From the President







  My Response

  Letters to the Editor

  Online Bulletin Board

  Contact Response

  Submit Footnote

  Submit Letter to Editor

  Address Change

  Back Issues

  Response Home

  SPU Home

Winter 2004 | Volume 26, Number 5 | Faculty
Inclusion in Schools: Could It Be a Key to Fostering Empathy in Children?

so prevalent in society, many parents wonder — and worry — about how to cultivate empathy in their children. Rick Eigenbrood, Seattle Pacific University associate professor of education, has been assembling research that offers parents and teachers a surprising perspective on that dilemma.

In November 2003, Eigenbrood delivered his paper, “Inclusive School Communities: Fostering Caring, Understanding and Kindness in Youth,” at the International Conference on Civic Education Research in New Orleans. In December 2003, he delivered the paper to educators at Zhejiang University in southeastern China.

With a background in special education, Eigenbrood chose to investigate existing research on how the inclusion of children with disabilities in schools benefits their fully able peers as much as the disabled youth themselves. “Inclusion is the philosophy that kids with disabilities need to be educated in the same classrooms as kids with no disabilities,” explains Eigenbrood, adding that educators have strong opinions on whether or not this is a positive practice. Opponents cite extra classroom disruptions as a reason to avoid inclusion. Advocates argue that disabled children achieve more when mainstreamed.

But Eigenbrood saw something else: When non-disabled children learned side-by-side with disabled children, they developed not only empathy and understanding for kids with disabilities, but also more empathy and understanding for everyone else. As an academic, Eigenbrood was intrigued by the research. As a father, he recalled his own children’s experiences. When Eigenbrood’s daughter, Erin, was in a class with a boy with a significant behavioral disability, Eigenbrood saw her capacity for caring increase. “We all think it must be hard to be Mark,” she told her father. Years later, she still speaks warmly about her classmate and empathizes with others not like herself.

Eigenbrood’s son, Joel, showed his father that children have an innocent capacity to look beyond disabilities. While still a high school special education teacher, Eigenbrood invited home an 18-year-old developmentally disabled student. His student and his 5-year-old son were soon engrossed in an hours-long card game. Once the student had left, Eigenbrood asked his son if he’d noticed anything unusual about their guest. Eigenbrood’s son thought hard before answering. “Yeah,” Joel finally said. “He cheats at cards.”

Eigenbrood’s investigation may have just begun. “This is an area I’d like to research more and one in which I’d like to interest some of SPU’s graduate students,” he says. “Schooling is more than learning to read and write. It’s learning to be a good citizen and learning to interact with all sorts of people.”

Back to the top
Back to Campus

From the President
With years of experience in business and higher education, President Philip Eaton brings a unique perspective to the subject of good business. “For me,” he says, “business is all about investing in a worthy vision.”

Circle of Influence Grows
Nearly 4,000 new donors have supported The Campaign for SPU, including those with no previous connection to Seattle Pacific. [Campaign]

Planning for Casey's Future
SPU welcomed its largest and most academically prepared freshman class in Autumn Quarter 2003. [Campus]

You Can Go Home Again!
Hundreds of SPU alumni and families returned to campus for Homecoming. See photos of “Discover More in ‘04.” [Alumni]

Legends of the Falcons
The Falcon Legends Athletic Hall of Fame inducted the Class of 2004, including a celebrated coach and four honored athletes. [Athletics]

My Response
Professor Rick Steele writes a letter to SPU community members about the “divine grace” he and his daughter, Sarah, experienced at “The Sacred Sounds of Christmas.”