A Challenge to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Various authors, Common Core, Sept 17, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The core, if you will, of the challenge is this: "P21's approach to teaching those skills marginalizes knowledge and therefore will deny students the liberal education they need. Cognitive science teaches us that skills and knowledge are interdependent and that possessing a base of knowledge is necessary to the acquisition not only of more knowledge, but also of skills. Skills can neither be taught nor applied effectively without prior knowledge of a wide array of subjects." Via Joanne Jacobs and the rest of the usual suspects from the same circle of friends.

The common core crowd don't read outside their own sphere of influence, so they won't see this post. But if they listen to you, try asking them, why is a common core necessary for the teaching of skills, and why is testing of that core necessary. Because, of course, the question isn't whether skills - such as critical thinking or (?) mathematical reasoning - can be taught in isolation, but rather (a) whether they must be taught in the context of some common base of knowledge (begging the question of just what that common basis of knowledge should be), and (b) whether students ought to be tested on the basis of that knowledge (rather than, say, their reasoning ability).

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