Education

Some Kind of Spark

 

This film follows kids from New York as they begin the life-changing experience of studying on Juilliard’s music advancement programme, an outreach class for communities that are underrepresented in the arts. This is a new world for these children, and demands are high. Ultimately, the film aims to serve as an inspiration for other programmes to nurture two of our most valuable national treasures: our children and our musical heritage.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Paul Turnbull

 

Throughout his career, Paul Turnbull has helped create learning environments that encourage students to thrive. As President of Mid-Pacific Institute, he champions project-based learning and embraces innovation and technology in education – values that he brought with him from his experience at California public schools.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 1, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Paul Turnbull Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

In my world, in the preschool through twelfth grade world, I look at the … the defining characteristic of many schools is the old adage that you have to be a certain age before we can expose you to some sort of academic concept or subject. And all of us anywhere have probably been the recipient of a very pejorative: You’re not quite old enough to understand this yet. And while that may have been delivered with good intentions, most of the time, it’s just flat-out wrong.

 

He’s the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, and he believes that students should be able to pursue subjects that fuel their interest. Paul Turnbull, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In 2013, Paul Turnbull became the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, one of the largest private schools in the State with an enrollment of over fifteen hundred students from preschool to the twelfth grade. As the head of a school already known for its innovative approaches to education, Dr. Turnbull continues to move the school forward with project-based learning. He embraces the use of cutting edge technology for the students, and he pays close attention to how the changing job market will require very different skillsets, so that teachers can prepare the students. He says family and education are at the center of his life, and this native Canadian combined both when he decided to apply for U.S. citizenship. He enlisted the help of his fifth grade daughter and her class. This took place in 2015, two years after he took the reins at Mid Pacific Institute. The educator became a student again, with grade schoolers learning alongside him in preparations for the citizenship test, which he aced. For Paul Turnbull, the journey to Hawai‘i and U.S. citizenship began up north.

 

I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. So, the eastern side of Canada. And my parents are really interesting individuals, and they worked really hard to sort of move us up, and we moved around the Toronto area for quite some time. And then, ultimately, over a period of years and going to different colleges, I wound up on the West Coast, just outside of Vancouver.

 

When you say your parents tried very hard to move you up, what does that mean?

 

Well, Mom and Dad both were high school graduates; they didn’t have college degrees. And so, Mom was in banking, Dad was in the telephone company. So, Mom started as a teller, a bank teller, and you don’t make a lot of money as a bank teller. And Dad was climbing telephone poles for quite some time. And ultimately, what ended up happening is that they each found that, I think to their own credit, they were more intelligent than perhaps they gave themselves credit for. And because of that, they worked their way up the ladder, each corporate ladder. So, in the telephone industry, telecommunications, and then in banking. And as that happened, we moved from one neighborhood to the next, and it was sort of the Canadian version of the American Dream where, you know, you realize that all kinds of things are possible.

 

Were they explicit in giving you advice, or did you learn by example?

 

Both. In my mom’s side of the conversation, I ultimately learned that the restrictions and sort of the barriers that are put in front of you, either from a societal level or from an industry level—she was a woman in a man’s world in banking, finance. She ultimately ended up becoming the only woman on her floor in the corporate office. So, in Toronto, Bay Street is the equivalent of Wall Street in New York. Only woman on her floor, so that was difficult. And I learned from her that barriers are both real, but they’re also what you make of them. And if you disagree with them and you just apply yourself, and you continually show that you can outwork anybody around you, then things will move. So, she moved very large mountains. Yeah; she did not agree with being told that she couldn’t do something because of her gender, so she just went ahead and did it.

 

And what about your dad? You said he rose in the ranks as well.

 

M-hm. So, the funny thing about Dad is that he’s the smartest guy in the room, but he manifests his intelligence into jokes. So, he’s a practical joker. And ultimately, he went from climbing telephone poles to managing a crew, and then ending up overseeing and engineering department in the corporate office as well. So, they ended up actually about two blocks away from each other on Bay Street. And you know, when I was in high school, they were both there.

 

And that was the equivalent of Wall Street in Toronto.

 

Correct. Yeah. And even as a high-schooler, you know, you’re jaded, and you think parents are so lame, when you’re in high school. But they would go and have lunch together. And Nathan Phillips Square is the city hall in Toronto. And right in front of Nathan Phillips Square is this very large fountain, but in the wintertime, they freeze it, and it’s a skate rink. And they would go skating at lunch. I mean, even as a high-schooler, I thought that was kinda sweet. So … yeah; they had the nice ability to come together on multiple levels.

 

Did you have brothers and sisters?

 

I’m an only.

 

So, they poured everything into you?

 

Yes and no. Mom made sure that I didn’t turn out to be representative of the stereotype, that everything is for me. Although my family every so often has to remind me at Christmas that all the presents under the tree are actually for everybody else.

 

While your parents were both working, you were actually really applying yourself. You did, what, four sports. What sports did you play?

 

In high school, so I played football, basketball, rugby, track and field. And I was lifeguarding on the side, so every so often for the swim team, they just needed points, so they’d throw me in for like, a fifty-meter freestyle.

 

So, you loved athleticism.

 

Yeah. If I was not moving, I was not a pleasant person to be around, so athletics was a very good thing for me, because it just made sure that I was occupied.

 

How did you do in school?

