21st Century Skills
By John Esterle
Mark Wilding, Executive Director of The PassageWorks Institute (a TWI grantee) has written an insightful post on “21st Century Education from the Inside Out” that makes the case for moving beyond polarized debates within education (e.g. skills vs. content, discipline vs. an open heart; ends vs. means) if all of our kids are going to be able to participate in schools that “are safe and intellectually challenging environments — so that they have the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social skills to be successful and ethical citizens in the 21st century.”
Mark touches on a couple of themes present in my recent posts (how emotion affects learning and thinking; the importance of working with people who think differently than you) while raising others that I’ll no doubt write about in the future: the need to practice what we preach when it comes to how we think and talk and act together; the importance of expanding our definition of what it means to be literate; and the need for new kinds of coalitions and collaborations if we are to foster new educational and civic cultures.
Also, when he writes, “This brings up another cosmic education question. Are so-called learning and life skills ‘ends’ in themselves or are they means to an academic end?” I couldn’t help but think how that echoes the tensions that surface around the question of ‘impact’ in so much process and relationship-based work (talk vs. action, relationships vs. results). These questions and tensions are not just academic of course; they carry much weight in terms of what types of work and approaches receive funding and resources.
“There’s an increasing disconnect between the tangible assets that we can actually account for, literally, and the intangible assets that are about relationships and are fundamental. These questions are starting to become more visible and meaningful and will lead, I believe, to really important changes. Will we end this century with our same measurement systems for value, growth, and development? I truly hope not and I don’t believe we will.”
Needless to say, I share his sentiments.