Bruno: Everyone's Confused About "21st Century" Skills
I appreciate what Out In Left Field's Katharine Beals was trying to do in this June post, but I think some of her argument is overly optimistic. Follow the links and you'll see that her thesis is that the "21st century skills" movement is basically a con publishers like Pearson are pulling on everybody, contrary to the preferences of real-world employers.
The problem, though, is that it's just not the case that employers don't support the 21st century skills movement. It's actually quite common for business leaders to complain that applicants lack "creativity", "problem-solving skills", and "teamwork/collaboration" skills. In fact, the Strategic Council of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills includes such "21st century employers" as Adobe, Apple, and Intel.
Now, none of this matters much to me because I don't think that the opinions of business leaders should have outsized weight in our policy considerations in the first place. The real issue is not that advocates of the 21st century skills movement aren't aligned with the business community, it's that they're wrong on the merits: for the most part the skills they want schools to teach aren't really context-independent abilities at all, because they depend largely on students' domain-specific background knowledge.
Given how widespread confusion about "21st century skills" is among educators, we probably shouldn't be surprised that it's also widespread among employers, who don' t have any special educational insight just by virtue of working in business. This means, unfortunately, that we can't count on the business world to prevent our educational system from being blown off-course by this particular fad. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)