Sunday, March 06, 2011

21st Century Skills

This push towards so-called 21st Century Skills--as if educators, of all people, knew in 1910 what skills would be required of students for the next 90 years--would be relatively harmless, outside of the immense expenditure of time and money, if certain advocates didn't minimize actual content knowledge.

I've said for years that a person cannot think "critically" without having some knowledge about which to think--but the first several lines of this post are far more eloquent and pithy on the subject than I've ever been:

This post reminded me of something I wrote back in 2005, in response to other assertions by educationists to the effect that technology makes memorization unnecessary. I quoted some lines from a song by Jakob Dylan:

Cupid, don’t draw back your bow
Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know

…and observed that in order to understand these two simple lines, you’d have to know several things:

1)You need to know that, in mythology, Cupid symbolizes love
2)And that Cupid’s chosen instrument is the bow and arrow
3)Also that there was a singer/songwriter named Sam Cooke
4)And that he had a song called “Cupid, draw back your bow.”

“Progressive” educators, loudly and in large numbers, insist that students should be taught “thinking skills” as opposed to memorization. But consider: If it’s not possible to understand a couple of lines from a popular song without knowing by heart the references to which it alludes–without memorizing them–what chance is there for understanding medieval history, or modern physics, without having a ready grasp of the topics which these disciplines reference?

You can't "think" until you have something in your head to think about.


Ellen K said...

In a similar vein, part of the dissolution of our society has to do with ethnocentricity. It used to be that we shared a common culture. So people of all backgrounds understood the significance of the Gettysburg Address or the Constitution. Now we have a culture that is so narcissistic in nature that we are losing the ability to communicate at all. Part of this is driven by small groups that seek adversity and confrontation and make excuses to blame others for innocent statements. Other parts of this have to do with enclave that actively seek to avoid English language acquistion and are supported in this by stores, newspapers, magazines, television, radio and yes, educational surroundings that do not insist they learn English. As such they continue to create their own culture which only tangentally overlaps the culture at large. As such, we get huge gaps in understanding on both sides. But right now, the people at the top who are all about data, don't get this. Despite their aversion to rote learning they are still implementing it through technological outlets. Instead of basic knowledge supporting deeper knowledge, we have marginal repetition being substituted for real learning. This is why technology is no substitute for a real teacher and why we need to pay attention to what our socalled leadership is doing to our schools.

David said...

Thanks for the link, Darren