 

High school, I could have done much better, mostly because I was, you know, either in a pool, or I was on a field somewhere, or on a basketball court.

 

Paul Turnbull certainly applied himself in college, earning three degrees, with a fourth, a PhD to come later. He says his mother made sure he was grounded.

 

My mom reminded me—of course, you know, Mom was always around. My mom reminded me after my third degree that all those letters don’t yet spell J-O-B, so it was time to get a job teaching. So, I did that.

 

And by the way, how did you decide to be a teacher?

 

You know, honestly, it had everything to do with my teachers in high school. They clearly loved their job, they loved being together. They were inseparable. It was funny; they were like kids themselves. You know, they were always playing together. We were either playing basketball together, or I would see them going out and camping, and they started an outdoor camping club. So, I learned how to go camping in the snow in high school, and those kinds of things. And it just sort of hit me. I was in physiology class, and Dave Kaye was the teacher. And it just was the most matter-of-fact, I’m gonna be a teacher moment.

 

Was it a voice you heard, or just this overwhelming thought?

 

It was just a thought. It was not a voice; it was just, I’m gonna do that.

 

And then, you stuck to it.

 

Yeah. Yeah. My family refers to me as Even Steven. You know, if you try too hard to do some things, I think people in life probably have learned for the most part, if you try to force a square peg into a round hole, it doesn’t work. But if you just follow your passion, and you allow things to move with fluidity, that it all works out.

 

Paul Turnbull followed that sudden realization in physiology class into teaching English and physical education, coaching football and girls’ basketball in British Columbia, Canada. He found he had a passion for teaching. And at a teacher training conference in New Mexico, Dr. Turnbull would find a different kind of passion: the love of his life. Three children later, he can still get a little mushy, just thinking of meeting the woman he would marry.

 

I was teaching in Canada in Vancouver. My wife was teaching in Costa Rica at an international school. We both were teaching international baccalaureate English. And so, the IB organization is this amazing worldwide organization, and they’re known for rigor and fantastic academics. But one of the requirements is that you have to go to an IB training. So, we were both sent to this conference in July in Montezuma. We had no desire to go individually, of course. And we both went. I was sitting in the Albuquerque airport, looked up. That was it.

 

Attended the training, didn’t say anything. And then, you were at the airport?

 

So, we were there for a week, and we ended up in the same class, and it was brutal. I mean, I just … you know, when you fall in love, you fall in love. And, you know.

 

It was brutal to fall in love?

 

No; the ability—it’s happening right now. I can’t speak.

It’s just funny. When you … for me … oh, jeez.

 

You’re thinking back to that time?

Wow; you’re still in love, aren’t you?

 

Yeah. I think … the ability for us to understand that, you know, there was a great distance geographically between the two of us. And in those days, you know, internet and email, and all of those things were not readily available. So, it was an old fashioned letter writing correspondence.

 

That befits two teachers.

 

Which does, especially English teacher; right? So, it was just one of those things where … just like the teaching, when I decided I was gonna be a teacher, it was the most matter of fact, don’t have to contemplate this moment. This is just the next step.

 

But again, there were logistics issues. You were living in different countries.

 

Yes. So, at the time, Leslie grew up in Santa Barbara, and so, her parents were currently there. And they weren’t doing very well with their health, and so, it was the right thing to do. So, we moved to Santa Barbara to be closer to them.

 

That’s a beautiful place to live, too.

 

Unbelievable. Yeah; absolutely. So, I moved from snowy Toronto to beautiful Vancouver, to even more beautiful and warmer Santa Barbara.

 

But you did face a little obstacle with jobs; right?

 

Yeah. So, the difficulty about, you know, immigration is that when you go through the process—and it’s a very interesting, very involved and complicated process. Initially, you get two years. And so, it’s sort of a trial period, as a probationary landed immigrant or resident alien. I showed up, and I have a social security number, so I was able to apply for a teaching jobs. And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a job teaching English, which is my first love and my first passion. But an administrative opportunity arose, and I was really lucky to be chosen for that.

 

But many teachers would not like the idea of moving to administration. They are two different fields; related, but different. Right? Different skills.

 

M-hm.

 

So, were you really happy?

 

You know, I was. So, as a teacher, in my mind, I could have an effect on thirty students in a classroom. But if I were an administrator, and if I had empathy for all the teachers with whom I worked, and I understood some of the barriers that were just, you know, frankly annoying as a teacher, if as an administrator, I could do something to remove one or more of those barriers, then that meant that I could affect how many students in a school.

 

Did you ever look back? Did you ever say: I want to go back to my first love, teaching?

 

Frequently; yes.

 

Oh, is that right?

 

Yes.

 

But you remained an administrator.

 

I did. It was the path that I was on, and we were together, and we had a family, and you know, sometimes life gives you something that is probably a better course than you think.

 

Is Santa Barbara where you earned your PhD?

 

It is; yeah, at the University of California Santa Barbara.

 

So, you were working and going to school at the same time.

 

Yes; exactly right. And that’s another reason why I am absolutely just head over heels in love with my wife, because man, did she hold down the fort when I was going through my degree. It was a lot of very intense work.

 

You eventually became the head of a school district, one of the school districts in Santa Barbara County.

 

M-hm; that’s right. Yeah; I was the superintendent of the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District.

 

How many schools did that cover?

