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[Susan notes: ]

Published in Education Week

To the editor

This letter was really written Feb. 4, 2009, but if I enter that date in the system, this letter will automatically move that far back in the queue and since I want everybody to have the same shock of recognition and gratitude and grief that I did when I stumbled on this letter, I redated it. I put "rename 21st century skills" into Google and this is what came up. I didn't look at author but just started reading, enjoying the letter more and more. Then I got to the name, and grief struck. As someone says in an e-mail or a list, "Oh, how we need Jerry now."

21st-Century Skills': Ban It, or Rename It?

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To the Editor:

National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" used to have occasional segments in which the host and a guest would decide what terms had been so overused they should be forbidden. Right now, I'm ready to dump "global economy," "at the end of the day," and "chops," as in "he/she's got the chops."

I was ready to toss "21st-century skills" until I was skimming your recent article on the topic and found it familiar-sounding ("'21st-Century Skills' Focus Shifts W.Va. Teachers' Role," Jan. 7, 2009). Then I decided we could keep the concept, but just rename it. Let's call it Progressive Education, or Digital Dewey, or The Reincarnation of William Heard Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick, one of John Dewey's colleagues, wrote "The Project Method" for the September 1918 Teachers College Record. Whatever we choose to call it, the idea describes a much healthier approach to education than "scripted curriculum" or "passing rate."

It all brings to mind another term that falls in and out of favor: Plus ça change, plus câest la même chose.

Gerald W. Bracey

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