Monday, March 09, 2009

"21st Century Skills" and the "American Diploma Project"

Checker Finn sez:

...speaking of 21st Century skills, the more I learn about this woolly notion, the clearer it becomes that this infatuation is bad for liberal learning; a ploy to sidestep results-based accountability; somewhere between disingenuous and naïve regarding its impact on serious academic content; and both psychologically questionable and pedagogically unsound. (For a terrific exposition of these problems, see here.)

And he states that:

Achieve's respected "American Diploma Project" (ADP) benchmarks--these are at the core of the common standards project.

OK, good. I like it when people in favor of national standards point to actual standards. Now, let's see how many "21st Century Skills," which Finn dislikes, are in the "American Diploma Project" standards, which he likes:

  • Creativity and Innovation: bzzt! Can't find it.
  • Critical Thinking and Decision Making: "Critical Thinking and Decision Making" is one of the "cross disciplinary proficiencies... embedded in the ADP benchmarks." Pretty close. Also there is a whole section on "logic" in the English standards, which sound to me like the kind of thing Stephen has in mind when he says:

    ... from where I sit, a proposition is a proposition, whether expressed in history or literature, and modus ponens still holds among such propositions no matter where they're expressed.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Again "Communications and Teamwork" is an ADP "core proficiency" and you've got the "Communication" English standards and the "Work in Teams" benchmark.
  • Information, Media and Technology Skills: In ADP English you've got "Informational Text," and "Media" and "Media and Technology" is a "cross disciplinary proficiency."
  • Life and Career Skills: Most of these are covered in the standards listed above (e.g., "Communications and Teamwork").

I'm not even sure what to make of this. Have the 21st Century Skills people already rotted out the core of Achieve? There absolutely is real difference between the two documents, but why would people like Checker Finn, who is a proponent of national standards, and many of his allies, exaggerate the differences between these supposedly opposed camps? If you want to see national standards, shouldn't you be building a big tent? I don't get it.

The most plausible explanation is that the can't resist making fun of DFH's and can't be bothered to actually read standards documents and try to come to consensus.

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