 

It only had two schools. That’s the interesting thing about California. So, there are a thousand school districts, generally speaking. My particular school district was small by the number of schools and students, but my geographical area was fifteen hundred square miles.

 

Paul Turnbull married, with three children, and then living in Santa Barbara, California, earned a lot of respect in the role of district superintendent, working with more people in and outside of the school communities. He did not expect to relocate. But in 2012, he received a call that would take him and his family thousands of miles away, to Hawai‘i.

 

Living in Santa Barbara was a great thing, and I got a call from a search consultant, who asked me to consider Mid-Pacific. And I frankly said: You know what, I have a great life. My wife is working at UC Santa Barbara, and our kids are here, and it’s fine.

 

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

 

Exactly right. There’s no reason to move. So, I said: Thank you, but no, I’m good. And then, I got a call a couple weeks later and said: No, you should really look. So, we looked; but we look as parents first. Our sons were in boarding school, so that was okay. Meaning that if we had moved away to Hawai‘i, that they’d be fine. So, when we started looking at Mid-Pacific, we were thinking about our daughter, who would have been in fourth grade, had we made the move. And everything that we looked at was great. I mean, it fit our beliefs and our philosophy as a family, it fit, I think in terms of the academic opportunities and the approach to learning that our daughter would have enjoyed. And then, having satisfied that aspect, we started looking at the community, instead of the administrative spot. The community fit very closely with Santa Barbara. And then, I looked at it as a job. And from there, I didn’t see a thing I didn’t like.

 

As the head of Mid-Pacific Institute now, what were some of the things that surprised you that came along? ‘Cause you know, you had certain expectations moving locations. Anything that surprised you, something really that you didn’t expect?

 

The community at large, it was just such a welcoming, wonderful … family-centric, individual … kind of place. And California sometimes can be that, and sometimes can not be that. And it’s a very fast-paced “me” kind of place, depending on where you live. Honolulu didn’t strike me as that, and it was a refreshing breath of fresh air. So, that was the first component. As far as the school is concerned, my office is sort of right in the middle of campus, and you can go up to the Kawaiahao Seminary, the old building which is now our center for the arts, and you can go down to the technology centers and you can see the middle school, and then the elementary school. I can have a bad day, and I can go in any direction, be around kids. Easy.

 

Sometime after you got here, and I know you were received with open arms and things were going very well.

 

M-hm.

 

You made another huge decision, which was actually to leave your Canadian citizenship.

 

So, I’m allowed to have dual citizenship.

 

Do you have it?

 

Yes.

 

Okay; got it.

 

Yeah. So, the United States no longer asks you to renounce and remove all other citizenships. But you do have to denounce all potentates, which I think is hilarious, ‘cause who says potentates.

The idea that I wanted to become a citizen really came out of just the fact that I don’t believe that being a member of your community is a spectator sport. I think that we should be active, we should be involved. I had been doing that at the local level in Santa Barbara as a Californian, but I had never been able to vote, the last remaining step on the hierarchy of things to do.

 

What’s it like learning the civics of the United States? ‘Cause I believe you had to go through classes.

 

Yeah. So, ultimately, the civics test is ten questions that they ask, but it’s based on a set of a hundred questions possible. And so, the test that you get comes from a guide.

 

Oh, so you studied up; it wasn’t classes.

 

Correct; yeah. I didn’t have to go to classes, per se. But what we ended up doing was working with my daughter’s class in fifth grade.

 

At Mid-Pacific Institute?

 

At Mid-Pacific; yeah. So, at Mid Pacific, the teachers in fifth grade were great. We have two classes in the fifth grade. I asked them if they’d be willing to help me out. And it was pretty cool. The kids put together like a video study guide for me.

Using the questions from the guide itself, and I had multiple choice options. And I remember sitting in the classroom, and all the kids were on the floor, and the big screen on the wall with all these questions. And every time I got a question right, this sort of piped-in applause would happen.

It was pretty cute.

 

And your daughter was the springboard for this?

 

Yeah. We talked originally, and I said: You know, what do you think? ‘Cause she’s a dual citizen, so she’s the daughter of a Canadian and an American, born on American soil. So, she can go to Canada with a Canadian passport, she can stay in the U.S. with a U.S. passport. So, I said: What do you think; should I be like you? And yeah, she seemed … like as a fourth-grader then prior to taking the test, I think she had a little bit of this moment of like: That’s pretty cool; you know, like I’ve got something over Dad.

 

And I can help him become like me.

 

Totally.

Yeah; exactly right. And it was great. She was able to help, the class did a fantastic job. And then, when I got my citizenship, after passing the tests, which it’s always nice to pass a test, we were able to go and go as a class for the ceremony. So, you know, a real lesson in civics for the kids. ‘Cause I don’t know how many people really get to see a citizenship ceremony.

 

Paul Turnbull feels he’s become a better member of the community because he gained a greater appreciation for the United States and its values through the preparation process for U.S. citizenship. As the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Paul Turnbull places a heavy emphasis on project-based learning and innovative approaches to education that have the potential for real world applications.

 

Mid-Pacific Institute has really gotten a lot of great press for technological advancements. But it’s not just being able to use tools; it’s what you do with them. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing at Mid-Pacific?

