“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
~ Albert Einstein
What does it mean to be 21st century ready? It refers to a general skill set that clearly applies to every human being, regardless of age or technological ability (trust me, I know!). It’s a modern balance of both the soft skills (behavior/virtue), and the hard skills (technical). It also falls under the Fundamentals umbrella, as it encompasses, and requires, a vast range of virtues: open-mindedness, perseverance, acceptance, tolerance, collaboration, respect, and patience, to name but a few.
It’s a lifestyle shift from the dogmatic/algorithmic mindset to a more pragmatic and creative/innovative way of operating day-to-day, of letting go, thinking outside the proverbial box, being wildly imaginative, daydreaming uninhibitedly, painting with every color, and reflecting. It’s contemporary, state-of-the-art critical thinking.
Given the new millennial school-to-work/adult environment, do we keep the existing virtues, or follow with more progressive virtues, adapt the classics, or create a whole new array of expectations? We now have email etiquette, so do we recategorize them into technology-based and in-person interaction virtues? And who determines what they are, or should be? How does the Golden Rule survive in this new setting?
21st century skills refers to a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed—by educators, school reformers, college professors, employers, and others—to be critically important to success in today’s world:
- Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information
- Research skills and practices, interrogative questioning
- Creativity, artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, personal expression
- Perseverance, self-direction, planning, self-discipline, adaptability, initiative
- Oral and written communication, public speaking and presenting, listening
- Leadership, teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, facility in using virtual workspaces
- Information and communication technology (ITC) literacy, media and internet literacy, data interpretation and analysis, computer programming
- Civic, ethical, and social-justice literacy
- Economic and financial literacy, entrepreneurialism
- Global awareness, multicultural literacy, humanitarianism
- Scientific literacy and reasoning, the scientific method
- Environmental and conservation literacy, ecosystems understanding
- Health and wellness literacy, including nutrition, diet, exercise, and public health and safety
Howard Gardner, a Harvard Developmental Psychologist and Professor of Education, has just written Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Education for the Virtues in the 21st Century, which correlates with today’s topic seamlessly. He discusses the evolving nature and relevance of all three pivotal virtues, and how they relate to our digital world. He has also critically revisited his own work of many years, and consequently recognized and modified his perspective to meet the more contemporary definitions and demands.
The classics are classics for a reason, but just as importantly, progress deserves a seat at the table as well. We must address the changing landscape and the virtues we operate with in it. We are heading for some exciting discoveries in medicine, global communication, travel, technology, education, you name it, but it warrants new parameters of thought and behavior, and if that means retaining the foundational virtues (which I believe it does), or reinventing and updating them, so be it, but it is currently on our plate. We see changes in our young, and they need guidance now.
Reflection then, offers direction and support, and with that, new goals. Let’s embrace this challenge with vigor and enthusiasm.