Sunday, February 17, 2008

Are We on the Right Track?

I was out to dinner with my husband tonight and sought out his opinion about the need for 21st century skills in his business world. Not exactly a valid survey, but certainly a personal response from one who works in the business world. Mind you, he works in upper management for a Fortune 400 (they like to note that they are higher then just Fortune 500) company that employs over 12,ooo people and brings in over 3 billion dollars of revenue a year. Those numbers alone are difficult for this public education employee to fathom. While I am personally passionate about developing the ability of students to think for themselves, to problem solve, to think creatively, to collaborate, to communicate clearly in a global world, and to develop the passion to be life long learners, it never hurts to question your position, to seek out additional insight and viewpoints, to refine your thinking, and to adjust your direction. What I wondered was, are we right? Do you see the same needs in your position as the research and business world suggest we need? His instant and unequivocal response was YES! So I pursued it further. Are they necessary for everyone in your over 12,ooo employee company? Still a YES! Creative thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration are highly valued skills for every single employee in the company. Those qualities are the ones that enable each employee, each department, each division in the company to suggest an idea that improves a process and makes a difference in how the company performs.

In education circles, we often talk about the small ripple each of us makes and hope that the ripple spreads and causes further ripples. What strikes me is the difference in attitude between our two different, albeit unscientifically studied, viewpoints. In education, we hope, while in business, it is an expectation. What keeps us in education from expecting those qualities from each of us? How can we instill those qualities in our students if we do not first expect it of ourselves?