 

Sure. We really took a look at why we needed to get into different versions of technology, and what they could do as tools. And my predecessor, Joe Rice, with whom you spoke on the show, was really the beginning of all of that. In the late 90s, he opened one technology center, then in the early 2000s we opened the Weinberg Technology Center as well. And thanks to the Hartleys, Mike and Sandy Hartley, the Math and Science Complex that we have at Mid Pacific is host to a center that is really like a scaled-down version of the MIT Media Lab. And in that lab, you have the ability to have engineering and digital storytelling, and design, technological design all together, so that the School of the Arts kids and the engineering-minded kids can work together and find different ways to apply these tools. So, that’s the philosophy behind how we approach technology. The tools that we use indirectly are amazing. I mean, they’re just so much fun. We were the first school in the State to use a one-to-one iPad program, so all of our students, right down to kindergarten, have the ability to have a mobile tablet. Because we believe that the application of that technology brings the classroom from the inside to the outside. And now, your real world, much like my citizenship, becomes more than an academic exercise, but it’s something to be learned and valued, and trusted. We’re the only school in the world right now using, I believe, and I’ve done as much looking and research as I can to prove it, using 3D laser scanning. So, Lidar scanning for historic preservation. And that means that our high school students and our middle school students are using an engineering grade level of laser scanning to go out and digitally capture and restore artifacts in our local community. So, we have a museum studies course that’s a humanities course, and a historic preservation class. They have gone out and scanned, for example, Kaniakapūpū, which is King Kamehameha II’s summer retreat, now dilapidated. And when you look at any very old building, there are no as-built drawings, or certainly they don’t meet code today. But if you scan them, and the integrity of those scans is down to the millimeter, anything that happens from that point forward, we can actually help to rebuild them exactly as they are. But ultimately, all technology will go by the wayside. It will evolve. And if it’s viewed as anything other than a simple tool, then we’re getting the message wrong. Problem-solving, the ability to analyze, the ability to use creativity, collaboration, the ability to bring together in groups problem-solving for the real world. So, how can you actually apply all of your learning. So, if you can do all of that with empathy, and you have analytic abilities to approach new learning or new situations with different types of learning, if jobs go away, we’re not lining students up so that they can only be, in my mom’s case, a bank teller, or only be, in my father’s case, a linesman climbing up a telephone pole. They’re gonna have access to technology and problem-solving skills that allow them to be fluid as the market changes.

 

At the time of our conversation in late 2017, Mid-Pacific Institute president Paul Turnbull said it was still the only school in the world, and the only organization in Hawai‘i, utilizing 3D laser scanning for historical preservation. Much like Paul Turnbull’s inclusion of Mid-Pacific’s fifth grade in his citizenship process, it’s an example of how education and the real world can come together. Mahalo to this leader in education, Paul Turnbull, a transplant from Canada and the U.S. West Coast, who has embraced Hawai‘i, and who has been embraced by Hawai‘i. And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

It’s important to give back, and it’s important to realize that there were a lot of lean times when we were growing up, there were a lot of times where we grew into abundance as well. But in the times of abundance, it was clear that I was responsible to find out whatever percentage of things that I had available to me, and then to give them away. So, it was important to be part of the community.

 

 

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
The Chinese Exclusion Act

 

Examine the origin, history and impact of the 1882 law that made it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America and for Chinese nationals already here to ever become U.S. citizens. The law remained in force for more than 60 years.

 

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

Vote for your favorite novel!

 

Our favorite books occupy a special place in our hearts. They help us to exercise our imagination, shift our perspective and open our minds.

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

 

This summer, PBS puts a spotlight on the power of reading with The Great American Read, hosted by Meredith Vieira. This eight-part PBS series and community engagement campaign is designed to spark a national conversation about reading, and the books that have inspired, moved and shaped us. The project also explores the ways that our favorite books have shaped our collective imagination – asking what they have to say about our diverse nation, and how these stories affect us as readers.

 

Launching with a two-hour special on May 22 at 8:00 pm, the series hopes to encourage a multi-generational, multi-platform dialogue about literacy in America.

 

 

Just prior to the May 22 launch episode, PBS will reveal the list of 100 novels the public will be voting on throughout the summer. The online voting campaign is the first-ever national vote to choose “America’s Best-Loved Books.” The novels on the top 100 list were chosen by the American public in a specially commissioned, demographically representative national survey conducted by market research firm YouGov.

 

Prominent authors and celebrities such as Margaret Atwood, Juno Díaz, Lauren Graham, John Irving, George R.R. Martin, Devon Kennard and more will lend their voices and share their personal stories and connections to their favorite titles.

 

The series returns in the fall with five one-hour specials designed to take a deeper dive into the books on the list, grouped by theme. Leading literary experts will help us understand how these books and themes relate to our history, culture, psychology and the human condition – and what they mean to us today.

 

By Emilie Howlett


The Great American Read

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

 

Our favorite books occupy a special place in our hearts. They help us to exercise our imagination, shift our perspective and open our minds.

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Ted Dintersmith

 

As a child who played a lot of baseball in rural Virginia, Ted Dintersmith wanted to be a Major League Baseball pitcher. By serendipity, he says, life took him on a completely different path, when he got a job at a high-tech startup. For 25 years, he made a name for himself in the venture capital realm, before leading the charge in America as an advocate for transforming education. He is Executive Producer of the documentary Most Likely to Succeed and a co-author of the book by the same name. In the 2015-16 school year, Dintersmith visited all 50 states to meet with parents, students, educators and politicians, and encouraged communities to work collectively to re-imagine school and its purpose.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, May 13 at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Ted Dintersmith Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

So, you start to realize, what is the point? Is the point of school to weed people out and to rank people on relatively irrelevant measures, or is the purpose of school to help every individual, every child develop their full potential? I think right now, in American education—this is not a Hawai‘i statement, but a fifty-state statement, the purpose of school is to rank kids’ potential on a very artificial limited measure that gives outsized advantage to the affluent. And we have to do better than that.

