Stamp Out Sexism!


Please enjoy the public service announcements prepared by English III students. If you would like to learn more about this grant-funded project, please scroll down for a message from Ms. Loughlin.

Thanks so much to the United Way for sponsoring our empathy unit for seventy English III students.

We focused on violence against girls specifically, and the grant paid for two outstanding YA novels about acquaintance rape: Speak, the story of a ninth grade sexual assault victim, and Inexcusable, a story of a high school football player who rapes his friend.

In both books, the reader has the opportunity to get inside the heads of both victim and perpetrator.
Current research suggests that reading good literature can actually increase empathy for other people, so we wanted to find out if these books increase the kids’ empathy for both victim and perpetrator.

Before we started reading we took the 28-question empathy quiz popularized by researcher Mark Davis, and I was immediately suspicious because the scores were so high. We are, after all, talking about teenagers, right? At the start, there was a fundamental misunderstanding of what empathy is all about.

The biggest hurdle to master was this: If we only have empathy for one side in a conflict, if we only have empathy for those we perceive to be victims, it isn’t empathy at all.

Empathy is like love. If love is selective, it isn’t love. It’s selfishness, a tool of power. And when it comes to empathy, it’s empathy for all, or we descend into tribalism. It’s war, and war is bitter.
So, how you do have empathy for people who do violent things? And why should we have empathy for such people? The kids films just begin to explore those questions.

Empathy is acceptance of common humanity and the full human experience. That doesn’t mean liking or excusing horrible deeds, and it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t face consequences. It means once we are ALL accountable, then we can move toward reconciliation.

In addition to our novels, we read the current research on reading and empathy. We looked at several case studies of empathy including how those convicted of genocide in Rwanda were welcomed home after their prison sentences. We looked at Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem about Carolyn Bryant, a woman whose untruths resulted in the murder of Emmett Till. We considered war crimes of Serbia. Of Nazi Germany. And, of course, we consulted the philosophers Hannah Arendt and Aristotle.

All of this culminated in frank readings and discussions of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and THE LANGUAGE OF sexual assault in general.

One of the students’ final projects was to shoot a brief video to share their new knowledge, and they were free to focus on any issue they wished.


~ Nancy Loughlin, Language Arts