Content v. 21st Century Skills

09 Sep

I most strongly agree with the 21st Century Pedagogy and 21st Century Skills sites. My personal philosophy combines both ideas from Progressivism and Perennialism. As a (future) English teacher, I believe there are great works of literature that hold lasting lessons for students, but I also believe that there is no way to create a list of all the great works of literature in the world- the Canon is never fully complete. A piece of literature is not less valuable because it has been published in the 21st century instead of the 18th. I also agree with one of the main ideas of the 21st Century Pedagogy site, that, “How we teach must reflect how our students learn. It must also reflect the world our students will move into…” (Churches, 2012). What good is education if it doesn’t prepare students for the world they must inhabit?

I agree with Ken Kay, the proponent for 21st Century Skills when he says, “…our kids need world class skills and world class content” (Toppo, 2009). While I understand the argument put forth by Hirsch, I don’t fully believe that teaching students 21st Century Skills is an “ineffectual use of school time” (Toppo, 2009). Sure, there are ways to improve the effectuality of teaching these skills, but this doesn’t mean we should throw out this part of education altogether. Preparing to teach English, I certainly am in favor of content- but I’m also in favor of students being able to apply that content creatively, to synthesize and to explore- this is my idea of effective education.

The Core Knowledge website also suggests that when teachers follow their specific curriculum, “instead of spending hours trying to identify and plan what to teach, they are freed to think more creatively about how to teach” (“Teachers”, 2012). I think this would give America homogenous citizens, not the creative thinking, problem-solving, globally-aware members we desire. Why should the freedom of what to teach be taken away from  teachers? The Core Knowledge program goes even one step further than the SOLs, micromanaging content. Maybe teachers would be inspired to become creative with their lesson plans simply because they have nothing left to do, but I would prefer to believe that teachers would be more inspired to be creative with lesson plans about content that they have chosen and believe is important.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills defines the 4 C’s as “communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity” (“Above and beyond:,” 2011). The same four benefits (and then some) are listed in Chapter 1 of “Web 2.0” in conjunction with blogging. Technology seems to be a great way to foster this independent, problem-solving education presented by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. These same values are found in “Inquiry-based learning”. Coffman asserts that, “When educators talk about twenty-first century skills and preparing students for the world outside of a school’s traditional four walls, the emphasis is on developing creative thinkers and self-directed risk takers who are able to ask thoughtful questions” (Coffman, 2009). These are the very students that could not be created simply through content-based learning, as suggested by Hirsch and proponents of the Core Knowledge Curriculum. Education is something bigger than the summary of facts, and an important part of these other skills can be found through technology and technological literacy.



Above and beyond: the story of the 4 c’s. (2011). Retrieved from

Churches, A. (2012). 21st Century Pedagogy. Retrieved from Century Pedagogy

Coffman, T. (2009). Engaging students through inquiry-oriented learning and technology. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2012). Web 2.0 how to for educators. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Teachers. (2012). Retrieved from

Toppo, G. (2009, March 05). What to learn. USA Today. Retrieved from





One Response

  1. kathrynboccaccio says:

    I completely agree that for every teacher to utilized Core Knowledge’s prescribed curriculum would result in the homogenization of our students. What fun would that be? English is one of my favorite subjects, and some of the best teachers I’ve had in the subject have chosen readings based on their personal favorites. Seeing their excitement over the works they choose always motivated us more as students and made us want to read the book ourselves to see what was so interesting. Predetermined curricula would take that away from so many great teachers.

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