Sunday, January 17, 2010


5. Describe the essential skills, knowledge and expertise you think you need to master in order to succeed in work and life of the 21st Century.

As we enter into the 21st Century, we are becoming increasingly surrounded by digital media. Every day we become more and more sucked into the gargantuan 'Web 2.0.' 20 years ago, this media source did not exist. Now, be it a text message, score check, mindless game, or simply searching for a new app, we as a society are becoming increasingly distracted. Students spend hours each day looking at pictures on Facebook that are meaningless to them. Workers stay up all night playing Halo online. We love to 'play' on the internet. But this is becoming an increasing threat to our cogency and critical awareness as a society.

We are attracted to things that shine. We are enticed by big shadows yet never find their cause. As John Pilger states in his article,, we are a nation unknowingly directed by digital media. We can only analyze that which we know, and as a nation, we are only fed information through one lens.

40 years ago, Americans did not know about RAND's Pentagon study deeming the Vietnam war to be not as beneficial as was once pitched to the public. 30 years ago, American business students were not taught about the Just in Time system which made Japanese auto makers so successful. Today, most American students are not taught about the CIA's Operation Ajax (you'll have to look that one up).

However, as we enter an age of unlimited information accesebile with the click of a mouse, one skill will become important above all else. The ability to sift out the media fluff, to stray from the mainstream websites, and to dig for reality's gold. What this means is simple. If people are to gain stride in tomorrow's world, then need to stop reading Perez and start reading NatGeo. They need to realize that the Youtube video of the 4 year old who can juggle with one hand is not as important as the thousands of people who die each day from untreated water. All of the information is out there, accesible via the internet. Our main portals of education are no longer censored. We can find anything. The task is, to realize when one has BS on the screen and to search for something more meaningful and applicable to daily life.

People log more time than they should playing tetris online and less time on BBC. So, as the we enter the 21st Century, the essential skill that people will need in order to sucessfully navigate a meaningful life is to realize when they are being enticed by an illusion and to know how to find significant substance on the web. We no longer have to remain ignorant about the Iran-Contra affairs of our day, we just have to care enough about them more than we do about Brangelina.


  1. Dammitimmad,

    I appreciate your insightful post. You have touched on an essential skill that all citizens of this planet need: the ability to recognize the important issues; to differentiate (calculus!) between show and substance. Recognition of what is important comes through critical reading and careful analysis of information. In this digital age that is a major chore: sifting through the avalanche of information that threatens to bury us. One must read with a critical eye and an open mind. But recognition of the important issues is only the beginning. One must have the will to act on that information. For this one must have a moral compass by which to navigate the way. IMHO the real purpose of education is to provide an arena in which learners develop the life skills and habits of mind that will guide them beyond the classroom. For the 21st Century these skills and habits include: information literacy, cultural and global awareness, inventive thinking, problem solving, collaborative and interpersonal skills, adaptability, risk-taking, creativity, intellectual curiosity, accountability, and social responsibility. In addition to the content of any particular course (or maybe in spite of it), schools give all of us (students and faculty alike) the opportunity to learn the essential skills of being human in order to lead happy and purposeful lives.

    Thanx for the thoughtful post.

  2. Dammitimmad,

    In your post, you write that "So, as the we enter the 21st Century, the essential skill that people will need in order to successfully navigate a meaningful life is to realize when they are being enticed by an illusion and to know how to find significant substance on the web". Do you think that these are skills and attitudes that can be taught in school? If so, should they be taught in schools?

    Do you think that the internet has the possibility to resolve issues of education inequity? Or do you think it will increase the inequity?

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.


  3. Hey Sarah,
    Thanks for commenting.
    To answer your questions, I feel that critical thinking can and must be taught in schools. I think it is an essential life skill to navigate the shell game of reality. And beyond that, I believe that through clear examples and the displays of the benefit of learning this skill, critical thinking can be taught in schools.

    In terms of education inequality, I do not believe that the internet will ever be able to solve the gap. In my opinion, virtual learning is fantastic with the exception of two things. First, it lacks room for the students to ask real time questions that come to their minds when learning new material. Second, I believe that there is a unique value in hands on experience with an educator. And as virtual education grows, it will be equally available to everybody, privileged and not. And due to this equal access, I believe that it will be utilized with equal frequency by all socioeconomic groups. Thus, I think it will have no effect on issues of education inequity.


  4. ***to finish that last sentence "...because it is not as effective, in my opinion, as personalized learning."