 

He’s on a personal crusade to bring about change to the American school system. Ex-venture capitalist turned champion of education reinvention, Ted Dintersmith, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. After a career as a highly successful venture capitalist, Ted Dintersmith of Virginia found a new calling as a crusader and philanthropist committed to seeing the reinvention of our education system. He’s been traveling eighty percent of the time, and dedicating millions of dollars of his personal finances to bring about change and innovation in the U.S. school system. To show how classroom education could be more effective, Ted Dintersmith produced a documentary called “Most Likely To Succeed”. Starting in 2015, Dintersmith took the film to all fifty states to encourage communities to rethink how children are educated in this country. Among the states where he’s found real promise and breakthroughs in innovation is Hawai‘i. More on that later. Ted Dintersmith grew up in a small town just twenty miles from Washington, D.C., but the family wasn’t much interested in the political scene. The family struggled to make ends meet with blue collar wages.

 

Oh, my dad, you know, for most of the time I was growing up, was a carpenter. You know, my mother stayed at home. She was really the intensity in our family. And so, she was the one who, in a fierce way, fought for her kids and wanted life to be better for us. Had a lot of good aspects to it, it had some things that might not be entirely positive. But we were just sort of, I’d say, fairly, you know, lower income, lower middle income. We didn’t have a lot of money, for sure. And you know, it was one of those neighborhoods where there were no fences. People just rolled out of the back. Every family had two, three, four, five kids. And we would just play all the time. Back then, school was maybe a third, maybe less than half of our life, and the rest of the time had nothing to do with it. You know, very little to no homework, just kinda do things.

 

You didn’t have play dates?

 

No. No. You know, it was like, it was just random. And you know, you realize the incredible value of growing up in a situation where you just are given that kind of space to go figure out yourself.

 

You learned something about your father after you grew up.

 

Yeah.

 

And it made all the difference in understanding him.

 

So, my dad was in World War II. And he enlisted in the Navy before he was eighteen years old. So, didn’t finish high school. And within a month or two, he was on a destroyer in the Pacific Rim, and he went through six combat exchanges. You know, the really bad one. People blew up around him, he came close to dying multiple times. But you name a major Pacific Rim exchange in that window, he was in it, and affected. And in number six, something happened. I obviously wasn’t there. And he was discharged with a partial nervous breakdown.

 

What was the battle?

 

I think that was Iwo Jima. And so, he came back home, and met my mother, and they got married. You know, in the postwar, you know, euphoria, they got married. And you know, then they had kids. And he was not easy to be around, growing up. You know, angry a lot. You know, my mother pushed him a lot to do more with his life. You know, there were some difficult things as a kid in that family. And my siblings, we talk about it, and I think we’d all share that perspective. You know, we grew up the whole time knowing kind of that he was in World War II, but nothing about being discharged with a nervous breakdown.

 

Even your mother?

 

She knew. But this was not to be talked about. Now, what that dynamic was, whether they both agreed never to talk about it, or whether … well, I don’t know. And only when he died, did we find—now, he died twenty years ago. So, I was forty-five-ish when he died, and then we found out. And for all of it was like, oh, my gosh. You know, like had we known growing up.

 

Had you known, what? I mean, what would you have done differently?

 

You know, as a kid, when you’re seven years old and your father is furious at you, you don’t think: Oh, so he’s got an issue going on from his past and it’s not me. You think: What did I do? Like, you know, like it ripples down generations.

 

Did you feel he thought you weren’t good enough?

 

I think I probably felt that at some level. I certainly felt enormous pressure to do well on behalf of the family. And I felt—you know, it’s like always feeling so nervous around the house, because you never knew what would trigger something.

 

Was he violent, as well?

 

Never hit; nothing ever physical.

 

Your father, you say, was a carpenter.

 

Yeah.

 

And I believe your grandfather was bricklayer.

 

He was.

 

Were you expected to follow in the family tradition of, you know, blue collar work?

 

Well, no. And I actually speak about this a lot, because I think we underestimate the power of learning by doing. We underestimate and don’t give kids a chance to do more. My vintage was vocational education or career and technical education, so I actually today have sort of come full circle. But when I was growing up, my mother was crystal clear; all of her kids were going to college, period. And in those years, right, college was, you know, kind of an equalizer. I mean, my college tuition, senior year—so, I went to a public college in Virginia. for the entire year, the tuition was two hundred and fifty dollars. Not for an hour, not for a course, not for a quarter or semester; two hundred and fifty bucks. You know, I mean, I could make that much money easily in the summer, you know, minimum wage. I bagged groceries in a grocery store. You know, today, it’s a totally different story. But for my mother, that was really an important value. And we all did go.

 

What about your dad? Did he want you to go to college?

 

Honestly, in our family, with our dynamic, my father wanted what my mother wanted. You know, it was pretty clear who the CEO of our family was. And it was my mother; no question about it.

 

So, you went to college.

 

I did.

