Please Share My Passion For Education!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Teaching Compassion: We Were Watching You

Teaching Compassion:  We Were Watching You

Three of the biggest influences in my life are my dad, mom, and sister.  We have always been there for each other and have believed in one another.  If there is one thing that I have learned in the past four years of raising my own children, it is that I need to say THANK YOU to my parents more often!  Although raising children is probably the most rewarding experience in my life, it can be very stressful at times!
My dad, sister, and I (apparently learning to shave!)

When I was growing up, my dad was always passionate about doing nice things for people who were less fortunate.  This included people dealing with disease, injuries, unemployment, lack of money, etc...  My dad took part in donating to many charities and trying to nice things for people around him.  He would always talk to my sister and I about understanding things from other people's perspectives.  He constantly had us thinking about how other people felt.  Now, reflecting back on my life, I am so glad that I was taught this very important perspective early on.  It has helped me to understand much of the inequality and struggle in the world and to feel a social obligation to help.  

One of the coolest things that my dad would always do, is to find a couple families that were really struggling around Christmas time.  He would then spend a fairly large amount of money on really nice presents for the kids in the family (and often the adults).  He would wrap them up and put them in a bag and deliver them to their house at a time when nobody was there.  The strangest thing is that he would never tell anybody about this.  My sister and I witnessed it several times, because we were naturally with him, but it wasn't something he boasted about or even spoke to other people about.  A couple years after moving out of the house, I asked if he had still done this.  He said that he had.  Even after we left, he continued to do this for families, now with nobody ever knowing that he did it.  I understand that a "selfish" motive can be traced back to anything, and that he probably received some self-satisfaction for helping others from this, but these random acts of kindness, along with many others were never meant to "brand himself".  They were never meant to show that he was doing his "duty" or fulfilling an obligation.  They were never to brag and show others how nice he was.  Nobody ever knew he was doing it.  He really didn't talk to my sister and I much about it.

Dad.  We were watching, though.  Whether it as intentional or not, you helped my sister and I develop a strong passion to help others and put ourselves in other people's perspectives and that may be the greatest gift I ever received in my life.  I am certain that I was not born with this compassion or empathy, but I learned it from you!  This is the reason that I stand so strong on my commitment to improving education:

1.  I genuinely want to help every student that is sitting in school receiving an irrelevant education with an opportunity to take ownership in their learning, become empowered, and change the world.

2.  I know that compassion can be learned.  You proved it to me.  I have now tried to instill this in many students and believe, with all my heart, that I have been successful.  I have been paying it forward and plan to continue with all of my might.

My dad and I at a Packer game at Lambeau Field

Education Reform - how does this story relate to education reform?

I am extremely passionate about education reform and trying to help make school a more relevant experience for students.  I believe that we need to take emphasis off of the rote memorization of facts and place a higher emphasis on 21st Century Skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, & creativity) and on technology.  Right now I feel that our education system is failing to prepare students for the real world.

I also believe, PASSIONATELY, that we need to educate students to be PEOPLE.  I am so tired of hearing college and career readiness as if we are the minor leagues for the Universities.  What about preparing students for life?  Instead of placing such a strong emphasis on college & career readiness, what about taking some time to get students ready for facing the quickly changing world in front of them with regard to relationships, friendships, stress, becoming self advocates at the store, doctor, or conversations they will be in?  What about preparing them to be home-owners, parents, spouses, and members of the community?  The statistics are getting scary.  The divorce rate, the dropout rate, the teen suicide rates, the unemployed numbers seem to point to a society of people who are not prepared to deal with real life.

As I continue to push hard for education reform, one thing that I believe strongly in, is teaching integrity, character, and compassion.  I believe in finding the time for students to find their passion and ways in which they can use this to help make a positive impact and change the world.  In doing so, we teach compassion.  I have heard the argument over and over that compassion and integrity cannot be taught,   I DISAGREE.  My dad helped me to realize that compassion and integrity can most definitely be learned.

First of all, the current generation of students is one of the most incredible generations of students ever, regarding compassion.  Study after study has found this generation to be very thoughtful and compassionate and to believe that they and the community around them has a social obligation to "do good".  Two years ago I co-founded a high school program called Communities in which we had students for three hours, teaching them science, social studies, literacy, and leadership.  They were engaged in hands-on, real-life, relevant projects that they worked on with community experts, within the community, in order to make the community a better place.  When we empowered students to make a difference, they became highly engaged in their learning.  They took ownership in their own learning and development.  They became passionate about making a difference in the world.  I watched as these experiences fueled students to want to learn more, help more, and be part of changing the world.  

Sitting these students down in rows, lecturing to them as they take notes, having them do worksheets, make Styrofoam ball models, follow the recipes of canned labs, read material they strongly dislike, and take standardized tests as their assessments, is catastrophic and should be stopped.  There is a generation of students eager to learn, eager to help people, eager to become engaged and change the world.  We cannot waste their valuable time in an outdated education system that is not willing to change.  It is selfish, it is irresponsible, and it is unethical.  Help stop this.  Please. 

Call me crazy, but I do feel that if you agree with me, that you have a moral obligation to do something about it.  To sit back and not take action makes you an accomplice in one of the biggest crimes of the 21st Century.

In the meantime, I recommend that you read some blogs from some very compassionate educators that can undoubtedly make anyone a better person.  I believe that every time I read one of their posts I become a better person.  Check out:

There are so many more, that I hate to stop here.  I will write about more in future posts.  In the meantime, help the next generation change the world.  They need your help.  They deserve it!

Oliver Schinkten
Education Reform Leader least trying hard to be one!



  1. Great blog post! I enjoyed the story about your family and the connection to education reform. I appreciate your dedication to supporting what really matters to our future. Empowering students and building relationships will enhance any school culture and will enhance students' ability to build self-concept and persevere throughout life. Thank you for always understanding the importance of education reform and more importantly... doing something about it. Nicely done!

  2. Thank you, Keith! Your kind words are greatly appreciated!