21st Century Skills?

21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills

Why doesn’t it surprise me that P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Skills) is headquartered in Arizona?  I suppose it shouldn’t. (Maybe it’s the heat? … )  Daniel Willingham posted an excellent entry on the Britannica Blog: “Flawed Assumptions Undergird the Program at the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills.”  He, along with E.D. Hirsch (of Core Knowledge), Diane Ravitch (the writer) and Ken Kay (of P21) recently sat on a forum at Common Core to discuss P21 and its ongoing efforts.

His first assertation is that P21 separates skills from knowledge, believing skills more important.  He quoted from page 6 of their Intellectual and Policy Foundations document (PDF Download):

“With instant access to facts, for instance, schools are able to reconceive the role of memorization, and focus more on higher order skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.”

He summarized it succinctly:

In other words, students can always Google the facts, so teachers can focus on skills.

I don’t how often I have heard statements like that.  “Why do they need to memorize such-n-such?  They can always look it up on the internet?” Or if in regards to math:  “Why does she need to memorize her times tables?  She can always use a calculator?” Please excuse me while I roll my eyes.   First, what if (heaven forbid) little Jimmy/Jane should be without access to the internet or a calculator?  Then what?  Hmmm… occaisionally the internet connection does crash (at least in my area) and perhaps sometime in the future there could be larger outages caused by other problems such as natural disasters?   (Oh what would would little Kendra do if she can’t update her MySpace page then?  Oh my…)

My main concern with this, has more to do with what these kids are looking up.  Wikipedia is a great start for research – but it is hardly the end-all of resources.  It is not fact checked and never will be.  That is not research (and if I were a teacher, I wouldn’t even accept it is a source.)   Sure you can “Google” up facts – but without the background information, you won’t know if what you are reading is true or not.  Without bothering to look things up in “real” books and encyclopedias, kids aren’t really researching; they are copying and pasting.  Hardly a skill, 21st-century or otherwise.

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