Are the old basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic relevant in the 21st century? Or, is it time for an upgrade?
Arthur Harkins and I assembled a list of New Basics for education that can help us leapfrog to an education paradigm that is both innovative and relevant for the 21st century and beyond. These learning outcomes are not intended to be definitive. They are, however, designed to serve as starting points for conversations on how youth-oriented human capital development systems may become more innovative and encourage learning that is more meaningful.
- Think systemically: Perceiving existing patterns and constructing alternatives to them. This means that youth will think comparatively, through patterns, develop understandings of the underlying systems, and leverage the systemic patterns to meet their goals.
- Think simulationally: Conducting “what if?” thought experiments and mental rehearsals using controlled imagination and projections. Applying imagination to simulational thinking, youth may create eye-opening stories both within and among patterns.
- Thrive in the midst of changes, challenges, and unknowns: Developing perspectives, knowledge, and choices to cope with and leverage complexity and uncertainty. This means that youth will produce new thought tools to help them cope with increasing chaos and ambiguity in the modern world.
- Create and manipulate alternative pasts, presents, and futures: Creating and managing virtual time; developing flexible definitions of social and personal time; and, selectively associating alternative pasts and futures with multiple presents. This means that youth will counter the tyranny of traditional perceptions of clock time through their personal time constructs, including conceptualizations of history, the present and future that can be strategically compressed and stretched.
- Develop and respond to goals and challenges: Setting goals and objectives; detecting and anticipating impediments to success; and, designing solutions to impediments. This means that youth will take charge of their lives in more and more ways, in particular through energetic applications of their values and intelligence.
- Understand and effectively utilize existing information: Accessing and selectively employing information in pursuit of opportunities and problem resolutions. This means that youth gravitate toward the acquisition of new information, rather than shying away from it; and that the abundance of information will be valued as a socioeconomic resource.
- Construct and utilize personally applicable knowledge: Purposively transforming information into personally usable knowledge; building a personally styled capability to add intellectual and other forms of variety to the world; and, enhancing their decision-making options through the formation of new understandings. This means that youth will devote their lives to the construction and application of meaning, both explicit and implicit.
- Construct and utilize new knowledge related to contexts, processes, and cultures: Perceiving, designing, and constructing real and virtual contexts suitable for specific tasks; compiling and utilizing many perspectives on given subjects; and, enhancing decision-making options. This means that youth will become increasingly capable as designers and architects of alternative knowledge foundations to improve their lives.
- Effectively utilize current and emerging ICT systems: Staying atop the technologies that permit modern learning and economies; and, being at the forefront in the adoption and effective use of new technologies. This means that youth will expand their efforts as digital explorers and developers, and facilitate the technological adoption of technologies throughout society.
- Acquire and assess knowledge of various global trends: Constructing “big pictures” of the world using different resources for each picture; becoming a global thinker and citizen; and, employing these viewpoints to help contextualize relatively localized problems, opportunities, goals and means. This means that youth will participate in the development of new and compelling visions for the planet and beyond.
- Write and speak in a unique voice: Developing and utilizing personal uniqueness; applying uniqueness alone and with groups and teams; and, developing identity and character. This means that, through open, creative expression, youth may develop into exemplary representatives of democracy, freedom, and the courage to act on both.
- Take personal responsibility for intentions and performance quality: Ethically accepting accountability for personal actions and inactions; and, constructively responding to personal and social assessments of performance quality. This means that youth will not only enjoy learning from their mistakes, but also aim to turn mistakes into successes.