"Place, with a trace of humanity" Photography/Photo of the Day/Pittsburgh

This School Dictionary Lacks Empathy

Last week I had told an 8th grade student how I appreciated her showing empathy to me.

She smiled.

But then I asked her, do you know what empathy means?

She said she didn’t think she did.  Not sympathy. So I wrote it on a piece of paper for her to look up in a dictionary later on as we were downstairs.

Later she brought me this dictionary.  She told me empathy wasn’t in it. What?  Let me see that.

I took it from her and looked and stared.

She was absolutely right!

It has emotion, but not empathy.

I think empathy is an important quality to possess and needs to be taught as well.


I couldn't believe it either.



19 responses

  1. Incredible!


    March 19, 2012 at 12:34 am

  2. Maybe not too surprising. 😦 Would love to hear their explanation as to why it was left out.
    Kudos to you for teaching our young people. I’m happy she followed thru on your request. Great job!!


    March 19, 2012 at 1:33 am

  3. How odd! Surely an 8th grader is capable of understanding empathy. With all of the emphasis on bullying these days, teaching empathy, though not the solution to the problem, certainly wouldn’t hurt.


    March 19, 2012 at 1:50 am

  4. Sonel

    My goodness! Thanks for pointing that out Ruth and indeed, I looked in a dictionary I have here as well, however it’s a very old one but the word empathy is not in there either. I guess it’s because most confuse it with compassion and sympathy, but don’t realise there is a huge difference. Stunning post!


    March 19, 2012 at 2:18 am

  5. robbard

    It is sad to think that empathy is not used or felt the way it “use to be”. This is a perfect example of many of our younger generation not being able to “get along” with others or being able to “tolerate” others. How can we expect that from them when they can’t even find the word in the dictionary and many don’t have an “example” in their home environment. Thanks for an interesting post. I empathize with you in attempting to explain this to your students.


    March 19, 2012 at 5:02 am

  6. Toni

    That looks like a really old dictionary. I wonder if empathy is in the newer ones? Haven’t checked mine yet.


    March 19, 2012 at 6:30 am

  7. wonderful post … if we notice what is missing maybe we can bring it into being 🙂


    March 19, 2012 at 6:33 am

  8. Kristin

    Amazing! Perhaps an indication of the direction of our society? Sad.


    March 19, 2012 at 6:58 am

  9. is that a paper dictionary app?


    March 19, 2012 at 7:27 am

  10. Sue Reinfeld

    No wonder kids today lack empathy. Makes me feel good you found one that showed empathy.


    March 19, 2012 at 7:51 am

  11. Maybe it’s in the advanced one!


    March 19, 2012 at 8:03 am

  12. Coleen Rush

    Even Wikipedia has “Empathy”….someone made a stab at defining it.


    March 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

  13. Lois I. Greenberg

    Maybe that’s why so few publishers have it! Write to Thorndike – school publishers yet….love, Lois


    March 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

  14. Erica Wells

    Love the post and all the comments!!


    March 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm

  15. BEth Piraino

    Your school needs a new dictionary


    March 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm

  16. That’s one lame dictionary!!!


    March 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm

  17. That needs to be the first word in every child’s dictionary!!


    March 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm

  18. Lacking empathy? Reminds me of some people I know! Seriously though Ruth, I rushed to my old OED (1969 edit) and am thrilled to see it there. Perhaps the action of empathy speaks louder than the word so all is not totally lost . . .


    March 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm

  19. I fully agree with you – empathy is very important to teach!


    March 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm

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