Can’t We Give Summers Back to Our Kids?

I’ll admit it. I’m growing weary of hearing fellow parents brag about all of the academic acceleration they have planned for their kids this summer. Of the additional math they can get in summer boot camps. Of the foreign language immersion or the year ahead they can get in another academic subject by spending their summer months in a dark concrete box with no windows and no distractions.

The edu-wife hates me for saying it, but I want my kids to get “free-range” summers, a short part of their year where they can just enjoy being kids. I yearn to go back to a time when the summers were for bike riding and swimming and whiffle ball and all of those activities that are now seen as “distractions” by the very helicopter parents who once enjoyed them.

Over at Medium, my latest piece for the Ashoka Foundation’s Changemakers series focuses on the need to just let our kids be kids, particularly during the summers. As I write:

I look at my own kids, and their classmates, and feel great empathy for their generation. Too many are denied a real childhood. Too many are told, at the youngest of ages, that if an activity doesn’t help them get into a top-tier college, then it isn’t worth doing. Too many are given a warped sense of priorities at far too young an age.

Happy reading!




Respecting the “Modern” Family

In today’s age of blended families, alternative families, and just play different families, it is hard to believe some still see the good ol’ nuclear family as the norm in the United States. It is even harder to believe that an school teacher would hold such a view.

But over at Medium, I write about how a teacher’s failure to recognize the 21st century construct of the American family can do real damage to the children in her classroom. In my latest contribution to Ashoka’s Changemakers in Education series, I write:

We worry about how testing is affecting kids today. We wring our hands over how standards or higher expectations are impacting our children. We fret over whether students are expressing enough grit or enough skills to succeed in the future. Maybe, just maybe, we should also realize that there is no one cookie cutter to define today’s kids. There is no one way to describe their abilities, their interests, learning achievements, or even their family structures or backgrounds.

Give it a read. I promise it’ll be worth it.


Can We Learn Empathy from the Clock Incident and #IStandWithAhmed ?

Now that the dust has settled some on the controversy out in Texas where a high school student was arrested and then suspended for building a digital clock at home and bringing it into school, it is time to start asking what we can learn from this experience (and from many like it when school rules seem to conflict with a student’s love for learning).

Over at Medium, I explore this topic as part of Changemaker Education and Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative. As I write:

No, we don’t know what would have happened if the student’s skin was Northern European white instead of Middle Eastern brown. We don’t know what difference it would have made if his last name was “Michaels” instead of “Mohamed”. But we do know that our public need to stereotype and give in to phobias may have stifled a potentially strong scientific mind from pursuing his full potential.

What becomes most frustrating about the experience is that, while we talk about the importance of empathy in the schools, we instead see a classic case of “defending” discrimination. Authorities could have taken a step back and tried to look at this through Ahmed Mohamed’s eyes; the pride of building a digital clock on his own, the confusion of being discouraged by a trusted teacher. The fear of being interrogated by police and then placed in handcuffs. All for building a digital clock.

I hope you’ll give it a read.

Racism, Empathy, Liberals, and Baseball

As I’ve previously written, I am honored to be part of the Ashoka Foundation’s Changemaker Education effort, serving as an Ashoka Empathy Ambassador. This past week, I wrote over at Medium on a very personal experience from my childhood, where I heard supposedly liberal, open-minded parents demonstrate some textbook closed-mindedness when it came to busing and the impact of bringing kids from the inner city into their suburbs.

As I wrote, reflecting on my experiences as a kid:

I want to be empathetic about it. But I’m not necessarily talking about showing empathy for my friend. I want to better understand what in the world can motivate a supposedly liberal, educated adult male to be so thoughtless, so careless, and so ridiculous with his thinking. I want to know how adults who can preach tolerance and equality, and talk about the need for civil rights, can mean it as long as it doesn’t extend to their own local parks and schools.

I hope you’ll take the time to read the full piece over at Medium here, and to really spend some time with some of the great writing being offered through the entire Ashoka Changemakers effort.