September 2015

Teaching The New Literacy: Why Empathy Is As Important As Reading And Math

The New Literacy

This Op-Ed first appeared on the Thomson Reuters website.

Something transformative is happening in our schools. Changemaking and empathy are fast taking their places alongside reading and math as core competencies students need for success in life. Unless you’re off the grid, you saw evidence Friday evening. Think It Up, a celebrity-studded production, was broadcast across four major national television networks to raise money for our schools. Along with initiatives dedicated to improving STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, it highlighted the work of Start Empathy, which prioritizes changemaking and empathy skills in school curricula and culture. This is a fast-growing movement, with an emerging Changemaker Schools network in the United States and worldwide. Tucson’s Changemaker High School was featured in the broadcast.

Why changemaking, and why empathy? Because the game for young people has changed, and so have the rules. For generations, society had a distinctive organizational design characterized by a few people at the top of the system telling everyone else to repeat their specialized skills harmoniously, faster and faster. American education was therefore oriented toward turning out the company clerks and factory workers that our hierarchical, repetitive system required.