Friday, July 17, 2009

Valuable Skills for the Rising Generation

We constantly hear the regurgitated propaganda about "The Educational Crisis,” and how public school teachers are the primary cause of the US in decline, and why the corporate model of operating school systems is superior to all others. Today I offer you one very worthy alternative approach (yes, there are other choices we could make).

The current ed-reform movement is like foot-binding: restrictive and deforming. Those who want it imposed on children – and on those who care for them everyday – are titillated by the resultant hobbling, pain and stench. The final effect of this method for rearing children will be to shrivel the spirit of their humanity, and to stunt their collective growth.

“Patriotic” is the word that clearly emerged in my mind when I first read the following, and I am not a regularly flag-waving type. I realized that teaching these values to our nation's children just might be able to slow our descent and bring better health to our nation.

These are Diane Ravitch’s thoughts for “skills that we should cultivate assiduously among the rising generation, on the belief that doing so will lead to happier lives and a better world."

The Partnership for 19th Century Skills

I for one have heard quite enough about the 21st century skills that are sweeping the nation. Now, for the first time, children will be taught to think critically (never heard a word about that in the 20th century, did you?), to work in groups (I remember getting a grade on that very skill when I was in third grade a century ago), to solve problems (a brand new idea in education), and so on. Let me suggest that it is time to be done with this unnecessary conflict about 21st century skills. Let us agree that we need all those forenamed skills, plus lots others, in addition to a deep understanding of history, literature, the arts, geography, civics, the sciences, and foreign languages.

But allow me also to propose a new entity that will advance a different set of skills and understandings that are just as important as what are now called 21st century skills. I propose a Partnership for 19th Century Skills. This partnership will advocate for such skills, values, and understandings as:

  • The love of learning
  • The pursuit of knowledge
  • The ability to think for oneself (individualism)
  • The ability to work alone (initiative)
  • The ability to stand alone against the crowd (courage)
  • The ability to work persistently at a difficult task until it is finished (industriousness) (self-discipline)
  • The ability to think through the consequences of one’s actions on others (respect for others)
  • The ability to consider the consequences of one’s actions on one’s well-being (self-respect)
  • The recognition of higher ends than self-interest (honor)
  • The ability to comport oneself appropriately in all situations (dignity)
  • The recognition that civilized society requires certain kinds of behavior by individuals and groups (good manners) (civility)
  • The ability to believe in principles larger than one’s own self-interest (idealism)
  • The willingness to ask questions when puzzled (curiosity)
  • The readiness to dream about other worlds, other ways of doing things (imagination)
  • The ability to believe that one can improve one’s life and the lives of others (optimism)
  • The ability to speak well and write grammatically, using standard English (communication)

What if we altered our focus and began to emphasize these things in our schools?

Thanks to SF Education Examiner Caroline Grannan for tipping me off about Ravitch’s post.


AVParodi said...

Just wonderful! Really! I plan on copying this out and posting it in my room. I couldn't agree more with what Diane Ravitch has said. Thank you for putting this up.

David Dooley said...

Forget school!

These are the things children would automatically learn if they were raised by parents who engaged in parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as supporting the healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development of children, and rejected parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as disrupting the healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development of children.