August 11, 2022
Our knowledge will take its revenge on us, just as ignorance exacted its revenge during the Middle Ages. ~Friedrich Nietzsche
In the previous article, I asked “What if schools’ primary purpose was to nurture thriving relationships?” I did so thinking about “21st-century skills,” which are so often pushed by industry and education. I am not quite sure when these skills became the exclusive property of the 21st century, but I will venture to guess that it had to do with the changing capitalist landscape. Corporations realized they needed knowledge workers (with different skillsets to previous generations of workers) to compete in the post-service economy and they put pressure on transnational organizations like the World Economic Forum to “reveal” periodically the top 5,10, or 20 skills employees will need for the future. Every so often, these reports fall into the hands of a well-meaning school administrator who then pushes competency development into the curriculum and calls it “future ready.”
Today, in addition to competing on test scores and grade point averages (which suffer from grade inflation) students get to compete on their so-called 21st-century skills—say, how creative and ethical they are—which in itself might not be so crazy; however too often the documentation of the skills speaks more than the skills themselves. We assign a number or a color on a report to quantify creativity, communication, or whatnot, and maybe we write a brief comment. The number speaks more to creativity than the creation itself. (I find it particularly ironic that the system gets kids to compete on how collaborative they are.)*Sometimes graduates submit portfolios or exemplars, but this is all too rare and the competencies they’re supposed to highlight remain de-contextualized. These skills are largely “measured” through the individual. There is little, if any, sense of context or the collective. We include the stories of the environment or the other people who also participated in the learning experience.
I have nothing against developing individual skills (though I don’t know how it’s possible to assess individually, removing the individual from the context in which the skill is demonstrated); I just think that if we remain stuck here, we will perpetuate the problems of separation and atomization. We can go beyond these.
We can go beyond the individual and consider how we inter- and intra-act in our relationships with each other…
|↑1||Sometimes graduates submit portfolios or exemplars, but this is all too rare and the competencies they’re supposed to highlight remain de-contextualized.|