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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Schools can't teach most skills. They never have, and never will. Now what?

Schools just can't teach leadership. They can't teach project management. They can't teach stewardship. They can't teach innovation. They just can't. They never have, and never will.

When politicians or other leaders gather around in committees and ask,"what skills should schools be teaching?" they have already lost. They are asking a flawed question that will inevitably lead to incredibly expensive failure.

It is not a matter of will, or budget, or priorities. Schools, with masses of dropped-off children consuming lectures, writing papers, and taking tests, can only teach basic and rote skills at best. They are passable at developing "learning to know" skills, and abysmal at "learning to do" skills. This is as true of private schools and charter schools as public schools.

The greatest tragedy is that the very skills purported to be desired in the next generation of citizens, the so-called 21st Century Skills, are so much better developed in programs outside of school (see list here). Truly, more school for most students literally means less education. Or said another way: if schools don't work, why would more school work?

Once again, if the national question is framed as, "what skills should schools be teaching?" then we are lost. The right question is instead, "what skills do our next generation of citizens need, of those what have schools proven to be good at developing, and then how do we fill in the significant gaps?"

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