21st Century Skills: How To Create Workers, Not Citizens

From Mike Rose at truthdig:
The economic motive has always figured in the spread of mass education in the United States, but recently it has predominated, edging out all the other reasons we send kids to school: civic, social, ethical, developmental. Even those 21st century skills that do deal with the civic, such as cross-cultural understanding, are expressed in terms of workplace effectiveness.

Take, for example, these items drawn from the advocacy group Partnership for 21st Century Skills:
  • Understand, negotiate and balance diverse views and beliefs to reach workable solutions, particularly in multicultural environments.
  • Leverage social and cultural differences to create new ideas and increase both innovation and quality of work.
These are worthy, and we certainly could benefit from their spirit of cooperation. But the focus is very much on getting something done in the workplace. There are other important educational and civic goals related to interacting with others of different backgrounds and beliefs. For starters, there is knowledge of cultural practices—of the very notion of culture—along with the appreciation of our common humanity. There might be nothing immediately “leveraged” from such understanding, but it has great civic and personal value.

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