To the Editor:
Christopher L. Doyle’s Commentary “Back to the Future” (Sept. 14, 2011) is mistaken on facts, but right on the message.
The aim of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, or P21, and the Framework for 21st Century Learning is to ensure that young people are prepared for school, work, and life in the 21st century. Twenty-first-century skills do not stand alone or replace content knowledge, but need to be embedded throughout the curriculum, with relevant assessments connected to real learning, not simply rote memorization. What is new about these skills is their intentional inclusion as essential components of a quality education for all students.
The rise of technology and globalization have ensured that our young people will inherit a changed world. The skills P21 highlights allow students to become the kinds of creative, critically freethinking, adaptable, and well-rounded adults who will one day pursue careers not yet invented and contribute to society in ways we cannot yet imagine.
These skills were defined not by the business world, but through the collaboration of many community stakeholders: parents, educators, librarians, and citizens—the “artists, developmental psychologists, ethicists, environmentalists, and physicists” Mr. Doyle cites—who understand the value of science, creativity, ethics, and child development, and think beyond what a standardized, status-quo classroom can provide.
Based on his writings, Mr. Doyle is himself a 21st-century educator. He notes: “My agenda also encompasses linking the past to current events. ... I aspire additionally to teach empathy and ethics, qualities that I believe the discipline of history is uniquely capable of developing. And I seek to improve my students’ skill at writing while sharpening their capacity for critical thought.” This is what 21st-century educators do.
The 21st-century-skills movement and our nation’s children need more examples of this kind of powerful, real-world teaching and learning. Mr. Doyle is right to say that we need to stop forecasting 21st-century skills; we simply need to start teaching them.
Timothy J. Magner
Partnership for 21st Century Skills
A version of this article appeared in the September 28, 2011 edition of Education Week as The Time Is Now for 21st-Century Teaching