If this rant is more incoherent than normal, I’m going to blame it on the cold I’m trying to shake. Or the medicine that claims to be non-drowsy but lies.

Anyway, how much longer are we going to use the phrase “prepare students for the 21st century”? Or derivations like “giving kids 21st century skills”?

Don’t look now but the 21st century has been under way for seven years (or eight if you don’t understand when centuries start and end).

And just how do we “give” someone skills? We can give kids lots of things but skills they have to learn – and earn – for themselves.

I bring all this up because of three or four presentations I’ve seen just this week, including one to our school board, where the speaker included these cliches multiple times.

The worst part is that each of the presenters used them as throwaway lines to support whatever the topic was, assuming that everyone in the audience understands their meaning.

And that’s probably a bad assumption. If you polled the listeners, you’d likely hear dozens of interpretations. Or many who have none at all.

The next time you hear someone use one of these cliches, politely ask them to define their terms. What does it mean to “prepare for the 21st century”? What are “21st century skills”? How are they different from “20th century skills”?

And, when it comes to helping kids learn those skills most often bundled under the “21st century” heading (communication, critical thinking, creativity, etc.), remind them that we need to get started pretty soon.

Before we get much farther into the century.

21st century, skills, education, cliche