Lessons in Comprehension


Will we ever learn from each other even when we do not share the same opinions?  “Love thy neighbour” is a disturbing maxim (1) but still also IS the cornerstone of our human condition (2). Accepting the other as a person will protect us from ‘world alienation’. However, the public sphere, be it a football match or a school yard, not easily exhibits occurrences of the maxim. More likely we encounter group closure and exclusion, often disguised and highly implicit. To comprehend this inconsistency in our human condition one could speak of ‘the paradox of embedded hegemony’ (See article). By this it is referred to a process in which those who belong to the dominant group (i.e, culture) fall into the trap of regarding their way of thinking and beliefs as self-evident and ‘normal’  up to a point that diversions are not accepted any more. Ultimately, those in hegemony or power tend to push the ‘other’ out of the nest. It becomes a paradox for sure when those pushed away accept the exerted dominance as part of that ‘nest’ and typical of that public realm leading them to resistance and alienation. It would mean that sharing of opinion and interest would become almost impossible. And moreover: even wanting to learn from each other would evaporate.

To deconstruct the paradox a study was set up to develop empathic space. Synergic Inquiry (SI) was used as an action research strategy that helps people understand characteristics on which they differ.  SI sets Self-Knowing, Other-Knowing, Holding and Transcending Difference. Students participated in program for 6 months which was structured around the educator’s ‘hyperawareness’ of creating empathic space. The program had a substantial impact on “ultimately smoothing a path toward unifying participants’ perspectives”.

What is striking in the findings of the study though is the critical role of the educator in maintaining ‘unified perspectives’ ; suggesting that only an ‘Amor Mundi’ (3) can be reached temporary, and without surveillance will fall back in a Love of MY World. Can the paradox only be resolved in an enduring way by having a mediator, is a controller desired?  To learn to love the world as it is and accept thy neighbor is a hell of a job for an educator to accomplish. Probably lessons in comprehension will not do it on their own.


Do I Really Know You? Do You Really Know Me? Empathy amid Diversity in Differing Learning Contexts by Elizabeth Kasl and Lyle Yorks.  Adult Education Quarterly 2016, Vol. 66(1) 3–20

sagepub.com/journals Permissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0741713615606965



  1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068096/
  2. http://isocracy.org/content/review-hannah-arendt-human-condition

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