We don’t know what we don’t know… 21st century skills

We don’t know what we don’t know…


So we have to teach children not the knowledge base that is current, actually we only would ever teach a tiny, tiny fraction of the sum of knowledge, but we must prepare them for a world that does not yet exist.


I am trying to encapsulate those who proclaim against teaching children knowledge and would have us teach children skills, to learn usually.


This is an example of association by juxtaposition. One says one, or more, correct thing(s) and then places next to that a statement. The second statement then becomes true by association. You may want to get the logic of the correctness, or not, of the second statement.


The transistor was invented in 1948 in the Bell Labs in America. This functioned in a similar way to the valves that were used in radios and other electronic apparatus. It is unlikely that the explosion that occurred over the next few years would have been predicted by many around that time. The transistor led onto the integrated circuit, invented about ten years later. This led to the development of the electronic computer in, well it really depends what we mean. Valve computers, Colossus were doing sums in the 1940s. It was then not much of a jump to the large computers that were run using integrated circuits that we would recognise as the modern version of computers. In the 1970s the Altair, probably the first personal computer came into existence. In the 1980s IPM invented the PC, a portable personal computer. Apple 1 on 1976. And so on.


This is not a history of computers. It simply says that future developments come from current developments. If you understand how a triode valve operates it is not too much of a jump to understanding how a transistor and then an integrated circuit works.


Mobile apps for phones appeared in 2008. No one predicted that in 2000! But apps are simply developments from the types of programming that were going on ever since the computer had been invented. The job of ‘appwriter did not exist before 2007. Did our education system beat itself up because we had not prepared children to enter this brand new job market? No it did not. The knowledge we need to write apps is simply a development from existing skills. Were those entering this job market able to cope? Of course they were.


We are fine to just develop the curriculum as time progresses. Stuff we know now will merge into stuff we need to know in the future. Just like it always has.


Sure the future will be different but just because the calendar changed from 1999 to 2000 it does not mean we have to change the way we teach children. We certainly should not think that one day they will wake up and their brains have suddenly become inadequate for the world they are now in.

Stop this silly 21st century skills nonsense now.
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One thought on “We don’t know what we don’t know… 21st century skills

  1. Hi Peter – I think this is a very wise way to look at this matter. I think society has always worked by us gradually – one day, year, decade at a time – evolving in habits and ways of looking at things. The knowledge will gradually shift to take into account the newer things that people NEED to know, and the key information skills are flinging themselves at young people whether we do anything about it or not.

    Thanks – Chris

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