Thursday, July 9, 2009

The importance of 19th century skills

Check out Diane Ravitch's post at Common Core -- The Partnership for 19th Century Skills, in which she points some of the important skills that schools should impart to their students, but that are rarely mentioned anymore in the obsession with high test scores. These include:

The love of learning
The pursuit of knowledge
The ability to think for oneself (individualism)
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. (and more)

Steve Koss adds: Well said, Diane! Thanks for making us all take a moment to think about what really matters. Such a radical concept, to return to the values of a liberal education and the goal of forming a well-rounded citizenry!

In those regards, despite the Internet and the massive onslaught of technology that serve primarily as distractions rather than educational aids (when was the last time you heard of students actually going to a public library and doing research from -- heaven forbid -- a book rather than copying and pasting from the Internet?), there really is nothing new under the sun.

May I suggest the following additions to your already beautiful list?

· Ability to think logically and draw valid conclusions from evidence (reasoning).

· Ability to anticipate the consequences of one's actions (foresight).

· Ability to view one's self and the world as others view them (other-centeredness).

· Ability to construct an argument and defend one's position through facts and reasoning rather than by ad hominem attacks and other forms of fallacious argumentation. (logical coherence).

· Ability to think and calculate mathematically (mathematical reasoning).

· Understanding the difference between fact and opinion.

· Understanding the difference between faith and reason.

· Appreciation of the value and role of empiricism and the scientific method.

· Appreciation of literature and the arts, especially the lifelong joy and benefits of reading.

· Acceptance of the notion that reasonable individuals can in good faith differ in their views and agree to disagree rather than demonize one another.

· Learning to be a lifelong learner.

Since none of these "skills" can be tested by multiple choice or short answer questions, they are obviously worthless in the eyes of NCLB, the NY State Education Department, and the NYC DOE's School Progress Reports. If it can't be tested and measured (and then touted as proof of political legitimacy by politicians and educational administrators who really couldn't care less), why would anyone want to bother with it? ----Steve Koss

News flash: the Educational Testing Service is adding a new tool to report on the characteristics of students applying to graduate school, including “personal attributes like resilience and creativity, which can't be measured by standardized admission tests. And it's just a matter of time before undergraduate admissions offices have a similar means at their disposal, says the testing company that designed the tool.”

Too bad the NYC DOE and its Accountability office never heard of these qualities, no less imagined that they deserve nurturing in our public schools.

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