Class assignment at Union Grove HS: "pretend you're a Muslim..." #wiright @eagnews pic.twitter.com/Q1RFZ6PyDMIt is not difficult to imagine what Ms. Urban is trying to accomplish with this assignment. Her students have been studying the history of Muslims in America and she is asking them to try articulate what the world looks like through their eyes. On the one hand, this writing assignment is a check to see if the students have absorbed the material they have reviewed so far. But on a deeper level, it is a classic way to help children learn empathy for people who - at first glance - seem very different from them.
— Vicki Mckenna (@VickiMcKenna) April 13, 2015
Apparently some parents and right wing news outlets think that is dangerous. I can't think of anything I would disagree with more strongly. That's because I happen to agree with President Obama, who said that one of our most significant challenges today is to deal with our "empathy deficit."
“Unity is the great need of the hour.” That’s what Dr. King said. It is the great need of this hour as well, not because it sounds pleasant, not because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exits in this country.For those on the right who claim to be Christians, I would remind them that when Jesus was asked about how we inherit eternal life, this was his answer: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." When pushed to define who is our neighbor, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. Knowing a little history tells us that, for the Jews of Jesus' time, the Samaritans were hated in much the same way that some people hate Muslims today.
I’m not talking about the budget deficit. I’m not talking about the trade deficit. Talking about the moral deficit in this country. I’m talking about an empathy deficit, the inability to recognize ourselves in one another, to understand that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper, that in the words of Dr. King, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.”
I would hold up Beth Urban as exactly the kind of teacher we need today. The fact that some people can't see that is perhaps the best indication of why we are so divided.