“21st Century” Means What, Exactly?


Our company has been investing a lot of time and energy to learn about a relatively new organization, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Back some weeks ago, when we were first considering an affiliate partnership with P21, we did our homework, read their site, watched their podcasts (56 min, 10 min), and bounced around to their various affiliates and board member’s sites. As we learned more about what they believe in and the skills they are promoting, we got excited. Dare I say (yes, I do) super excited. They made sense and elicited a collective sigh of relief from us – that there is an organized and visionary group with lots of support from big companies and entire states invested in helping students become not just better students, but better prepared citizens, employees, and employers.

Our company takes pride in being forward-thinking educators, in touch with the education community, what is happening in it, and trends to watch that may influence it. P21 read like our soul mate, aligning with us in skill areas we care about and in areas in which we want to learn.

OK, yes, great. AND… I do hold some healthy skepticism alongside my optimism and excitement. Is the label “21st Century” just the latest professional development kick, the new education fad (thanks for pointing that article out, Will) for the next 3-5 years before it shrivels and dies? How do we know it all works for students? How long does the phrase “21st century skills” stay relevant, anyway?

Regardless of the doubt, I am a believer in the skills of P21 matching with the state-of-the-student, so we are going to a learning conference held by P21 in Arizona in a couple weeks. The purpose is to gain ideas and know-how about aligning our company with theirs. What works, what doesn’t, and what is unknown or still just potential. I’m pretty pumped about it.

I’m wondering if anyone reading has any experience working with P21 as an organization, or experience in educational professional development with these kinds of progressive skills (or current skills, depending on how you look at it).


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  1. #1 by spinnakerjksc on January 7, 2009 - 2:41 pm

    21st century is mostly used as one of those generalized terms to make us sound cool. To be quite frank, I don’t care what century we are. As long as we engage life in a means that rewards us and the people around us.


  2. #2 by Steve Arrowood on January 23, 2009 - 7:09 pm

    I hear you. There is a lot of conversation right now about how 21st century skills are simply a way of saying “current skills”, and how we can go back thousands of years to read about people like Socrates advocating for them. But sometimes when the packaging is right, when the same notes are arranged in a new order, when plain old Coke gets called Coke Classic, everyone wants a piece of it and the idea catches on in a way it never has before.

  3. #3 by Florida CPA on April 8, 2013 - 9:37 pm

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