Sunday, October 30, 2011

21st Century Competencies, Skills, Whatever

In the New World, they have decided that the 21st century (10% of which has already passed us by) requires the development of three main clusters of skills:
  1. making use of data/information/knowledge;
  2. making decisions concerning individual and social life; and
  3. creating useful outputs by synthesis and/or collaboration.
In Atlantis, they have decided to describe these clusters as:
  1. civic literacy/global awareness/cross-cultural skills;
  2. critical and inventive thinking; and
  3. information and communication skills.
For some reason, these skillsets are being touted as the new educational must-haves, as if they are something like Athena sprung fully-formed from the head of Zeus. Come off it, educators. You dropped the ball and now you are renaming the game. These skills have always been needed. You could find them in the marketplaces of Atlantis centuries ago, in the agoras of Greece long gone, in lost and legendary cities as well as places like the souks of Cairo and Byzantium Istanbul. Wherever humans have come together in civis or polis, there too have these skills been needed.

They are NOT tools unique to the 21st century, no matter how catchy the propaganda sounds. They are the Apollonian sense-making instruments that oppose the Bacchaean and Dionysian chaos and primal instincts of our passions and desires. They stand, have always stood, between us and the Dread Anarch.

Although these tools have lost in the past, they need to hold the line if we are not to enter darker times. To understand why they are more needed now than ever before, and thus why people are labelling them '21st Century' when they were as relevant at the dawn of civilisation, we need to note just two things: 1) there are now more people than ever before in the history of humanity; and 2) there is now more available data than ever before in that same history.

This means that 1) getting people to work together and solve problems and plan for the future is more important than ever before; and 2) making sense of the data-stream, like being forced to drink the ocean, is the new magic. And there has only ever been one coherent myth which attempted to resolve the difficulties while preserving the world of men.

I speak, of course, of the myths of the Norsemen. In those myths, Odin Allfather made it his quest, for which he suffered on the World-Tree and gave up his eye, to find the overarching wisdom that would save creation from Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods.

With Thought and Memory as his aides, he still lost. But he found the right solution: ameliorating the destruction while planting the seeds for rebirth. Meanwhile, his son Thor was busy trying to drink the ocean by brute force, and failing.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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