Eliza Byard on the Importance of Empathy and Human Connection
Eliza Byard is the Executive Director of GLSEN.
"One aspect of the case study that is a little bit chilling for a parent to contemplate, particularly, is that in the absence of empathy, how bullying can become sport. And I think that when say the bystanders are able to block their understanding of the bullying targets’ humanity, that’s when you get to the breakdown, the kind of societal breakdown of historical proportions. You know that’s where the analogy with the Holocaust becomes real and meaningful because that’s a dehumanization that allows terrible things to happen. And, it really underscores the extent to which empathy and a sense of human connection is the foundation for real learning of all kinds, and I think needs to be understood as part of a schools job to reinforce. I mean, you know, my mother was a high school English teacher, and one of the things she said to me at one point was, you can’t be a good reader of literature unless your capacity for empathy is well developed enough. This is a skill that plays into human relationships, that plays into your abilities as a learner and student, and frankly for all of us for our future, is a really critical component of life on a small planet."