Common Sense and Compassion are Becoming Obsolete

I’m convinced that common sense, curiosity, critical thinking and compassion are becoming a thing of the past.

Who in their right mind would take away a walking cane of a blind 8 year old child and replace the cane with a pool noodle to use in his elementary school?

Someone who is without common sense. Someone who is without curiosity. Someone who has no critical thinking abilities. Someone who on that day had no compassion.

When Dakota Nafzinger a blind elementary student got on the bus he waved the cane about in the air and tapped it on the back of a bus seat.

The bus driver thought Dakota was fighting, so the driver took away Dakota’s cane and replaced the cane with an ineffective substitute. Dakota was told he would have to use a pool noodle for two weeks.

Was this decision actually supported by the school system? If so, why? I don’t have all the facts, but let’s face it, a pool noodle didn’t manifest out of thin air as an afterthought. Regarding the decision-making process I say this:


Dakota was born without eyes!

Common sense would tell you that the child is likely using his cane to find a seat or keep beat to the music on his mp3 player, not trying to start a fight. On the other hand if he was trying to start a fight, the real danger is to himself.

Curiosity would make you ask the child for more information. What is going on? Are you frustrated? Are you angry? Do you need help?

Critical thinking would help to set priorities and recognize choices: Wouldn’t a talk with Dakota’s parents come before issuing a pool noodle?

Compassion would help you put yourself in Dakota’s shoes: How vulnerable you must feel as a blind person to have your cane, the only security taken from you. How humiliating it must feel to be given a flimsy pool noodle as a replacement, and giving others ammunition for bullying.

It’s up to the leadership to use compassion, critical thinking, curiosity and common sense to make more enlightened choices and have more enlightened conversations.

Let me start. Common sense tells me that administrators, educators, and bus drivers want to do the right thing. I’m curious to ask how we can use this example to open a dialogue so that we can all learn and not repeat the mistake. Critical thinking tells me more of these kinds of things will happen again, garnering media attention. I have compassion for not only Dakota, but for his parents, and for all who were involved at Gracemor Elementary School.

This one incident is evidence that now more than ever our world needs enlightened leaders, from the C-Suite to the classroom and from the boardroom to the bus stop.

Marlene-Blk4Marlene Chism is a consultant, national speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011), and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). Marlene’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people to discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world.

Marlene’s message is spreading across the country at association meetings, corporate retreats, universities and other venues. If interested in exploring speaking or training opportunities please call 1.888.434.9085 or email