The National School Boards Association has named me one of “20 Educational Leaders to Watch for the Next 20 Years.”

I am extremely proud to accept this award from such an important and high-quality organization. NSBA members are on the front lines of supporting America’s public schools.

This week, I will be making several presentations at the Annual NSBA Technology + Learning Conference in Nashville. T+L is one of my favorite conferences each year. If you’re at the conference, stop by and say, “hello!”

Oh, if only we could see the future…

In fact, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a lobbying organization dominated by the high-tech industry can not only see into the future, but they alone know that in the 21st Century, schools will need to teach 21st Century Skills. This is all very heady stuff.

A couple of weeks ago, David Warlick, cranked his outrage machine to 11 and wrote I’m Not Teacher Bashing…

I had a conversation with a teacher the other day. She was taking a graduate course on literacy in the digital media age, and had been, as part of the class, introduced to the framework for 21st century skills from the Partnership for 21st century Skills. The framework has been adopted by the state governor, school board, and department of education for this teachers state — one of the first states to adopt the program. However, she said that when a poster of the framework was recently given out at a faculty meeting at her school, she was the only teacher who had ever heard of it. She also said that nothing more was said about the initiative by the administrator who was leading the meeting.

At the time, I responded to this alarm in the following manner…

I know I’m going to start a firestorm, but…

C’mon. Why should anyone be expected to take such a commercial piece of propaganda seriously. The document is virtually content-free and filled with corporate buzzwords and feel-good slogans. Some of the doublespeak can cause whiplash.

There must be more serious issues about what teachers know/don’t know and do/don’t do then keep up with pamphlets created by the high-tech industry.

Don’t 21st Century Skills include “Follow the money…,” “Who is the author?” or “Critical analysis of text?”

Today, the Oracles at “The Partnership,” released the results of a survey in which parents remarkably believe that schools should “incorporate 21st Century skills.” I suppose that means curtains for the butter-churning elective.

On October 12th, David Warlick dutifully shared this press release with his audience of educators.

This is my response….

Joel (a commenter on the blog) is COMPLETELY correct. “21st Century skills” is a vague grab-bag of “skills” wealthy parents expected for their children in the 19th Century.

I defy anyone reading such propaganda to identify anything new, different or that requires the use of a computer.

Where are the poll questions regarding what the public is willing to sacrifice, stop teaching or pay for this new handful of magic beans?

The press release itself is a textbook case in saying absolutely nothing yet maintaining an inflated sense of importance.

The recursive republication of such drivel does very little to advance the process of improving the lives of children.

Once again, I suggest that you look at the Members section of the organization’s web site and consider the source of these pronouncements.

At NECC 2002, David Thornburg, Peter Skillen, Norma Thornburg and I led a standing-room only session entitled, “Standards! Up Yours!” During that presentation I read aloud from the doublespeak in “The Partnership’s” just released document, Learning for the 21st Century. First I asked how many members of the large audience had looked at the document included in their conference bag. No hands were raised. It seems that just as few people take these pronouncements seriously in 2007 as they did in 2002.

One of my favorite passages from the 2002 “report” reads as follows.

A Nation at Risk also called for computer programming to be included as a “new basic,” but since then, the world has gone through a technology revolution. This revolution has led to the need for all students to be technologically literate. Recognizing this, No Child Left Behind requires that children be technologically literate by the end of eighth grade.

OK, I’m confused. I understand that “The Partnership” supports No Child Left Behind, but nothing else makes any sense to me. Are students capable of programming computers technologically literate? If so, why is programming invisible in the ISTE NETs and all future “reports” from “The Partnership?”

While the work of “The Partnership” is short on specifics for improving schools, there is no doubt that the organization’s support for No Child Left Behind is unwavering.

Obviously, NCLB plays a critical role in any thoughtful approach to improving the college readiness of today’s high school students. To that end, P21 has developed a set of principles to provide guidance for strengthening the Act in terms of its approach to accountability and integrating 21st century skills for today’s students. …P21’s framework for 21st century skills already is consistent with the metrics and accountability emphasized in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act… Aligning NCLB, high school reform and 21st century learning is an issue of urgent importance. (NCLB, High Schools and College Readiness Letter (2006))

Imagine if mighty corporations like Apple, AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Verizon Texas Instruments (and others) really wanted to make the world a better place for learners and teachers. They could use their influence, millions of dollars and glossy brochures to actively oppose the destruction of public education represented by No Child Left Behind. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills even persuaded Sesame Street and the National Education Association to be cheerleaders for NCLB. (They too are members of “The Partnership.”)

Imagine a future in which cute cuddly Elmo and the largest union representing teachers speak out against federal legislation that oppresses teachers and turns classrooms into unimaginative test-driven Dickensian sweatshops. Maybe we’ll have to wait for the 22nd Century.

Help us Elmo! Bring Ernie and Bert too!


The thoughts in this blog represent the personal views of Gary Stager, Ph.D. and do not reflect those of his various clients or employers.

I just wrote the following for The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate…

The New York Times reports that New York City Public School teachers accused of wrong-doing or incompetence are made to spend 181 days per year in one of twelve “reassignment centers,” commonly referred to as the “rubber room.”

A room designed for 26 people routinely warehouses “upward of 75″ (one report said, 100) from 8 AM until 3 PM each day. The windowless rooms don’t even have a clock.

“From our perspective, it’s not punitive,” said Andrew Gordon, the director of employee relations at the department.

Read the rest of this unbelievable article, Where Teachers Sit, Awaiting Their Fates (NY Times 10/10/07)


Here are a few quotes from a similar New York Post article (9/30/07)…
“David Pakter, 62, has been in a rubber room for a year for buying a plant for his school and giving students watches he’d made, he said…

Pakter, a former “teacher of the year” honored at City Hall during Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral tenure, just bought a new Jaguar with his $90,000 salary for ‘doing absolutely nothing.’”

“Yet another, an Army reservist who spent almost 3½ years in a rubber room before he retired, begged to be able to go to Iraq instead of staying in DOE Siberia.”

“The union now counsels its members to avoid becoming too involved – including even in breaking up student fights – because it could land them in a rubber room.”

School shootings, lynching nostalgia and attacking sick kids for political purposes. The news worries me about my country…

Read the rest of this provocative essay here.

There are a bunch of great new articles to be read at The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate


Wi-Fi sniffing t-shirts!

America, the pride is back!