, cooking food, digging holes, cleaning floors, etc).

I object to this trite concept of "giving back" that has become fashionable - the implication being that a successful person was just "given" their success and has to cover up their original sin by volunteering.

It's not "giving back," it's just giving - which is good, but let's not go overboard guilting people into it.

Now I certainly believe in contributing to society, but I believe if you work hard at a worthwhile job, you raise a good family, you obey the law, you pay your taxes, you are modestly charitable, you don't run up debts you can't pay, you are part of creating a good society.

The "giving back" crowd is really anti-profit. I'm not here to carry water for corporate America, but somebody who starts a business providing a good product and employing people under fair policies is contributing to society. If you spend your profits (although small businesses normally re-invest their profits in the business) in the economy, you support other businesses with employees and families and communities that need it.

I just don't buy that you are a bad citizen unless you are jocking a hammer for Habitat for Humanity or planting trees on the weekend.

I coach a youth football team, because I love the game. Some of our kids come to practice in a Volvo and are doing OK, but some can't get to practice on time half the time and we are the only source of direction and confidence these kids have. That's most of my contribution to volunteering; these kids need a different sort of help than the guys under a bridge, but it's help just the same.

My last item of cynicism is the college application - if the colleges said they wouldn't be considering community service in their applicants, most of the high school volunteering would disappear tomorrow.

9:52 AM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger wild chicken said...

Ehh, had my fill of do-gooders during my year in Rotary. It was dominated by nonprofit reps trolling for contributions and PR points. Political cowards and pussies...ick.

And I helped out at a Catholic homeless shelter for about 3 years too. Yes it was about making myself feel good, but all the place does is attract more and more homeless downtown and piss people off. The volunteers are clueless or crazy. One kitchen crew admired Che, the other was run by a Truther who berated me for not watching the Loose Change vid he pushed on me.

My hero is the immigrant who started an IT business in my town 20+ years ago and employs 200 people...still. He never put a sign on the building because he didn't want to be hit up by all the do-gooders.

1:27 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

i can`t help someone unless i`m asked.

if i go chasing anxiety cases down the street, or showing someone how to stop smoking out of the blue on a street corner while they are waiting for a bus, i`d run the risk of being arrested.

and there is the transactional dynamic of victim, rescue and persecute.

eventually the person playing victim gets to persecute.

and the rescuer plays victim.

and the persecuter plays rescue.

and so on.

it`s only a matter of time.......

1:53 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

You guys need to meet some bona fide pushy Christians. That way you would not confuse milk toast spam with the real deal.
Trey

3:18 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

I've met pushy Muslims when I lived in Saudi Arabia. And I met pushy Christians when I came back here.

The difference? The dialect. Other than that, two identically sanctimonious windbags who would serve mankind better by chasing Bigfoot and who have the intellect of Amway salesmen. Thank goodness for hickory axe handles.

4:54 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Back on topic, I'm wondering if the increase in female students may be related to the increase in lack of empathy. Counter intuitive, I know, and totally politically incorrect.

But, women are a group that have been catered to for several decades now. They have been taught they are entitled and superior.

Incidents involving Miami University (a pricey private university) of Ohio sororities and Dayton University (Catholic university), make me wonder. The incidents included behavior at spring formals. One was held at the Freedom Center museum in Cincinnati. The Freedom Center is dedicated to the story of slavery and the fight for freedom in the United States. Behaviors included vomiting, vandalism, defecating and urinating on the floors and more. The other incidents included like behavior. By females, not frat rats.

An excellent example of lack of empathy. I don't give a tinker's damn about the Freedom Center but I would behave respectfully when visiting. Makes me wonder.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, really makes me wonder.

8:32 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger don said...

alistair.... your triangulation is right on. I remember when i recognized that in myself during a year when i learned a lot, and thankful that i took it to heart. Thanks for the reminder.

topher... great point, that we don't give back, because if we made something of ourselves, we don't owe in some 'general' fashion for it, for which we must give penance and pay it back.

Yes, we should admire the person that actually rose above their circumstances and made something positive happen.

This new empathy game is so much like church itself, a substitute wherein we cajole people to action with guilt and then celebrate our worminess/victim/helplessness. It is all way too much of an excuse for mediocrity, sloth and failure.

1:18 AM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

Don, you need to go to some other church. After we were flooded, people from our church took time off from their jobs and gutted our house. They did $6000 worth of work in a day and a half. For free. For us. Nothing victim oriented or mediocre about those wonderful people.

Trey

9:23 AM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger J. Biggs said...

This analysis basically takes conservative bugaboos - political correctness and social programs - and blames them for the problem without any real evidence. I believe this prevents you from really exploring the problem. Partisanship on either side of the spectrum is an impediment to objective analysis.

As someone who works with college-bound kids in a blue state high school, I can tell you these kids have no interest in either of these topics. Most of them don't even support social programs, to the extent they even know what they are. They are just massively selfish. I blame this on the media and advertising more than the self-esteem movement (although I agree that it didn't help). The rise of narcissim-enabling social media like Facebook and Twitter, combined with technology that allows them to access these temples of self-celebration at any time, is another contributing factor, exacerbating the problem.


