Monday, July 6, 2009

Diane Ravitch on "The Partnership for 19th Century Skills"

This one from Diane is just brilliant.
I for one have heard quite enough about the 21st century skills that are sweeping the nation. Now, for the first time, children will be taught to think critically (never heard a word about that in the 20th century, did you?), to work in groups (I remember getting a grade on that very skill when I was in third grade a century ago), to solve problems (a brand new idea in education), and so on.

Let me suggest that it is time to have done with this unnecessary conflict about 21st century skills. Let us agree that we need all those forenamed skills, plus lots others, in addition to a deep understanding of history, literature, the arts, geography, civics, the sciences, and foreign languages.

But allow me also to propose a new entity that will advance a different set of skills and understandings that are just as important as what are now called 21st century skills. I propose a Partnership for 19th Century Skills.
This partnership will advocate for such skills, values, and understandings as:
  • The love of learning
  • The pursuit of knowledge
  • The ability to think for 20 oneself (individualism)
  • The ability to stand alone against the crowd (courage)
  • The ability to work persistently at a difficult task until it is finished (industriousness, self-discipline)
  • The ability to think through the consequences of one’s actions on others (respect for others)
  • The ability to consider the consequences of one’s actions on one’s well-being (self-respect)
  • The recognition of higher ends than self-interest (honor)
  • The ability to comport oneself appropriately in all situations (dignity)
  • The recognition that civilized society requires certain kinds of behavior by individuals and groups (good manners, civility)
  • The willingness to ask questions when puzzled (curiosity)
  • The readiness to dream about other worlds, other ways of doing things (imagination)
  • The ability to believe that one can improve one’s life and the lives of others (optimism)
  • The ability to believe in principles larger than one’s own self-interest (idealism)
  • The ability to speak well and write grammatically, using standard English
I invite readers to submit other 19th century skills that we should cultivate assiduously among the rising generation, on the belief that doing so will lead to happier lives and a better world.

(Ed’s Note: Diane Ravitch wrote the above for the blog of Common Core, which advocates for comprehensive education in the liberal arts and sciences. She is the organization’s co-chair. It is published here as well, with her permission.)


Sean Ahern said...

Nostaligia among the elite intelligensia is a tell tale sign of the exhaustion of a ruling class. Hallelujah!

Surely Dr Ravitch would not want to gloss over some of the more sordid aspects of 19th century life. But there is a valid point to her waxing nostalgic for a bygone era.

You have to go back to the 19th century to find a time when the American Academy was more concerned with the search for truth than producing briefs and propaganda for the oligarchy.

The oligarchy that Ms Ravitch has served her entire career has made a real mess of things in education and it promises to get worse. She can retreat to nostalgia or she can acknowledge her own role in bringing about this mess which goes back to A Nation At Risk.

Who is to say that Ravitch is a prisoner of her past associations. She can exercise here free will and switch sides and 'serve the people.' I think she would be most welcome.

She might have a tough time convincing her old colleagues at the Hoover Institute to join her but then she might find new friends and a whole new meaning and mission to life. A far more rewarding path in my opinion than rummaging around in the 19th century for forsaken ideals.

There is no question that Ms Ravitch has much to contribute. But on whose behalf? Indeed one might, like the old song, ask Ms Ravitch: "Which side are you on?"

Anonymous said...

Ravitch is the most brilliant and courageous expert on educational research, history and philosophy in America today. She has no rivals and no competent detractors.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ravitch brings historical perspective to the discussion of a topic from which it has been systematically extirpated in recent years. During the last four years of my three-decade teaching career I observed the systematic silencing of anyone who possessed historical perspective or institutional memory. I suspect that there are few in the current education leadership who can demonstrate anything deeper than awareness-level appreciation of the "19th century skills" on Dr. Ravitch's list.

David Dooley said...

Forget school!

These are the things children would automatically learn if they were raised by parents who engaged in parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as supporting the healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development of children, and rejected parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as disrupting the healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development of children.