Empathy – What, How, and Why for a Better Understanding of this Shift in Perspective

To start a productive discussion–ideas are first born in the mind and then become food for thought that can be digested in public in fruitful exchanges–let me begin this article on empathy with a multiple-choice question. According to the experts, which option below is the most empathic response?
If you hear that a colleague is getting bad results at school because of a hard phase he/she is going through, what are your thoughts?
a. This person does not know how to establish priorities.
b. Oh, poor thing! What can I do to help?
c. It might someday happen to any of us.
d. It is none of my business. I barely know this person.

The English Alphabet is Not “as Easy as ABC”

In Hong Kong it is not uncommon for the written English script to be described in a derogatory way by its school-aged Chinese learners. They describe it as looking like “ugly worms” or “chicken guts.” No doubt there are other labels, but these are the ones that my secondary-school students were willing to share with me. One Chinese teaching colleague, newly returned from a self-driving holiday in Europe, told me that he had developed “alphabet headaches” from all the road signs that he was obliged to read.

Surprise! Dr. Snow’s Provocative Views and Advice Regarding the “30-Million-Word Gap”

Hart and Risley introduced the staggering “30-million-word gap” between children of different households, back in 1995. Some may call it a famous study while others may call it an infamous study. This is because it has caused quite a stir directly and indirectly; the proposed solutions tended to sprout problems of their own. In their study, Hart and Risley followed parent-child language usage (listening/speaking opportunities) in a range of different contexts. The children in the most socially disadvantaged group produced only half the number of words that the children of the “professional” families did. Hart and Risley also noted that vocabulary size is a major predictor in future scholastic success and that the vocabulary size gap among young children quickly widens from a 2:1 ratio to a 4:1 ratio in a matter of months.