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‘Empathy Quiz’ asks students how much their parents make

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 28, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — High school students should expect to be tested in math, reading, science, history. Even driving.

But empathy? 

Plymouth High School juniors are being asked to take an Empathy Quiz, part of a broader course on “white privilege,” parents tell Empower Wisconsin. The school’s principal did not return a call seeking comment.  

The test includes 22 questions related to empathy, and six personal information questions, including inquiries on “gender identity” and students’ “political views.” It also includes a question about their family income. 

“Please provide your best estimate of your annual household income in USD [U.S. dollars] (before taxes),” the quiz instructs. 

That’s the question that has really gotten under the skin of some parents and students. It’s a question once considered inappropriate — even gauche — to ask. It’s certainly something parents didn’t expect on a high school test. 

The Empathy Test can be found at Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge.

“Research suggests that empathic people tend to be more generous and concerned with others’ welfare, and they also tend to have happier relationships and greater personal well-being. Empathy can also improve leadership ability and facilitate effective communication,” the quiz asserts. 

“But research also suggests that people differ in the extent to which they experience empathy. So how empathic are you?”

Well, that’s where the quiz — drawn from “three scientifically validated scales” — comes in. There are no right or wrong answers, but quiz-takers will receive an “empathy score,” after which they get feedback “interpreting this score and tips for strengthening” empathy skills. 

In other words, liberal indoctrination. 

It’s a good thing to understand where people are coming from. It’s a great thing to not be a sociopath. But there is a heavy-handedness in this quiz, certainly in the fact that it’s served up to high school students. 

Many of the questions sound innocuous enough. 

I easily feel sad when the people around me feel sad.

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly Agree

Others sound like “safe space” questions. 

Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his/her place.

Again, quiz-takers are asked if they agree, disagree or are dead inside. 

And then there are the agenda questions, bordering on the creepy. 

I have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.

It all feels a little Clockwork Orange-ish for some, or cultish. Definitely a hard left lean toward the collective. But proponents of the empathy quiz say it’s all about “cultivating mindfulness.” 

“Cultivating mindfulness can make us more aware of knee-jerk prejudice against people who are different from us; believing that empathy is a skill helps overcome barriers to taking another person’s perspective; concern for others, even for animals, can move people to action for the greater good more quickly than focusing on ourselves,” a 2014 article in Greater Good Magazine proclaimed. 

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