The September 15th Boston Globe features an op/ed by Common Core co-chair Diane Ravitch. Diane outlines the similarities between the 21st century skills movement and earlier (and harmful) educational fads. She finds quite a lot that should worry anyone that cares about American education.
Usefully, Diane points out that:
[W]e have ignored what matters most. We have neglected to teach [students] that one cannot think critically without quite a lot of knowledge to think about. Thinking critically involves comparing and contrasting and synthesizing what one has learned. And a great deal of knowledge is necessary before one can begin to reflect on its meaning and look for alternative explanations.
Proponents of 21st-Century Skills might wish it was otherwise, but we do not restart the world anew with each generation. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. What matters most in the use of our brains is our capacity to make generalizations, to see beyond our own immediate experience. The intelligent person, the one who truly is a practitioner of critical thinking, has the capacity to understand the lessons of history, to grasp the inner logic of science and mathematics, and to realize the meaning of philosophical debates by studying them.