Twenty-first is just a number. The previous one was twentieth, and the one that follows is twenty-second. So what?

29 Nov

Twenty-first century education: more use of digital and web-based technology such as game based learning and online curriculum, more “accountability” in the form of testing, more top down decisions about what is taught at what age, a focus on getting everyone why do we always assume that means we should get on board?

Let’s get all excited about getting ready for all points beginning now, or at least beginning at graduation. The invisible vector of the future starts now. We have to be more ready than they are. We are behind in getting our children prepared.

It’s like a fear-driven secular version of Left Behind. What is it, at the root? And why won’t anyone publicly question the direction in which we’re headed? As far as I can tell, it’s a global economic competition in growth, growth, growth.

Economic growth is an increase in the amount of goods and services produced per head of the population over a period of time. While deftly avoiding all consideration of the ecological and cultural repercussions of economic growth, it’s held up as the ultimate goal of every nation.

Heard an interview on CBC last week with Hal Niedzviecki on the advertising industry’s heavy use of the temptation we have to obsess about the future. How the hurry to get to it and establish some kind of position of advantage costs us the present, and even the possibility of a sustainable future. ( Reminded me of that hollow ring of the oft-repeated call to “prepare young people for the twenty-first century.” Makes me especially suspicious when the path to that furture is strewn with the remnants of fine arts, home economics, and shop programs, when it fails to incorporate ambitious, eclectic reading lists featuring the best of classic and contemporary fiction, and when the students on the path are whipped along by fears of not being able to compete for a spot or scholarship at the best colleges, by teachers who are “accountable” for test scores and not much else.


Diane Ravitch
Education Historian; author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System, says:

Diane Ravitch

To be prepared for the 21st century, our children require the following skills and knowledge: an understanding of history, civics, geography, mathematics, and science, so they may comprehend unforeseen events and act wisely; the ability to speak, write, and read English well; mastery of a foreign language; engagement in the arts, to enrich their lives; close encounters with great literature, to gain insight into timeless dilemmas and the human condition; a love of learning, so they continue to develop their minds when their formal schooling ends; self-discipline, to pursue their goals to completion; ethical and moral character; the social skills to collaborate fruitfully with others; the ability to use technology wisely; the ability to make and repair useful objects, for personal independence; and the ability to play a musical instrument, for personal satisfaction.

As I engage with the ideas presented in the Project Based Learning movement and feel myself inspired by such models as Dan Diego’s charter school High Tech High, I see behind the curtain, perhaps meaning well and certainly generous with their money, social entrepreneurs whose main goal seems to be, essentially, to fill their meeting rooms and cubicles and conference rooms with “innovators” who can make them lots of money. How do wise educators keep that goal from superseding true education? How does a community cling to its right to collectively and wisely envision the future, rather than yield that visioning power to those who pay the bills? Are we naively looking forward to a free lunch once again?

1 Comment

Posted by on November 29, 2015 in Culture & Society, Education, Ideas


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One response to “Twenty-first is just a number. The previous one was twentieth, and the one that follows is twenty-second. So what?

  1. jdawgsrunningblog

    November 30, 2015 at 5:44 am

    love how determined of a seeker you are–a true warrior in the trenches. Keep going! Keep doing what you are doing–no need to find answers to your great questions–not now, anyways…and maybe not ever.


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