Welcome to One Busy Momma! The Blog for Busy Moms by one Busy Mom.....

Welcome to my blog. One Busy Momma is my space to rant about my life and the things that happen in it. I have a crazy life - and instead of focusing on the crazy - I like to focus on the funny. Because if I focused on the craziness - well, I'd have been shipped off to an institution long, long ago. And while, I'll admit, there are some days when being institutionalized sounds PRETTY GOOD compared to making ANOTHER diorama at 1am - I'd rather be right where I am - in my messy house with my not so perfect kids making crooked dioramas in the middle of the night.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Welcome to the 21st Century...

So, a few weeks ago I was chatting with my aunt, who is a former Catholic school educator. And somehow, we started talking about elementary school and curriculum and handwriting of all topics. I mentioned that the big "buzz" in education right now is a debate about whether or not cursive handwriting should be taught in elementary schools. Advocates of cutting cursive out of the curriculum argue that in the 21st century, the only cursive anyone needs to know is how to sign their own name. Everything else will be type written on a computer or some other digital device and that instructional time would be much better spent in teaching "21st century skills".

You would have thought that I had suggested teaching first graders how to play with matches in old, rotting wooden sheds filled with gasoline soaked rags. So shocked was she that she was almost rendered speechless - but not quite. She made excellent arguments for continuing to teach cursive, she really did. But the entire discussion made me think about these so called "21st century skills". What are they? What should they be? How do we even know what these skills are as we are but a decade into the 21st century? And most importantly - by cutting certain things out of the curriculum - are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

I must admit that now that we have started this conversation, some of the things my kids bring home do strike me as a bit old-fashioned. For instance - my daughter is in the midst of a tried and true fifth grade right of passage - the 50 states test. I remember having to do this is 5th grade - the test where you are given a big map of the US and you have to fill in the names of all of the states. Time honored tradition - right? But how neccessary is it to know the names and locations of all 50 states by heart? Within a matter of seconds, I can access a map of the US and see all 50 states, their locations, capitals, abbreviations, state birds - you name it. Is it really neccessary to spend time memorizing them? What purpose does it serve other than cultural literacy? I mean think about it - unless you are a geography whiz, do YOU know the exact locations of ALL of the 50 states by heart? I'm sure that most people know the states along the East and West coasts and the Gulf states. But what about the states in the middle, huh? Which one is Illinios and which one is Indiana? Pretty hard to tell by just looking...trust me - I am now an expert. Many of us can identify Michigan as the "mitten" state, and if you've ever bough potatoes, you can identify Idaho by its shape. But what about Alabama and Kentucky, Wisconson and Wyoming? Where pray tell is Kansas? Oaklahoma? Arkansas? Is it essential that we know this? Does it mean that we are unpatriotic if we don't and don't see the need to committ this to memory? Will our kids been seen as "stupid" and "uneducated" if they can't identify Kentucky on a blank map?

At what point does knowledge become somewhat archaic? And who makes that decision? I'm sure that at some point in history it was considered insane to stop teaching kids how to ...powder a wig,  for example. When did we stop teaching people how to churn butter or darn socks? When did teaching young ladies how to bake cakes from scratch and iron men's shirts fall out of favor?Technology is to blame for most of the above. I'd argue the rest can be attributed to common sense and changing values. And yet, in every generation there are people who fight the changes and advances technology brings with it. How many times have members of my parents' generation bemoaned the invention of the electronic cash register and/or calculator because now the check out person at the grocery store can't "make change" without the machine. Is that really the fault of the cash register or the educational system?  Do you mean to tell me that we'd all be better off without the calculator?

So - is it archaic to committ the 50 states to memory? I personally don't think it causes any harm. But I also don't think that Bella will really "need" this knowledge at a moment's notice at any time in her adult life- unless she becomes a contestant on Jeopardy. Or if state identification becomes a hot drinking game in college.

SO what WILL our kids NEED to know 10, 20, 30 years from now? I think it's a really interesting question. I think they will still need some old school skills - basic math facts, reading skills, communication skills. The literature suggests that "soft" skills like the ability to work as part of a team., communication skills, listening skills, conflict resolution skills and so on will be important. We all know that our kids will need some mad technical skills in order to compete. But what those skills will be continues to mystify me.

So what do you think?


  1. Hmm, that's a toughie... I definitely "side-eye" when people don't know their geography. But that could be b/c I have lost count of how many times people have said, "Omg, your parents are Brazilian?! I've always wanted to go to Europe!!"

  2. The principles and knowledge behind UDL, UDL, and more UDL applied to real world!