Friday, December 30, 2011

21st-Century Skills - This Will be a Hot Topic for Many Years

Personification of knowledge (Greek Επιστημη, ...Personification of Knowledge: Greek, Episteme - Image via Wikipediaby Bruce D Price

The Education Establishment wants us to believe that American students are burdened by having too much knowledge, and the solution is to teach them more skills.

Isn’t the premise silly? Many American students can’t find Japan on a map.

Anyway, this battle will be unfolding for years and maybe decades. This battle will probably get tangled up with the debate over so-called National Standards.

Here’s something to watch out for: those Standards will be defined as emphasizing skills, and emphasizing skills will turn out to be another way of diminishing content. That’s what the Education Establishment has tended to favor for the last century (why these people disdain content and knowledge is an interesting thing to ponder).

But for now I’m writing only to tell you about two helpful articles:

About a year ago, USA today published an excellent piece about the whole subject of 21st-century skills. You’ll meet Hirsch, Willingham and Kay, three of the big players in this debate. This piece is titled: “What to learn: 'core knowledge' or '21st-century skills'?”

For a shorter article, with less about the present but more historical context, please see my own “21st-Century Skills: Same Old, Lame Old." I try to show that 21st-Century Skills is part of a perennial campaign against teaching or learning foundational knowledge.

Everyone needs to know about this hot topic, and these two articles will certainly do the trick.

I've been researching this whole subject for several years. I was always finding quotes from Dewey and the others, all making the same point: we don't need to bother teaching so many facts. Meanwhile, surveys showed that Americans tended to be culturally illiterate.

There really did seem to be an institutional prejudice against basic information. I finally wrote up all my notes as "45: The Crusade Against Knowledge - The Campaign Against Memory," which is on This article provides what might be called deep background.

About the Author

Bruce Price is the founder of His fifth book is titled THE EDUCATION ENIGMA - What Happened to American Education. has gotten particularly strong on reading - please start with 42: Reading Resources.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment