Humankind is beholden to its zoological evolution, and needs to educate itself for the world it aspires to.
Clannishness (small group belonging) is hardwired, and so is the privileging of short-term reactivity to short-term danger over long-term proactivity to uncertain danger. The logarithmic understanding of numbers (a diminishing scale) is hardwired as well, blinding us to the power of exponentially progressing technologies. The combination of the three factors makes it very hard, but not impossible, for humankind to act in concert, for its own benefit, to solve global challenges (global warming, financial crisis, etc.).
Oversimplifications are legion, and emotions are a factor.
“Schools kill creativity”, “Does Google make us stupid?” are press-worthy attention-grabbers, but the realities are more nuanced, for a world that refuses to deal with its nuanced self. Here too, our zoological evolution influences us by privileging the power of the negative over intelligent discourse. Everyone brings in their own biases to an education conversation (this author included), but most often fail to be aware of them as the biases they are.
Conversations about education abound with false dichotomies, and absolutist views, that must be transcended.
The lack of a balanced-conversation mindset leads to many OR debates; for instance:
- Knowledge vs skills
- Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) vs Humanities/Arts
- Didactic vs constructivist learning
- Formal vs informal learning
- All technology or no technology
- Character developed at school vs at home
The balanced reality is that these are all AND propositions, working in concert with each other, and reinforcing each other, in a judicious, impactful feedback loop.
Awareness, adaptability, creativity and collaboration are the most important 21st century skills.
In a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, our abilities to understand ourselves and each other, adapt and innovate out of problems, and work together in doing so, are key to shaping the future we aspire to. A growth, rather than fixed, mindset (per Carol Dweck) is essential in this endeavor, and so is Wisdom, which has not significantly progressed since the Axial Age.
It is grand time to act in a world of possibilities—with courage.
Technology is on the march exponentially, and it is a source of disruptions (via automation and offshorability), as well as solutions and incredible new possibilities—if we leverage it rather than trail it. And we need to summon the Courage within our evolved selves to “think globally, act locally” with a combination of “head, hand and heart” to shape the world we want.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Charles Fadel is the founder and chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign (CCR) , a visiting scholar at Harvard GSE, MIT ESG and Wharton/Penn CLO, and co-author of best-selling “21st Century Skills.” The mission of the CCR is to answer the fundamental question “What should students learn in the 21st century?” via a global consortium of key PISA jurisdictions, NGO’s, higher education institutions, corporations, foundations and organizations.
Charles Fadel is a global education thought leader and expert, author, and inventor, with several affiliations in addition to the ones identified above:
- Senior fellow, human capital at The Conference Board
- Vice-chair of the Education committee of BIAC/OECD
- Co-author of best-selling book “21st Century Skills”
- Board member at Innovate/Educate
- Angel investor with Beacon Angels in Boston
- Former Global Education Lead at Cisco Systems
He has worked with a wide variety of education ministries and organizations, and has contributed to education projects in more than thirty countries. He has contributed to and has been featured by media such as National Public Radio (NPR), the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the Huffington Post, and others. He holds a bachelor of science in electronics /physics with a minor in neuroscience, and an MBA. He has been awarded five patents in video, content and communications technologies.
The Center for Curriculum Redesign, answering the question “What should students learn in the 21st century?”