 

And majored in?

 

I majored in, which people will say, Ah, he must be a Gemini; I majored in physics and English. I did. And I am a fierce advocate for the liberal arts. Those are great vehicles for developing the skills and the mindsets that help you later in life. I often tell people that majoring in English helped me a lot more in a career in business and technology, than the physics ever did.

 

Well, what did you do after attending your college?

 

I got into a graduate program in physics at Stanford. I said: Don’t know if I’m really gonna want to stay in physics, but California, that sounds pretty good. And they have a lot of different things, so it would give me different options. Best decision I ever made. And I got there, and I’d say within a month, I said: Uh-oh, you know, like, these people that I’m in graduate school with are way smarter than I am in physics, and far more interested than I am in physics. That’s not a good leading indicator. And I just said: I’m going to be a mediocre physicist if I stay here. Then I started just meeting and talking to other people, and I found this different program that was, for me, very interesting. It was sort of math modeling, applied math to real problems. Switched into that, got my PhD there. And I was just happy to be in Silicon Valley, where every month or two, a new building would pop up for Intel, or Apple, or you know, all these companies, many of which have disappeared at this point. And I just kind of said: You know, this high tech stuff sounds interesting, like maybe I should do that.

 

Ted Dintersmith of Virginia pursued his interest in high tech, and was hired at Analog Devices, a company at the forefront of the digital revolution. In 1981, he made the move from Palo Alto, California to Boston, Massachusetts, and at age thirty-two, Dintersmith became the general manager of one of the company’s businesses.

 

But I was miserable, and I wasn’t good at managing people, and I didn’t like it. And I did it for like, three and a half years, then I finally just said: Oh, I just can’t do this anymore. And that’s how I ended up in venture capital.

 

Well, okay, that’s not a natural. How did you end up in venture capital?

 

When I joined them, they were pretty small, Analog Devices, and they just got bigger, and bigger. I had some ideas to start a business. And then, somebody said: Oh, if you’re gonna start something new, you ought to talk to these people in Boston called Venture Capitalist. And so, I put together a little outline of the business, and used some friends and connections, and started meeting with some. And in one of the meetings, kinda like this, somebody said: You know, your business, that might be interesting, but have you ever thought about being a venture capitalist? We have a search underway to find a new associate, and you’ve got a really good background for it. It was one of those where I said to myself: Do I be honest and say, honestly, I don’t have an idea of what—I mean, I don’t know what a venture capitalist is, I know nothing, or do I say, which I did, you know, that’s always been something I’ve thought about and wasn’t sure whether this was the right time, but that would be a discussion I’d like to have.

 

It was kind of a fake it ‘til you make it.

 

Yeah, yeah; a little bit. Try not to say something totally dishonest. And I ended up joining this group. And you know, as difficult and as unhappy as I was as a manager of a business, it was just a totally different world for me in venture capital. I just loved the business. It, you know, went well, and those were great years for me.

 

So, you were shaping businesses, even though you hadn’t really owned a business yourself?

 

Right; right. Oftentimes, this is kind of the kiss of death in venture is, you fail every single time if your attitude is: I want to work with people that will listen to me and do what I tell them to do. You want to back people who know what they want to do. I mean, it’s great if they listen, and they should be open-minded, but I always said to people: If you don’t reject nine out of ten of my suggestions, I’ve backed the wrong person. Because if I’m making a bunch of suggestions to you, somebody else is as well, and somebody else is as well.

 

Talk about a judgment call on your part. Because the money is big.

 

Yeah; sometimes. And I did feel like, you know, I picked people well. I mean, if I have any claim to fame in venture, I think I did over forty early stage, kind of one to three person startups. And I don’t have these exact, it’s been a while, but eighty-five percent were successes. You know, it’s an industry where if it’s one-third that succeed at that stage, that’s pretty good. So, my hit rate, my success rate was really quite good.

 

And it’s the Charles River …

 

Charles River Ventures. And so, our eighth fund, which we raised in 1997, on a fund, not on a given investment, but we raised a hundred million bucks, and we returned twenty times that. It’s one of the best funds in the history of venture capital. And it was a cross of a bunch of different companies.

 

As a partner in the Boston-based firm Charles River Ventures, Ted Dintersmith became one of the most successful venture capitalists in America during the mid to late 90s, funding innovative startup companies. High risk, high reward; it was a great run. After a quarter century as a venture capitalist, Dintersmith shifted priorities.

 

My kids were like five and seven. And I said: You know, like, I can either keep doing what I’ve done for the last twenty-five years, and knowing that there’s way too much money in the industry and it was gonna be really tough, or I could just say I’m gonna really spend time with my kids.

 

And how old were you at the time?

 

I was about fifty.

 

Okay.

 

Yeah; fifty, fifty-five.

 

And did your kids go to public schools?

