Monday, June 15, 2009

Teaching 21st Century Skills

According to an article in yesterday's Sunday Star Ledger, New Jersey is poised to adopt new graduation requirements. Students will be subjected to a number of additional state-mandated tests in order to graduate, and will be expected to achieve more rigorous academic standards.

I am sure my readers will not be surprised to know that I am not a big proponent of standardized testing, or of school in general. The reasons for my aversion to "academic rigor" and the reliance on tests to describe one's intelligence (define one's self esteem?) are far too numerous to detail here, but suffice it to say, as a recovering "gifted child", I am painfully aware of the flaws in the system.

However, New Jersey educators may be taking a step in the right direction after all. According to the article, "The new standards aim to equip high school grads with '21st-century skills' including critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication and collaboration."

Sound familiar?

It should, if you are familiar with Humane Education and the work of Zoe Weil. According to Weil, the elements of Humane Education (and, by extension, Humane Parenting) include curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. So, if our public schools are being mandated to teach these things in classrooms statewide, then I say, Hooray!

Now let's hope that little is lost in the execution. I'm not keeping my hopes up.


  1. On the one hand, I am very proud of your state for emphasizing these skills. On the other hand, how do you assess creativity and communication on a multiple choice test? Unfortunately, it seems that once you decide to test a certain "skill", students lose the joy of learning that skill. It becomes just another task to master in order to pass the test. I'll be interested to see how NJ decides to tackle this problem. Thanks for the info.

  2. I think the idea is that in addition to multiple-choice tests, these new tests will include short-answer and essay questions. I guess this is still a step in the right direction, but I have to question how teachers could possibly teach such high-level thinking skills under the current conditions that are found in most schools. You never know, though - I hope they prove me wrong!