Parent Resource

Is a Lack of Empathy Education to Blame?

When 3 tragic shootings happen in one week fingers will point. But where should we point them?

by Ned the Noodge, The DC area’s premiere pain in the butt educator

The views of Ned the Noodge are his and his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of DCschoolHUB and its employees.

There are a lot of stories and statistics floating around the internet pointing fingers as to why the most recent shootings happened in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas. Those fingers are attached to people from different walks of life, different upbringings, and different worlds altogether. A battle of “matters” catchphrases is just the backend of a much larger problem with our society and culture.

But the concern that it raises for me as both a parent and an educator, is what is being done at the day-to- day level in our schools to address these issues in our community.

There are A LOT of ingredients in this volatile stew, but my focus is on one ingredient: The role of character education in schools today. As a society, we need to break from the chains of standardized tests being the end-all-be-all; the decider about who is successful and who is destined to pick up garbage; the mode by which we rank schools and teachers. When will the standard by which we decide who is successful or not be based on child’s action toward others and less about what they can memorize?

We move to Mr. Smith’s 6th grade geography class:
‘Sorry class, we cannot discuss the shootings in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, or Dallas. And no, we won’t be able to talk about the next shooting that will inevitably happen next week’.

‘Because in order to keep my job as your teacher I have to abide by a strict curriculum guide to insure you are ready for the test next week. If you do poorly on the test I could lose my job.’


I, for one, am a proud about the school at which I teach. The fact that I can have a conversation (if school was in session) about the shootings in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, or Dallas is real life! It would take precedence over insuring math facts were drilled into my students’ heads at least for that day. Yes, I want my students to be able to count and be able to understand the importance of math, but not at the cost of being unfeeling automatons. If school was in session today, how many teachers would share their feelings/thoughts/opinions let alone even mention it in fear of being reprimanded by the administration?

I want to be able to nurture my students’ sense of empathy when the moment presents itself. Ignoring it demonstrates to them that it’s not a big deal or I just don’t care. Guess what folks, sometimes they need to see the bad in the world and struggle through the processing of it. That’s where we come in, to help them, not shield them. Because when they do not have the tools to process the events of the past few weeks you get even more tragedy.