Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at https://www.GoogleLitTrips.org
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Science in service to the public good

Science in service to the public good | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
if you look closely, our education system today is focused more on creating what ex-Yale professor Bill Deresiewicz calls "excellent sheep" — young people who are smart and ambitious, and yet somehow risk-averse, timid, directionless and, sometimes, full of themselves.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
30 April 2017

I had an opportunity to speak with a young middle school English Language Arts/Core teacher the other day. I was quite shocked to hear that she has parents of high achieving students who have told her that her class is not important. Their perception being that math and science has value; her class did not. 

Those parents, along with some of their children's teachers, as well as many of their children's teachers' teachers are cogs in the machinery Siddhartha Roy alludes to when he quotes ex-Yale professor Bill Deresiewicz referencing his book, "Excellent Sheep." Roy encapsulates this situation by suggesting that "excellent sheep" are 
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"...-young people who are smart and ambitious, and yet somehow risk-averse, timid, directionless and sometimes full of themselves" (9:43 in transcript)
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Perhaps that is overstating the situation. However, who among us has not seen a top level student or two (or more) who demonstrate at least a couple of these traits?

At the 10:29 mark. Roy goes right at the reason the liberal arts are critical...
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"Now, kids ... you know, we fell in love with science when we were kids, and yet we somehow spend most of our time during high school and college just jumping through hoops and doing things so that we can polish our résumé instead of sitting down and reflecting on what we want to do and who we want to be. And so, the markers of empathy in our college graduates have been dropping dramatically in the past two decades, while those of narcissism are on the rise."

There is also a growing culture of disengagement between engineering students and the public. We are trained to build bridges and solve complex problems but not how to think or live or be a citizen of this world."
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I will leave it to you to watch the video. It ends with particularly interesting conclusion, given that the TED talk is dated November of 2016.


brought to you by GLT Global ED | Google Lit Trips, an educational nonprofit

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Literature, empathy and the moral imagination

Great works of literature are often love-letters to the form itself, but moral philosophy has rarely taken story-telling seriously. The work of Martha Nussbaum shows that the novel is key to social justice, through the role that reading plays in developing our moral imagination
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
31 March 2016

Regular readers of this scoop.it collection know that I have often scooped article specifically addressing the positive impact of literary reading. The role of literature's influence on the development of empathy is one of the more commonly referenced benefits. When I saw the title of this particular article, I was captivated by the term "the moral imagination." The role of the development of one's "moral compass" is also often referenced, but the term "moral imagination" had not to my recollection previously come to my attention. And, I was immediately intrigued.

WOW! The discovery of this article proved itself serendipitous at virtually every turn. It is not a long article and worthy of a slow and contemplative consideration. 

My advise? Don't skim. Take your time. It's a treasure chest of of a defense of literature's value to humanity.

brought to you by GLT Global ED dba Google Lit Trips an educational nonprofit

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Empathy Doesn't Make You a Good Person

Empathy Doesn't Make You a Good Person | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
From a moral standpoint, it makes the world worse.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
8 April 2016

Oh my! One of the most powerful defenses for the value of literary reading has always been its ability to promote the development of empathy. 

And then, while searching for something worthy of scooping, I came across the title of this short video. "Empathy Doesn't Make You a Good Person," and published in The Atlantic, one of my "Go To" sources for thought provoking pieces? 

How could this be?

My first thought was a recollection of one of my personal guide post quotes when confronting what appears to seriously contradict one of my most strongly held beliefs.
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"It's a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn't want to hear." ~ Dick Cavett
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Could there be an "aha" moment; an "I never thought about it that way before" realization to be discovered in the video?

By the way, this concept that I could be wrong or at least responsible for modifying an existing belief was at the heart of my favorite requirement for a well developed argumentative essay; the required concession paragraph. 

So, I watched the video.

My attention was caught in the argument that empathy has a serious downside if it is actually deeply felt and then quickly abandoned once the passion subsides. I realized I could not argue with some of the evidence provided. 

I'll leave you to weigh the evidence provided in defense of the thesis that empathy can blind us by distorting our perception of what is important, what altruistic actions really make a difference, and the penetrating question of the shortfall of what is referred to as the reward of "warm glow altruism," which I had to consider might be more self-serving (self-delusional) than helpful in addressing issues for which we feel an intense, but often fleeting empathetic rush.

OKAY, I had to admit that there are issues associated with empathy's value IN SOME CASES. We've seen the student suddenly sensing the college application pressure to have some,community service to pad one's application.  Yet that community service pressure for some often is minimal or "fly-by" and motivated more by self-serving purposes than by actual empathy for others.

We've seen catastrophe generate intense but short-lived interest in the well-being of those existing in impoverished conditions or in the conditions behind our increasingly NOT rare encounters with gun violence, or even in the actual importance of honesty in public discourse as we "ready our opinions" for pending elections? 

How though could I still find myself concluding that the video's conclusions do not fairly address the value of empathy? 

I came to think of the argument as being similar to a frequent discussion of optimism in many, many class discussions in my satire class. 

As there is a difference between fleeting empathy and deeper ongoing empathetic efforts to "really" make a difference, there is a similar difference between what I referred to as "Panglossian optimism" and what I referred to "Martin Luther King optimism."

Pangloss from Voltaire's Candide, represents a rose-colored lens-type optimism believing that everything is for the best. This led Pangloss to defend what "appears" to be bad by providing extremely ludicrous explanations of why the bad is actually good and therefore requires nothing of us. 

