Moving Out of the Past

In the current issue of Time Magazine the cover story is titled “How To Bring Schools into the 21st Century”, based on a report to be issued this week by something called the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.

This is the most recent version of the “high-powered, bipartisan” group offering up their “blueprint for rethinking American education…to better prepare students to thrive in the global economy”.

But let’s see what they have to say.

Kids spend much of the day as their great-grandparents once did: sitting in rows, listening to teachers lecture, scribbling notes by hand, reading from textbooks that are out of date by the time they are printed. A yawning chasm (with an emphasis on yawning) separates the world inside the schoolhouse from the world outside.

Especially in high school! And the outside world is flooding in the schoolhouse whether educators like it (or are prepared for it) or not.

Right now we’re aiming too low. Competency in reading and math–the focus of so much No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing–is the meager minimum. Scientific and technical skills are, likewise, utterly necessary but insufficient. Today’s economy demands not only a high-level competence in the traditional academic disciplines but also what might be called 21st century skills.

The philosophy of NCLB is all about “basic skills” and little else. It’s still true that what gets tested, gets taught.

The report then goes on to define some of those “21st century skills”.

Knowing more about the world.
Thinking outside the box. [I HATE that term but the concept of being able to think and adapt is the important point here.]
Becoming smarter about new sources of information.
Developing good people skills.

Good list. However, there is another yawning chasm between it and our one-size-fits-all, test-driven curriculum.

The balance of the article explains in more depth what each means and why our educational system, the way it’s currently organized, is not developing these skills.

While I haven’t read the whole thing (the link to the last page was bad), the article seems like a pretty good overview of what we need to do to implement genuine school reform.

It’s well worth reading, but if you don’t have time (no pun intended), CNN offers a short summary of the major points.

Now, if we could just get our politicians to improve their reading skills and understand this commission’s report.

ncee, education, reform, time magazine