Friday, August 9, 2013

Fire! Me use Fire! -or- When we convince ourselves that old is new.

21st Century Skills
Chapter 5 “Career and Life Skills”

I must say that I sometimes get quite frustrated with my journey into the 21st century skill set as it applies to education.  I read these books, participate in these conversations, and embrace the future openly, desiring to be amazed at the foresight into human potential.  I have, unfortunately, often come to the conclusion that these skills are not new in a manner of speaking.  They have, I will agree, been neglected for a long time in our system, but many of the attributes of a 21st century worker are simply attributes which are innately valuable in a motivated society.  Chapter five catalyzed one of those moments.  The career and life skills discussed in this chapter are simply traits respected in a thriving community in general and while I agree they need attention in the classroom, I worry that they have been so neglected as to need their own posters and chapters.  

Professionalism, flexibility, leadership skills, and the like seem innate requirements of any successful citizenry.  We could stop with the pop culture philosophies of James Tiberius Kirk who spoke often of humanity’s desire for challenge, exploration, and an ever-changing sense of reality.  We can go deeper and further into the history of our species and realize that the hunter gatherer who changed their view of reality and threw flaming sticks at an oncoming predator passed their genes further along than those who continued the age-old tradition of peeing their loin cloth to season the main Man-Tartar course.  I must admit, nearly a decade as a combat infantryman may influence my view of what seems important knowledge and skills for students and citizens.  Much in the same way our Cro-Magnon friend beat our other humanoid species through ingenuity, teamwork, and a strong set of “21st Century” life skills, the greatest of any soldiers I had the honor of working with maintained an impressive ability to adjust to fast-changing situations without hesitation to ensure the success of any such mission.  I digress...

As I page through my notes on this chapter, I have far less to say than above.  It is startling and a bit disillusioning to me that these ideas are presented as novel.  I admit the authors address this situation when stating, “Though these skills have been around for a very long time, they take on new significance with the digital power tools now available for work and learning” (Fadel  86).  I still feel as though this statement gives too much power to those tools over these skills and that these skill sets are socially-evolved skills that shape the way we use any tools in any era and I tend to believe the need to tell educators that we must directly infuse them says little about where the system has drifted in the past few decades.  Have we so focused on what to put in the bubble that we have lost the skills to figure out what a bubble is and how to manipulate it to our advantage?  

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