Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New schools in a new century...

America's New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a high-powered, bipartisan assembly of Education Secretaries and business, government and other education leaders has concluded that "we need to bring what we teach and how we teach into the 21st century." Well, its about time, according to Claudia Wallis and Sonja Steptoe in their article, "How to bring our schools out of the 20th century," published in Time Magazine. They propose the following list of "21st Century Skills" that American schools should cultivate in their students:
  1. Knowing more about the world. "Kids are global citizens now, even in small-town America, and they must learn to act that way."
  2. Thinking outside the box. "Kids also must learn to think across disciplines, since that's where most new breakthroughs are made. It's interdisciplinary combinations--design and technology, mathematics and art--"that produce YouTube and Google," says Thomas Friedman, the best-selling author of The World Is Flat."
  3. Becoming smarter about new sources of information. "In an age of overflowing information and proliferating media, kids need to rapidly process what's coming at them and distinguish between what's reliable and what isn't."
  4. Developing good people skills. "Most innovations today involve large teams of people," says former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine. "We have to emphasize communication skills, the ability to work in teams and with people from different cultures."
The full article contains interesting case studies and sound recommendations for re-aligning public schools--originally designed to educate workers for agrarian life and industrial-age factories--to make the necessary shifts. All well and good, and I would add: while making these needed changes in the aims and content of education, America should also bring educational policies into the 21st Century. At the very least, these policies should ensure equal opportunities for every citizen to access the educational resources of the 21st century.

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