 

I figured if they charged money, they’ve gotta be better. Big mistake. They were in this private school in Central Virginia. Then I got this note to parents saying: Brown bag lunch, come listen us, we’ve got these new programs to teach your kids important life skills. And it got me thinking. Like, why do you need a new program? Isn’t it obvious that schools should be preparing kids for life? I mean, a new initiative to teach kids life skills? I mean, isn’t that what school is all about? And I went to the program, and it was about, you know, like we’ll teach kids to drive safely by showing pictures and videos of car crashes, we’ll teach kids not to smoke by showing them tar-infested lungs and people who’ve had their larynx removed. And it’s like, you know, like I get that, but you know. But I made this list, and I said, you know, like important life skills, irrelevant life skills, and started paying attention to what my kids were doing in school. And very little, almost nothing was falling into the important life skills category, and a lot was falling in the irrelevant. But I had to add a new column, which was: harming them. What was actually going to damage my kids going forward? Because I knew, having lived and breathed innovation, how kids need to be prepared for a world where everything’s changing on a regular basis. And I knew, you know, you ask a million questions, you know, learn how to learn, think outside of the box, question everything. You know, like certain things that I just had seen over and over were the success predictors for people in these innovative companies. Not that they had to start the company, but just to be part of it and on the team, and do well.

 

M-hm.

 

You need to have certain mindsets. And I said, these are all disappearing, right in front of my eyes, for my kids in this school process. And this was a school most parents thought was great, certainly was expensive. I said: Whoa, you know, if this is going on in a school people think is great, what’s going on in other schools? And that just sort of led to complete immersion. I wasn’t feeling like they were doing good things, and I went in and met with the headmaster, and sort of laid out my concerns. And to his credit, he was honest with me. He said: I agree with you completely, but if I tried to do this, my board and the parent community would fire me. And as I say, I joke, but it’s not really a joke. That’s when my life turned into a cause. You know, like a lot of the things that normal people do, certainly at a point where they could retire, I don’t do anymore. And I just sort of am, this is the issue, and I feel it’s the most important issue of our ages.

 

Ted Dintersmith of Virginia put to use the analytical skills and out-of-the-box thinking that made him a successful venture capitalist, and he observed and reimagined what he calls an obsolete American education system.

 

I think one of the most misunderstood things in education is, what’s it mean to learn something? Lawrenceville Academy, which is extremely exclusive, very expensive, feeds all the Ivy League schools, and they took kids who had done really well in courses in a year, and when they came back in the fall, they gave them a subset of their final exam questions. Just the essential concepts they thought every kid had mastered. In two years across all these students, the average grade went from a B-plus to an F, and not one kid retained every concept that the faculty thought every kid had retained. And you start to say, the best of our best students in a school that’s on most people’s list of the top twenty private schools in the country, if they’re not really remembering …

 

I’ve heard that, too, from Ivy League grads who said they retained information as long as they had to.

 

Yeah. I think the main skill that gets developed in a lot of schools is short-term memory. We don’t even give them courses on memorization techniques. A teacher in high school in Minot, North Dakota related to me this. He said he told his high school juniors, one class period a week you can work on whatever you’re interested in. He said over half the kids did a Google search: What should I be interested in? And you know, when I relate that anecdote to audiences, the pattern is always the same. Lots of laughter, and then it settles in. And people realize, my gosh, are we hollowing out all the passion and interest, and joy from the kids, all in the sake of covering every possible smidgen of content that some committee has decided they need to know.

 

And how did all of that happen with our school systems?

 

Well, I think the short version is, thoughtfully invented a hundred and twenty-five years ago to prepare people for a world of routine worked well in manufacturing, from manufacturing to paper processing and shuffling, and bureaucracy still worked well.

 

But that was a long time ago.

 

Long time ago.

 

During the covered wagon era.

 

Yeah; long time ago. And then, I’d say over the last twenty years, we sort of made a choice.   And I frame it this way. Do we do things better, or do we do better things? But instead of saying: Let’s reinvent, let’s reimagine, let’s do something really different that makes sense for a world where content is at your fingertips and where you’ve got to solve big bold problems, instead, it was a lot easier to say: Hm, test scores are flat, let’s do everything we can to get test scores to go up. Five years later, ten years later, with No Child Left Behind, they’re not budging. Oh, I know; let’s hold teachers accountable to those test scores. Ah, still not going up; what do we do? And so, doing things better, or I always say doing obsolete things better, you know, doesn’t do anybody any good. We need to reimagine education.

 

To help inspire innovation in American education, Ted Dintersmith funded and produced an education documentary called “Most Likely To Succeed”. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and Dintersmith took the film across the nation, all fifty states, for community screenings and discussion. He wanted to convey the value of project-based learning, and yes, the need to rethink how to educate children.

 

I mean, after I came to this epiphany about life skills, and were my kids really being prepared for life, and then saying not only are they not, they actually may be damaged through this process, it may be actually harmful, I said: I gotta do something. And so, I went through a process. I said, so I’m anonymous. You know, like I’m not famous. I’m not Bill Gates; I’m like, Joe Bag of Donuts. And I said, like, I could write a book, and you know, like, yeah, maybe somebody would read it. I just sort of thought of like, I’m telling you what you guys know so well. I mean, how do you change people’s mind? Visual, something with emotion. And so, I said: This could fall flat, it could be a waste of time and money, but if we could somehow come together and produce something really remarkable, that would have a chance to sort of start changing the discussion broadly.

 

The things I think in life that give us some of the greatest satisfaction is making something that wasn’t there before.

 

I can’t wait for that moment, when it does work and I’m completely done with it. And it’s like always, it’ll be…

 

Kids have that feeling that’s transformative; I made this, and everyone’s going to look at it.