The students in my school who are genuinely empathetic and compassionate are the ones who are interested in community service and yes, they tend to be more politically correct. (They tend to be deeply Christian AND highly liberal, which the most self-involved kids are Christmas-and-aster churchgoers from conservative families, which defies some stereotypes about liberals and conservatives.)

In short, I think you hew too closely to the typical left vs. right paradigm in your analysis. Certainly, the Left pushed the self-esteem culture, which may have helped these kids become so self-involved, but the right-wing idea that business can do no wrong unfairly exempts them from responsibility. They helped create this monster by encouraging kids to feed their greed and pay no attention to the fact that others around them are less fortunate.

It's also unfair to say that political correctness teaches people to be intolerant of differing viewpoints. Political correctness teaches us to be intolerant of OTHER intolerant viewpoints like racism and sexism. This doesn't mean political correctness is a good thing, only that the issue is a lot more complex than your one-sided analysis suggests.


The lack of empathy among today's youth is a serious problem, threatening our society's cohesion. This kind of lazy partisan analysis will not help us diagnose or alleviate the problem. What will? My suggestions:
1. "Liberal" idea: Get kids back into reading. As a poster here correctly notes, reading fiction promotes empathy by allowing readers to see the world through different eyes. There are a lot of theories about how to do this, but I think ditching the "conservative" emphasis
2. "Conservative" idea: Revive the family. Too many parents use money as a substitute for love and television as a substitute for moral guidance. I think it is fair to blame some "liberals" for helping to undermine the fundamental idea of the nuclear family; we need to reverse that if we are going to produce students who are full human beings instead of consumption machines.

Anyway, hope this promotes some discussion and debate that is a little less stultified by cheap partisan point-scoring.

10:48 AM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger J. Biggs said...

This analysis basically takes conservative bugaboos - political correctness and social programs - and blames them for the problem without any real evidence. I believe this prevents you from really exploring the problem. Partisanship on either side of the spectrum is an impediment to objective analysis.

As someone who works with college-bound kids in a blue state high school, I can tell you these kids have no interest in either of these topics. Most of them don't even support social programs, to the extent they even know what they are. They are just massively selfish. I blame this on the media and advertising more than the self-esteem movement (although I agree that it didn't help). The rise of narcissim-enabling social media like Facebook and Twitter, combined with technology that allows them to access these temples of self-celebration at any time, is another contributing factor, exacerbating the problem.


The students in my school who are genuinely empathetic and compassionate are the ones who are interested in community service and yes, they tend to be more politically correct. (They tend to be deeply Christian AND highly liberal, which the most self-involved kids are Christmas-and-aster churchgoers from conservative families, which defies some stereotypes about liberals and conservatives.)

In short, I think you hew too closely to the typical left vs. right paradigm in your analysis. Certainly, the Left pushed the self-esteem culture, which may have helped these kids become so self-involved, but the right-wing idea that business can do no wrong unfairly exempts them from responsibility. They helped create this monster by encouraging kids to feed their greed and pay no attention to the fact that others around them are less fortunate.

It's also unfair to say that political correctness teaches people to be intolerant of differing viewpoints. Political correctness teaches us to be intolerant of OTHER intolerant viewpoints like racism and sexism. This doesn't mean political correctness is a good thing, only that the issue is a lot more complex than your one-sided analysis suggests.


The lack of empathy among today's youth is a serious problem, threatening our society's cohesion. This kind of lazy partisan analysis will not help us diagnose or alleviate the problem. What will? My suggestions:
1. "Liberal" idea: Get kids back into reading. As a poster here correctly notes, reading fiction promotes empathy by allowing readers to see the world through different eyes. There are a lot of theories about how to do this, but I think ditching the "conservative" emphasis
2. "Conservative" idea: Revive the family. Too many parents use money as a substitute for love and television as a substitute for moral guidance. I think it is fair to blame some "liberals" for helping to undermine the fundamental idea of the nuclear family; we need to reverse that if we are going to produce students who are full human beings instead of consumption machines.

Anyway, hope this promotes some discussion and debate that is a little less stultified by cheap partisan point-scoring.

10:48 AM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

trey, you are truly lucky. my baptist friend who happens to be the realtor who found my ex and i our last house, told me that he doesn`t help clients on moving day.

the blurring of the client/friend boundary is indicative of borderline personality type.

don, i`m a pattern recognition type bordering on the savant (in psyschological jargon) commonly known as an artist, so, the triangulation in discussion has been obvious to me since i was quite young and was explained clinically by dr.eric berne in his published works on transactional analysis.

the self is a great teacher. inside of all of us is the greatest of the good and of the bad.

once we see this we can make real choices.

otherwise we are flinging shit.

2:19 PM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

Doc, I think I am blessed, but I am quite thankful for it!

One of the problems with PC indoctrination is that it teaches that GROUPS are victimized. The usual suspects, women, blacks and Hispanics. Whites and Asians need not apply.

There is no emphasis on individual pain, just the pain of groups agrieved by white male privilege.

So empathy is reduced to nebulous group think instead of an accurate understanding of how someone else actually feels.

Trey

11:10 AM, June 04, 2010  

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