Search, cut, paste

Fur is flying over a Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ talk to the National Education Association.  Though reporters were not invited, Lynne Munson wrote on Common Core that P21’s “Paige Kuni explained that in the ‘search cut and paste environment’ students . . . only need to know ‘enough of the most crucial information’.”

She didn’t say who decides when enough is enough or what P21 considers crucial. Is it enough earth science to know that the earth is round? Enough literature to have heard of Shakespeare? Enough history to know that we once fought a civil war because the North and South disagreed about something?

. . .  In their remarks, none of the panelists mentioned science, geography, foreign languages, history, literature, art, civics — the list goes on and on.

Kuni responded in a Flypaper comment.

. . . I believe that students absolutely need to be taught content in combination with instruction that leads to 21st century skills like critical thinking, innovation, and collaboration. I believe that by creating schools that adopt the approaches P21 supports, students will be able to make connections of how a changing form makes butterflies more successful in the ecosystem. That they can think critically about how life cycles connect to evolution. And that they could extrapolate to other topics such as how product lifecycles in business are the same or different from butterfly lifecycles in making companies successful. When they are 25 if they cannot recall the name of one-step in the lifecycle, it isn’t important as long as they possess the learning skills that allow them to access that information when they need it (search- cut- paste).

Eduwonk sees common ground — if P21 adherents get a lot more specific about how students are going to learn the content that’s essential to thinking critically or creatively.

Robert Pondiscio, who’s back and blogging, muses about resistance to “content.” Personally, I prefer “knowledge.”

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  1. Ponderosa says:

    This reminds me of a teacher of ancient Greek I had in college who downplayed memorizing and quizzes because, she said, “You can always look it up.” This really irked me at the time; I knew I was being cheated of a good education. This “You can always Google it” mentality is pervasive because it SEEMS so sensible. But learning a foreign language provides a great example of its great flaw: how can you speak –or even read –a foreign language if you haven’t memorized anything? Of course, if you had infiinte time, you could write down every word your interlocutor was saying to you, painstakingly translate each word, etc… but of course that’s ridiculous. That’s the piece these P21 people are missing: efficiency. Having to Google most of the info needed to make any good decision or perform any even slightly complex function would be ridiculously inefficient. A knowledge-rich brain is an efficient brain. What P21 proposes is a knowledge-lite brain with super high-powered processor chips (a.k.a. thinking skills). The problem is, this metaphor is false; humans may have processor chips, but there’s little evidence that they can be made more high-powered by simply using them. The only way they can be made to work faster and more effectively is if the brain has a rich library of core knowledge right there, in its memory banks.

    This case is difficult to make –even these brainiac Silicon Valley P21 types don’t seem to get it –which makes me pessimistic that it will win.

  2. Without core knowledge, how does one know what questions to ask?

  3. Without core knowledge, how will one judge the information available online?

    I predict a golden age approaching for con men and quacks. All those 21st century learners with 21st century skills. It’s really easy to mislead the ignorant who believe they’re well-educated.

  4. Agreed. You can’t use Google to tell you the things that you should be looking up. Only a good teacher or a textbook or some other well-laid out course can tell you what you should be Googling in an area, and that takes time.

  5. People who do know facts and data are going to have quite an advantage over everybody else. They’ll be writing the content everyone else will rely upon. They’ll also run the functioning parts of the world.

  6. Ponderosa says:

    You know what’s really odd –these P21 utopians who deride traditional education as a recipe for failure in the highly-competitive global economy ignore the fact that our most ferocious competitors –China, India, Japan –employ precisely the type of traditional education that they deride! When will we give up the myth that actually knowing stuff inhibits creativity and nimble thinking –and understand that precisely the opposite is true?

  7. “21st century skills like critical thinking, innovation, and collaboration”…why are these *21st century skills*? Did people in the past not engage in critical thinking, innovation, and collaboration?

    Sounds to me like some temporal bigotry is going on.