The Refugee Crisis: Teaching Compassion

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The Refugee Crisis Image_10 07 15.jpgCompassion plays a large role in the Syrian refugee crisis.  Given its pivotal role in many systems of ethics, I think it’s also a good concept for students to explore not simply for their intellectual growth but also for their emotional development.  There are a few readings in Emerging that you can use to frame this discussion:

  • Namit Arora, “What Do We Deserve?” Arora’s essay focuses on economic and social justice.  What makes it useful for a more general discussion about compassion is that he offers clear and well-defined models for thinking about economic equality.  Those concepts can help students to locate themselves, interrogate their own positions, and consider the impacts of economics not only on the Syrian refugee crisis but also on other matters of social justice.  Arora is also useful given the economic impact of refugees on the countries that take them in.  How much is compassion worth?
  • Patricia Churchland, “Networking: Genes, Brains, and Behavior” Churchland plays, in part, an adversarial role here as she investigates the origins of morality and its relation to genetics.  By delineating the contours of morality, Churchland can help students to better define their own moral systems.
  • Francis Fukuyama, “Human Dignity” Fukuyama is a challenging, meaty essay that looks at what it means to be human.  Central to this notion for Fukuyama is “Factor X,” an almost indefinable residuum of humanness.  Having mapped out their own moral and ethical systems through the previous readings, students can use Fukuyama to consider the necessary role of preserving human dignity when dealing with refugees.

If you wanted to substitute a reading, consider the Dalai Lama’s “Ethics and the New Genetics.”  Although his explicit concern (like Fukuyama) is genetic technologies, the Dalai Lama’s writing is saturated with compassion and his call for a moral compass in relation to technology can be applied to other world crises, including that of the Syrian people.

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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.