Jeremy Rifkin is a best-selling author and one of the most popular social thinkers of our time. In his book: The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis he presents a picture of our current civilization and questions the future if, in fact, citizens of the world do not become more empathic.
Here is his challenge: “The most important question facing humanity is this: Can we reach global empathy in time to avoid the collapse of civilization and save the earth?”
As he explores that question he looks at the role education is currently playing and could play in the future related to contributing to a more empathic world.
He writes: “New teaching models designed to transform education from a competitive contest to a collaborative learning experience are emerging as schools attempt to catch up to a generation that is grown up on the Internet and is used to interacting and learning in open social networks where they share information rather than hoard it.
Those educational innovations are helping to nurture a more mature empathic sensibility. The traditional assumption that ‘knowledge is power’ and is used for personal gain is being subsumed by the notion that knowledge is an expression of the shared responsibilities for the collective well-being of humanity and the planet as a whole.
Early evaluations of student performance in the few places where the new empathic approach to education has been implemented show a marked improvement in mindfulness, communication skills, and critical thinking as youngsters become more introspective, emotionally attuned, and cognitively adept at comprehending and responding intelligently and compassionately to others.”*
As an educator and as a citizen of the world, I see a great need for collaboration. From my point of view, citizens of the world will need to listen to and understand each other as we embrace the challenges of the future. We will need to think together.
*The quotes taken from Jeremy Rifkin’s book can be found on pages 3 and 15