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Pulitzer Center Update October 16, 2009

Global Gateway to Empathy?

Media file: gw_meeting.jpg

Nathalie Applewhite, Pulitzer Center

Last weekend, my colleague Ann Peters and I attended the Progressive Education Network's national conference in Washington DC. We were there to present the Pulitzer Gateway, online resources the Pulitzer Center has created for teachers and students.

At the conference, we were primarily focused on our gateways that tackle environmental issues like the "Water Wars" Gateway and the newly launched "Heat of the Moment" Gateway, which focuses on the human impact of climate change.

We were joined by a wonderful group of educators who seemed truly dedicated to bringing quality education to their students (see video below). It was interesting because a few days earlier, I attended a session at the Mind and Life conference, where the Dalai Lama was joined by experts and academics from across the disciplines of education, religion and psychology. The framing argument was this: "The urgent challenges of a globalized and interdependent world demand a new vision of world citizenship that is not confined to national boundaries, but encompasses moral and ethical responsibilities to all humanity." Throughout the presentation the word "empathy" kept coming up. How do we inspire our students, our youth, to be empathetic beyond borders? There was an informed critique of the US system's focus on individual learning and lack of collaborative initiatives. Our students are ranked and categorized; it's so often a competition, from pre-k through grad school, we are evaluated in letters and numbers. What would collaborative learning look like? And how would a shift in emphasis from the individual to the community change the kind of society we are?

What was interesting is that the PEN educators were echoing these same sentiments. They embraced the idea that our Gateways needed to facilitate a two-way conversation. The students are authors as well and will grow and learn from each other as much as from the journalists. They also kept talking about empathy and how the tools we were providing, especially the links with students abroad, provided a path there because they brought the issues home through the voices of their peers.

It was one of those moments when I felt like we were really creating something of value. I see it when we interact with the students of course, but seeing teachers so excited about how they could use us as a resource in ways we had never even thought of, was inspiring!

At the end of the session they shared some of their ideas with us on camera.