Math, language arts, science and social studies are NOT what “education” is about…

By 02/24/2015 Think Tank

Because we’ve been teaching the four “core” subjects of math, language arts, science and social studies so universally, for so long, many have come to accept those four things as what “education” is truly about. It’s why people will actually believe and accept that one narrowly-focused test, such as PISA, can compare — and rank — “the education” in countries across the world. But I submit that is false.PISA can certainly rank 14-year olds on their scores on the PISA test. But I submit that it doesn’t measure “education.” Education is far less about “learning subjects” or even acquiring specific skills like mathematical thinking, and far more about people BECOMING: becoming good, capable, flexible people who can maximize their talents and reach their goals. We call that, in English, “becoming educated.” Further. I submit that “education” is, at the highest level, about a particular kind of “becoming.” Education is — or should be — about each person becoming able to think effectively, to act effectively, to relate effectively to others and to accomplish useful things effectively, to the best of their capabilities — regardless of the field they choose to enter. Moreover, I believe none of those categories can be omitted to become an educated person, even though three out of the four are generally omitted from school. Under the main categories of Effective Thinking, Effective Action, Effective Relationships and Effective Accomplishment, there are a great many skills and sub-skills to be acquired as part of an education (see further down for the list). But nothing is “above” these four main skills in terms of our educational requirements. Other skills that ought to be acquired — ethics, culture, citizenship, preparation for employment — all are part

But I submit that is false.

PISA can certainly rank 14-year olds on their scores on the PISA test. But I submit that it doesn’t measure “education.” Education is far less about “learning subjects” or even acquiring specific skills like mathematical thinking, and far more about people BECOMING: becoming good, capable, flexible people who can maximize their talents and reach their goals. We call that, in English, “becoming educated.” Further. I submit that “education” is, at the highest level, about a particular kind of “becoming.” Education is — or should be — about each person becoming able to think effectively, to act effectively, to relate effectively to others and to accomplish useful things effectively, to the best of their capabilities — regardless of the field they choose to enter. Moreover, I believe none of those categories can be omitted to become an educated person, even though three out of the four are generally omitted from school. Under the main categories of Effective Thinking, Effective Action, Effective Relationships and Effective Accomplishment, there are a great many skills and sub-skills to be acquired as part of an education. But nothing is “above” these four main skills in terms of our educational requirements. Other skills that ought to be acquired — ethics, culture, citizenship, preparation for employment — all are part of, and flow from, acquiring the top-level skills of Effective Thinking, Effective Action, Effective Relationships and Effective Accomplishment. Those four skills, I believe, are where we should be focusing our kids’ education and attention, individualizing by passion, and using modern pedagogies and technologies that students understand, relate to, and enjoy. The assumption that education is only—or even mainly—about math, language arts, science and social studies — and that these are the main things our kids should study in school — is a false and deceitful one. Worse, this old assumption is now leading the world, and the education of our youth, in extremely harmful directions. It is time for us to lose the “proxies” and tell our students directly what they really need and what we really want from them. We can—and I believe we must— do this.

The following two tabs change content below.

Marc Prensky

Founder & Executive Director at The Global Future Education Foundation and Institute
Marc Prensky is an American writer and speaker on learning and education. He is best known as the inventor and popularizer of the terms "Digital Native" and "Digital Immigrant" which he described in a 2001 article in "On the Horizon". He is the author of Digital Game-Based Learning (McGraw-Hill 2001), Don't Bother Me Mom – I'm Learning (Paragon House 2006), Teaching Digital Natives (Corwin Press 2010), From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning (2012), BRAIN GAIN: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom (2012), and over 60 essays on learning and education. Marc Prensky is also a designer of learning games, and a well-known expert in the use of games in education.