For the record, I never intended on making this “Teaching Empathy” a series. I’ve just been finding that the more I am teaching, the more “empathy moments” I come across.
Today I was teaching about women’s’ rights and the passing of the 19th amendment. I was discussing a general background in the life of women before the amendment, I covered how the women pushed for the 19th amendment, why people opposed the amendment, and even had a fun video to show them.
After going showing the video, and talking about the new opportunities for women, I assigned a political cartoon project. Students had to make a cartoon based on which group they were in (which I assigned).
The groups were
– Women supporting suffrage
– Women in higher ed
– Women pushing for reforms
– Opposing women’s rights
I had a student who was assigned in “opposing women’s rights” group who was visibly upset that I put her there. She felt like she was betraying her beliefs by having to do this assignment.
I came over to talk to her, and I explained in history you don’t make judgements. Rather, you try to understand where the people are coming from. I told her that she isn’t betraying her cause, but rather she is learning what others thought in that time. She was still not having it. I explained that by looking into an opposing view, you gain a greater understanding of your own argument, and you are able to more intelligently approach the conversation.
She ended up doing the assignment on this topic, though at that point I was less concerned with the cartoon and more concerned that she understand that it is important to understand those different from you. The past can be a foreign country. and it is important to note that there are unique aspects of history that are important to see so that you can take notice of the change over time that occurs throughout past.
Hopefully her subconscious picked up this lesson, and as the semester goes on I can continue to use these moments to teach my students about the importance of accepting the past on its own terms, not through our 2013 lenses.