Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Three C’s

A quote from Alvin Toffler reads, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn." 

The average individual in the United States will change careers three times and be employed in twelve different jobs before the age of forty.  How can today’s educator equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in a world where change seems to be the only constant?  How is it possible to train students for jobs that have not yet been imagined, to keep up with technology that has not yet been invented?

No longer can educators saddle themselves with the idea that competence in the 3 R’s (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) will suffice as the guiding measure of academic and future success for the students entrusted to the educational system of today.  The classroom must therefore engage the students in processes that build upon the tools and skills that will allow them to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Therefore, the focus of secondary education should no longer be the 3 R’s but instead should be predicated on the 3 C’s, Critical Thinking, Clear Communication, and Collaboration.  It is these three skills that will provide a basis for success in a world where careers, technology, and socializing will be consistently changing with a rapidness that is exponential as opposed to the linear change that all generations witnessed prior to the first Apple One being placed in a classroom.

Critical thinking allows the individual to manage information. Information presented in a multitude of forms from a variety of media. Information that must be filtered and analyzed, authenticated and processed, and eventually must be synthesized in a form that will be useful to the individual. 

Communication provides the means by which the individual can present information. Information presented in a multitude of means through a variety of media. Information that must be clear and concise, effective and engaging, and eventually be presented in a way that is meaningful to the individual.

Collaboration engages the individual in the world they share through association. Association, that is created to benefit an organization and as a means to conduct business. Association that includes partnership and teamwork, leadership and assistance, and alliance that serves to benefit the whole.     

The educational process must engage the student in activities that provide for the honing of these three basic skills.  It is an injustice to today’s student for the educational process to be focused upon the solution rather than the process.  It is the obligation of the educator to provide curricular opportunities that engage students in the three C’s. 

Encourage students to travel outside their zones of comfort.  Don’t set the bar, for the bar may inadvertently be too low and discourage the expansion of ideas. Encourage mistakes for mistakes are windows to the possibilities of new processes. Devalue the answer and value the process.  For it is in the process, that these skills are built and where it is in finding the answer, that the process ends.                      

The 1940’s and 1950’s marked an educational era that necessitated the development of job skills. The majority of the population sought only to be job ready out of high school.  Careers were for the college bound. The choices were much simpler as high school graduation led to college to those who demonstrated the academic promise to prepare for a career or who had the family wealth to pursue college without such a focus. The second option was to take up a job in order to learn a trade.  While the third option was the military, where you could learn a trade and then pursue a job upon discharge.

The educational focus of the 60’s and 70’s found high schools preparing students for college in order to forge a career. The learning pedagogy involved skills necessary to succeed in a college setting.  Preparation for choosing a lifelong career path was the therefore the norm and the skills necessary were based upon getting to the next level on that path.

Today, however, it can no longer be assumed that the career of choice today will even be an option tomorrow.  The exponential growth of technology and the relative shrinking of the world through our connectivity and social media invariably makes it impossible to gauge the job skills that will be necessary in the future.

Therefore, the high school student of today must be equipped with the skills that will provide the ability to communicate ideas clearly and effectively, the ability to work independently or within a group dynamic and the ability to think both inside and outside the box. The three C’s must be the standards upon which the education provided to this generation of students is predicated.

No comments: