An Operating System for the Mind

Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Sept 24, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Last week, a group called Core Standards released some prototype core standards. These have already been thoroughly criticized (see Tom Hoffman, below) but I wanted to take a different approach. I touched on it, as x28 summarizes, in my last newsletter before the shutdown. Now I describe, at length, why we need more and more to emphasize skills - which I list - over core (or otherwise) content. The paper has already drawn wide discussion in Twitter and a few blogs.

In 'An Operating System for the Mind' I argue, "If we just need basic mathematics - operations, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus - then we could simply learn the facts and we're fine. But if we envision actually working with mathematics, and extending our knowledge of mathematics well beyond these basics, then our method of learning by adding facts will make it harder and harder to progress, and beyond a certain point, progress will become impossible. If, however, mathematics is taught, not as a set of facts, but as a skill, then advanced mathematics becomes more like new terrain over which we are navigating, rather than new stuff we have to memorize. 21st century skills are, in short, an operating system for the mind."
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