Below please find the Partnership’s identification of the core content they would argue should be the foci of a 21st Century curriculum spectrum.
- English, reading or language arts
- World languages
- Government and Civics
In addition and far more importantly I think the group offers several themes they believe that underly the formal content of the subject areas above. These are:
Two thoughts come to mind:
1. In your experience, how often do teachers; their curriculum; and their lesson design, become bogged down on the “content-facts” and fail to leave the time for or make the time to create lessons that highlight thematic instruction?
2. Even as noble as these themes are and I embrace and endorse all of them utterly, do their criticality still suffer by how teachers and by school systems approach their instruction?
I fear the answer to both questions is pretty much the same. Teachers, either because they hadn’t been trained in their teacher preparation institutions, or because there has not formerly been an instructional design emphasis in their school systems, more often than not at best address thematic underpinnings such as these above at best haphazardly.
Throw in at least two other yes-buts:
1. Since thematic issues are cross-disciplinary, school systems haven’t been smart enough to design organizational sharing and co-planning cultures among subject area teachers or among self-contained elementary teachers to facilitate the kind of process learning the themes demand.
2. It’s pretty easy to guess my other yes-but. The infernal perception and / or reality of accountability and test assessment measures continuously imposed on schools and on teachers often influences the lesson and unit designers to AVOID teaching to any sort of futures-based interdisciplinary theme.
So, it’s safe, it’s less risky to stay to surface content and to at best identify such themes when it may by serendipity present itself in an isolated lesson or two. This is in comparison to any concerted effort to consistently address and weave these all-important themes into the program’s highest expectations.
I am NOT demeaning what the the Partnership advocates. I am endorsing it. I am also saying that wishing won’t make it so.
Therefore I will try to offer two surface solutions to the yes-buts I raised and hope to get deeper into these in future posts after I continue to react to the Partnership model for futures-based schooling.
Point one: The school-organizational system and / or culture does not lend itself to designing such instruction.
Yep. They don’t. The traditional 40 minute day is still the rule of the day and often required by state education agencies. This is even true in elementary classrooms where one might think there is more latitude to reorganize the day.
But it can be done when the leadership recognizes that is should be done and when the leadership works with its stakeholders to grasp the same vision, adjust or replace its educational values, and make it happen. A great example, and I will provide more up the road is http://www.bethpagecommunity.com/students/21st_century_scholars_program, Bethpage Schools’ 21st Century Scholars.
Point two: Ah the tests …..! Need I say more, often the excuse for why we can’t do anything!
This is a harder issue to rebut. I acknowledge the angst and will not take the soap box against it yet whilst others do a much better job about railing against it.
Nonetheless I would argue that good teaching and good lesson designs that address the kinds of themes the Partnership advocate can first of all be assessed for any standards you wish to throw at them and secondly may in fact be more effective lesson strategies to ensure that students can demonstrate competency and mastery of content and skills that these assessments purport to measure!