To the Editor:
I am struck by the recent Commentary by Mike Rose (“Giving Cognition a Bad Name,” Jan. 16, 2013) and the article “‘Soft Skills’ Seen as Key Element for Higher Ed.” (Nov. 14, 2012), both of which suggest that “soft skills,” such as getting along with people, dealing with setbacks, being able to communicate, persevering, problem-solving creatively, and being resourceful, are as important as mastering math and reading. More and more I see that these qualities of character factor into success in school and in life.
When I was on sabbatical, I saw an advertisement for a position as a town administrator in Vermont. Along with a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field, the job requirements for that position included excellent interpersonal and communication skills, creative problem-solving skills, and the ability to “meet deadlines while under stress without becoming ‘stressed out.’ ”
This is just one example of how such skills are necessary for life. How can we teach these skills while cramming for statewide assessments in math, language arts, and science? How can we teach these skills, which are developed over time in settings and through relationships, if we spend much of the school day focusing on test preparation?
Bridgewater State University
A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2013 edition of Education Week as When Can Students Learn Life Skills?