A Skill set That Never Expires

You've got to hand it to Seth Godin, he often makes you think.  A few days ago he had a post titled "The Map Has Been Replaced By The Compass" where he makes the case that the compass is more important than the map because the usefulness of the compass never changes.

The map keeps getting redrawn, because it's cheaper than ever to go offroad, to develop and innovate and remake what we thought was going to be next. Technology keeps changing the routes we take to get our projects from here to there. It doesn't pay to memorize the route, because it's going to change soon.

The compass, on the other hand, is more important then ever. If you don't know which direction you're going, how will you know when you're off course?

And yet...

And yet we spend most of our time learning (or teaching) the map, yesterday's map, while we're anxious and afraid to spend any time at all calibrating our compass.

To me what he is really talking about is uncertainty.  In an uncertain world, with an uncertain future, you better make sure you are prepared with the right tools and skill set for whatever the future has in store for you.  As educators, our job is to prepare students for success in this uncertain world.

How do we prepare students for a future that we can't predict even a couple of years out? How do we prepare students for jobs that don't yet exist? The answer is simple... we provide them with a skill set that will never expire; we provide them with a compass. What skills are these? Well, the Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth are a very good starting point. These 21 skills (divided into three broad categories) include such timeless skills as:

  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity and Resourcefulness
  • Speaking and listening
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Time, Task and Resource Management
  • Customer Service
  • Internet Use and Security

I think the list is really great. I don't mean to imply that having an academic skill set is not important, because it is.  I just think that we emphasize academic skills to the detriment of the applied skills.  We need to do both and we need to do so in a balanced manner.  I hope that as some of the innovation-stifling aspects of NCLB (where declarative knowledge is king) are finally coming to an end that teachers can get back to creating environments where students will be able to acquire some of these applied skills.