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The changing purposes of American education: Week 12

Change. The 21st century has reshaped education and the way people look at the world around them.  The advances made in technology and globalization has most significantly shaped the 21st century society that we are looking at now.  Our world as we know it no more has only to do with the people closest in geography.  The advent of the Internet and other global technologies has made much easier to communicate with those around the world.  The changes brought about in society are not causing schools to become relevant as long as schools make the necessary changes in order to keep up with the changing times.  In my opinion, the only thing that will cause schools to fall out of favor is if they do not adapt to the changing environment.  Everything that we know generally adapts along with societal changes: the increase of the Internet brought about a global society, advances in computer science has changed they way scientists look as medicine, social networking has changed they way the average American citizen makes friends and communicates.   Everything adapts to their environment and schools should also in order to help children succeed in the 21st century. No longer is it adequate for the children of this world to be educated in order to excel on standardized tests or compete with other countries to be at the top of the education list.  Children now are in need of practices and useful skills they can utilize within the confines of the school but more importantly is authentic enough to use in real world situations.  The concept of the 21st century has forced educators (as it should) to reevaluate their curriculum and school framework to ensure that we are preparing our students to become successful in a global, technological advanced, competitive society.

The Center for Public Education conducts education research pertaining to relevant events in the education sphere.  Defining a 21st Century Education is one such report conducted by the center and it outlines many significant changes the 21st century has brought about and its impact on education in America.  The “at a glance” section focuses primarily of particular skills that are in demand for the 21st century citizen. This report has brought up forces that are changing the relevant skills needed to succeed in the world post-education.  Educators must consider:

  • Automation: Computers being substituted for humans; Increasing demand for skills that computers cannot do such as problem solving, complex communication and foundational educational skills such as math, reading, and writing
  • Globalization: Technological advances help companies send work to countries and people around the world where it can be completed most timely and cost effective. Globalization is forcing Americans to “offer not only strong traditional skills but also high levels of creativity and innovation in order to stay competitive.”
  • Corporate Change: Less hierarchy and more automation, more cooperation, and less stability. These changes bring about various skills required to succeed that can be taught at the school level: act independently, interpersonal communication skills, global literacy and the ability to learn new skills and strategies quickly and effectively
  • Demographics: Older and more diverse population, Must have the skills to deal with skills to function in a diverse society
  • Risk & Responsibilities: Job security, health care, and financial planning. (http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Learn-About/21st-Century)

In my opinion, the most important aspect of this report is the section outlining the three types of learning that are important in order to prepare students to deal with the forces of the above mentioned 21st century:

  • Traditional academic knowledge and skills: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics
  • Authentic, real world application: The ability to apply what they learn in school to real life situations
  • Broader competencies: critical thinking, collaboration, interpersonal skills, and creativity. (http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Learn-About/21st-Century)

Interestingly enough, most of the above mentioned skills we discussed in class last week.  It seems to me that we are shifting towards a more traditional academic education, while adding progressive behaviors such as collaboration, creativity and real world learning into our educational system.  I believe that teachers must be flexible enough to adapt to these changes.

In congruence with chapter 13 in Foundations of Education, this report shows that the purposes of education are and should be influenced by social forces and educational philosophies and theories (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 429).  If there is on change in either social forces or philosophies, education will take a turn the purpose will change.  As seen throughout history education reflects relevant societal norms: Prehistoric society—perpetuating culture; Greek and Roman society—to develop civic responsibility; Medieval society—to develop religious knowledge and spread religious beliefs etc… (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 60-61). The only way to successfully emerge in the 21st century technological and global society is to also change the purposes of education: it is inevitable and necessary to do so.  Educators must begin now to build skill sets in their students that will help America stay competitive and land jobs in the future.  We must allow students to become collaborative and authentic learners. I feel that we should shift the weight of educational responsibility slightly from the teacher to the students to allow them to understand themselves what it means to live in a 21st century society.  Educators must also educate themselves to be a 21st century learner in order to utilize the skills in their classrooms. Our students must be aware of the changing society they are growing up in and our teachers need to teach them the skills so they may become successful.


Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


~ by hgluchow on .


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