Martin Luther King on the other hand stared what is bad directly in the eye and worked incessantly to make what is bad better. His optimism was essentially, "Yes there is bad, therefore I believe something can and must be done." 

The connection I see? Let us admit that a Panglossian-like low level of empathy can lead to a certain self-delusion and bias that might actually cause a distraction away from recognizing that more must be done than "fly-by" acts of kindness.

And, let us also remember that developing empathy at deeper and more realistic levels, requires us to accept a responsibility to make the cultivation of of empathy a serious Martin Luther King-like driving force within our moral compasses.

And, life-long literary reading, just might be the force that continually reminds us to care in ways that make a real difference.

brought to you by GLT Global ED dba Google Lit Trips an educational nonprofit


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How does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy?

An incredible study of the shortcomings of previous studies to accurately determine the influence of Fiction Reading on empathy, And, an interesting case for the role of "emotional transport" in achieving that result.

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

My first experience with a gold mine website that would not allow me to scoop it.

 

I'll just give some info that hopefully will stimulate a serious interest in goting to the site to read the entire study.

 

Should I succeed in peeking your interest, you'll want to go to this URL:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0055341

 

I was able to save the entire article as a PDF. And, it's GREAT!!!

 

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So, just a couple of quotes...

 

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THE ABSTRACT:

"The current study investigated whether fiction experiences change empathy of the reader. Based on transportation theory, it was predicted that when people read fiction, and they are emotionally transported into the story, they become more empathic. Two experiments showed that empathy was influenced over a period of one week for people who read a fictional story, but only when they were emotionally transported into the story. No transportation led to lower empathy in both studies, while study 1 showed that high transportation led to higher empathy among fiction readers. These effects were not found for people in the control condition where people read non-fiction. The study showed that fiction influences empathy of the reader, but only under the condition of low or high emotional transportation into the story."

 

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New concepts to me... "Transportation Theory" the power of being emotionally transported. Seeems like a no-brainer in retrospect, but an excellent concept that distinguished "literary reading" from "informational reading" by clearly distinguishing the "experience" itself as being a virtual simulation of real experiences, leading to a very similar emotional experience as if we were there.

 

Another quote that really dug deep... Though speaking of the limitations of previous studies of fiction's affect on empathy, the following might well be the elephant in the room regarding the quality or even the ability to accurately assess literary reading "skills or benefits" received.

 

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" there have been no studies where effects of fiction reading on empathy are investigated using real existing stories. Until now, research designs have been based on either proxies of experience of fiction (e.g., knowledge of fiction authors) [6]–[7] or on very short texts that participants in experiments have to read [9], [10], limiting the ecological validity of studies on the effects of fiction on empathy. Therefore, it is imperative that the effects of fiction reading on empathy are investigated under realistic conditions in an experimental design,"

 

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I've long been concerned about the margin of error in assessing literary reading in classroom conditions that go far to create secure testing environments, but at the same time those environments are completely incompatible with actual ideal literary reading conditions.

 

That is... first of course, testing conditions bring all sorts of distance incompatible with literary reading. The pressure, generally terrible selections, assumptions that the appreciation for the literature sinks in immediately in a cold, high pressure, excerpt read not long enough to actually let the "emotional transport" become active. Even the "test taking tricks" we teach so that the ability to present oneself as knowing more than one really does know through clever skimming tricks, prioritizing questions answered to maximize odds of knowing or guessing right answers, though a fairly useful skill set for informational reading, it is simply not the way the value of literary reading can be acheived. The quote above is well-known in research, why would it be plausible that literary reading assessment would not be compromised by the, "proxies of experience of fiction (e.g., knowledge of fiction authors) [6]–[7] or on very short texts that participants in experiments have to read [9], [10], limiting the ecological validity of studies on the effects of fiction on empathy"?

 

So rather than actually assess levels of benefit achieved, we tend to assess their knowledge of literary devices or at least their ability to make good guesses about "advanced literacy" skills.

 

I'm going to leave this point alone and hope that as you read the study, you consider the arguments the research team present on past attempts to measure the impact of literary reading, the arguments they present regarding the very different experience when one is emotionally transported AND when one is not. I mention this because, it might give rise to revisiting how we teach literary reading and what practices encourage the emotional transport effect and what practices discourage it.

 

Lastly, I am NOT OPPOSED to assessment. I've always felt a strong personal and professional need to "somehow" assess student learning as well as teacher effectiveness. But, it is not a black and white situation. 

 

I'm reminded of the old saying regarding data and data evaluation; "Garbage in: Garbage out."

 

I don't think the assessment data collected is garbage, but it may be too polluted to not be concerned about the margin of error in measuring the "true value achieved" by students taking literary reading assessment tests.

 

The other old saying regarding assessment that comes to mind has to do with the assessment tool. 

 

If you want to know how fast someone can run you might do well to use a stop watch. If you want to know how high a person's temperature is, you might do well to use a thermometer. But, if you want to find out how fast someone can run, a thermometer is the wrong assessment tool. And, the realization that this is "true, but it's the best tool we have" really doesn't make it a good measure.

 

Let us not give up on measurement. but now that we've at least come to understand that literary reading is different than informational reading, perhaps we are at an opportune moment to explore refining the literary reading assessment structures to assure a better " ecological validity" to the testing environment and to the data analysis and conclusions drawn from such assessments.

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

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