21st century skills- show us your best

Take a trip back in time in the archives of Google News and you can find all sorts of papers, books and headlines with the following themes about education:

  • education needs to be more relevant to life
  • we need to foster more creativity in the classroom
  • we’re failing to teach our students technology skills
  • students aren’t asked to think critically
  • the U.S. will fall behind because of our education
  • student learning needs to be more hands-on

Sound familiar? Talking about the future of education seems like a national pasttime that often predicts gloom and doom scenarios.

The craze for the past five years has been the idea of teaching 21st century skills. Many people have made a career by talking and writing about these new skills. But take a look at them. Is there really anything new here? The Partnership for 21st Century Skills lists media literacy, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and civic literacy as just a few 21st century skills that will “…align classroom environments with real world environments.”

But haven’t these skills always been taught in school? The only new thing on the list seems to be global awareness. However, this topic has been misrepresented with nationalistic chatter that tried to scare every teacher and student with images of construction companies in China and India.

I don’t think that we should ever stop stressing the skills that are now being called 21st century skills. I just find it insulting to consider that these skills are new. This is an insult to all the excellent educators who have made the U.S. what it is today.

The fear mongering also needs to stop. We are not going to motivate our students with a laundry list of over-hyped statistics.

The best way to improve education is to improve the teacher in the classroom. Instead of providing examples of what should be done, show us the real thing. Join a professional organization and present lessons that worked in the classroom. Get on a social network (like Twitter or Facebook) and share a successful activity.

Let’s make showing off our finest teachers, and more importantly their work, the real 21st century skill.