 

We filmed for two years, six hundred hours, times two, two cameras. And just got lucky with something that really does kinda get people energized about what could be done in school, and shows them kids learning in a way that doesn’t look like normal school, that they ordinarily might view as summer camp, you know, that you know, you watch these kids and they’re building things, and making things, and working in teams. And if I’d written about that, people would say, “that sounds good.” When they see it, when they see how it affects those kids, when they see teachers trusted to teach to their passions and do what they entered into the profession to do, it just makes an indelible mark on the audience. And so, we only do community screenings, we’ve done two here with you guys, which have been great. And we wanted to bring people together for discussion.

 

And you’ve had many discussions.

 

Yeah.

 

All over.

 

Over four thousand around the world, four hundred in Hawaii alone. And you know, but it’s what you guys know; right? It’s what’s so special about what your work is all about. It’s community, it’s family, it’s bringing people together.

 

In 2016, Ted Dintersmith made his first visit to Hawai‘i to show the film. He also met with local leaders, and visited a variety of island schools. He saw a fertile field for change, and he’s come back again, and again. His national crusade was intensive, and he’s not yet.

 

And so, this was not just like come there and have a meeting or two. I mean, I had for nine months, fifty states, every day from seven-thirty in the morning ‘til ten at night, meeting, after meeting, after meeting, after meeting. You know, from governors to commissioners of education, but lots, and lots, and lots of school visits, meeting with teachers, meeting with parents, meeting with students.

 

And out of those fifty states, you find yourself revisiting two states.

 

Two states.

 

Would you tell us about that?

 

The two states which are very, very different states, and I’m on the plane tonight to the second one, but North Dakota and here. And for very different reasons. But North Dakota, tomorrow I’ll be there, it’ll be the eighth time in two years. And I’ve gone all over the state, and working really closely with their governor and their superintendent of public instruction. And you know, we’re funding some things that they find helpful, and they’re just very all-in at the state level for preparing their kids for a world that’s really different. And they’ve got a lot of things that I think are great, and I think they’ve got a real chance. And I did almost every town, and we had community events. But with me on all these events were either the superintendent of public instruction or the number two, one of the top two or three from the teachers union, one of the top two or three from the chamber of commerce. You can go to a lot of states where those two people won’t even be in the same city.

 

And you bring money to the table, as well as insight?

 

I give some grants. And so, you know, I don’t charge for any—I mean, it’s always an embarrassing thing, because, you know, when I give these talks, what I know is that I’m doing it all on my own nickel, and I’m actually supporting things. And it sounds braggy to say that. But then it gets like, when you come to North Dakota or Hawai‘i, and you say: You guys can do amazing things, you know, I’d hate it if people in the audience say: Well, somebody must be just paying him to say that. You know, what drew me back here, honestly, I wouldn’t keep coming back if it weren’t for this guy Josh Reppun.

 

And he’s a former educator.

 

A former educator, and now just passionate about his state, about the heritage of the state, about what people can do about giving these kids opportunities. So, that first week was unbelievable. You know, they did a documentary on the visit. And the reason I keep coming back here, you know, the people here doing the innovative work in education—

 

In Hawai‘i.

 

In Hawai‘i. Are the best of the best. I would challenge anybody to go to any other state in the country, and I’ve been to them all, and find other examples that are better. You’ve got remarkable innovations going on in your schools here. But if you want to get really energized about education, you know, go to, you know, Waipahu. See what Keith Hayashi’s doing there. I mean, it’s just like, whoa, this is like, education at its finest.

 

And he is the principal of Waipahu High School, who, you know, left the number two position in the DOE, because he wanted to be at his school.

 

Yeah. Go to Waianae, go to Candy Suiso’s, you know, media arts program. I mean, you sit there and you talk to these students, and if you ask them: What are you working on, and why does this matter to you? They have great answers; right? Most places I go to, if you say to a student: What are you working on? They’re not even sure. You know, you go observe a lab and you say: What are you doing? They’ll say: Step 3. What’s more inspiring than what these kids have in this state? And so, I just say, like these people, they just care about it. So, for me, it’s tiring ‘cause I travel all the time, but it’s inspiring.

 

Former top venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith says he’ll continue to be a change agent for education by personally funding and gathering resources for innovative learning approaches such as those shown in his film, “Most Likely To Succeed”. Mahalo to frequent Hawaii visitor Ted Dintersmith of Earlysville, Virginia for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I was in West Maui, and I’m talking to these kids. I said: Well, tell me what you’re interested in. When I ask kids even in sixth grade that question, the question they’re often hearing is: What career should I have? And I always say: Don’t worry about that. Right? You’re in sixth grade. You know, and I tell them, you know, that I did fairly well in business, and if you’d asked me at age twenty-eight what a business was, I didn’t know.

 

 

Keepers of the Flame: The Cultural Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women (2005)

KEEPERS OF THE FLAME: The Cultural Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women

 

The lives of three extraordinary Hawaiian women, Mary Kawena Pukui, ‘Iolani Luahine and Edith Kanaka‘ole, are chronicled in this film. It shows how, together, they combined their talents and commitment to reignite the flame of tradition in a time when Hawaiian culture was gravely threatened.

 







PBS NewsHour
State of the Union Address

 

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will deliver his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 30.

 

Join us on Tuesday, January 30th at 4:00 pm for PBS NewsHour’s coverage of President Trump’s State of the Union Address, the Democratic party’s response, and in-depth analysis from the PBS NewsHour team.

 

The Democratic response can be viewed below.

 

 



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