Define “educated” with 6 virtues, and 21st Century Skills are covered

If you believe we should define 21st Century skills, but not define what it means to be educated, check out this blog or download this PDF. If you realize that modeling and teaching the six virtues covers these skills, read here.

Three ideas from 21st Century skills blog:

1.  A “who’s who” team of experts from the National Academies’ division of behavioral and social sciences and education and its boards on testing and on science education collaborated for more than a year on the report, intended to define just what researchers, educators and policymakers mean when they talk about “deeper learning” and “21st-century skills.”

2.  The committee found these skills generally fall into three categories:

    • Cognitive skills, such as critical thinking and analytic reasoning;
    • Interpersonal skills, such as teamwork and complex communication; and
    • Intrapersonal skills, such as resiliency and conscientiousness (the latter of which has also been strongly associated with good career earnings and healthy lifestyles).

3. Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who was not part of the report committee, said developing common definitions of 21st century skills is critical to current education policy discussions, such as around Common Core State Standards.

“Unless we want to have just a lot of hand-waving on 21st century skills,” Ms. Darling-Hammond said, “we need to get focused and purposeful on how to learn to teach and measure these skills, both in terms of research investments and in terms of the policies and practice that would allow us to develop and measure these skills.”

Cut the Crap

If “educated” is defined in terms of virtues, policy makers, researchers, and teachers will know that a teacher’s job is to model and teach the six virtues, not some arbitrary list of skills. Ms. Darling-Hammond describes our never-ending debate about which arbitrary lists of knowledge and skills students should learn.  According to the blog:

(Ms. Darling-Hammond) was pleased with the report’s recommendation to focus more research and resources on interpersonal skills such as complex communication and teamwork and intrapersonal skills such as resiliency and resourcefulness.

She then said,

Those are the things that determine whether you make it through college, as much as your GPA or your skill level when you start college.

Really? An arbitrary set of 21st Century Skills “are the things that determine whether you make it through college?”

Let’s look at those skills — teamwork, resiliency, and resourcefulness. Shouldn’t students also learn independence and commitment?  Of course they should.  What about other interpersonal and intrapersonal skills like friendliness, tolerance, respect, trust, and confidence? Why not these other desirable skills?  There are no reasons not to also teach these skills, which is why the 21st Century list is partial and arbitrary.

We want to teach this arbitrary list of knowledge and skills, but we don’t want to teach the six virtues that define the educated person?  They define the “educated”person for three reasons:

1.   “Virtues” are desirable qualities (by definition).  And (by definition) “educated” is becoming a complete person (student, teacher, father, mother, employee, companion, leader, etc.). And these six virtues are the ingredients of all other virtues.  Try to be virtuously resilient, resourceful, or confident without (1) understanding, (2) imagination, (3) strength and (4) humility.  It can’t be done. The six virtues are the ingredients of all others.

2. The six virtues make all situations better. There are no situations that are not improved with more U, I, S, C, H & G.  The same cannot be said for other desirable qualities, which are always good in some situations, but not good in others. Respect is an example.  Some things should be respected, others should not.  Another example is friendliness.  It is sometimes desirable, other times not.

3.  The six-virtue definition is useful because it tells us how to improve every learning situation. If learning isn’t occurring because of ignorance, bring understanding; if it isn’t occurring because of intellectual incompetence, bring imagination; if it isn’t occurring because of weak character, bring strength; if isn’t occurring because of fear of truth, bring courage; if it isn’t occurring because of pride, bring humility, and if it isn’t occurring because of selfishness, bring generosity.

Arbitrary lists are not useful, but the six-virtue definition of the educated person is.


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