Friday, February 27, 2009

Teaching Students "21st Century Skills"

Every teacher has heard that phrase, "21st Century Skills". It's one of those phrases that administrators and consultants like to toss around to sound forward-looking and perhaps even impressive.

To paraphrase Shania Twain, they don't impress-a me much.

For those who have only just arrived on our planet this morning, the highly visible and well-financed 21st Century Skills movement seeks to put information and communications skills, critical thinking and problem solving “at the center of US K-12 education.” (Diane) Ravitch pointed out that the zippy name notwithstanding, most of the ideas promoted by P21 have been with us for over a century. “After examining the materials associated with P21,” she quipped, “I concluded, to quote the noted philosopher Yogi Berra, that ‘it’s like déjà vu all over again.’”

The post continues:

Bending over backwards to applaud its motives and goals, Hirsch nonetheless observed that the entire premise of 21st Century skills rests on a flawed assumption about critical thinking, problem solving and innovation: “The error at the heart of P21 is the idea that skills are all-purpose muscles that, once developed, can be applied to new and unforeseen domains of experience,” he noted. “This error is fundamental, and it is fatal,” he said.
I agree. Let's actually teach the kids something first, then let them get creative and deep with their knowledge. Let's not just say we're going to teach them something, then give them cursory instruction and let them impress impress us with their skills in using presentation software.

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