Saturday, March 31, 2012

21st Century Skills

Give me a student who has been taught his Latin grammar, and I will answer for his chemistry. –German chemist Bauer to Francis Kelsey

In my high school, teachers like to talk about giving our students “21st Century Skills.” What they often mean by this phrase is “our students need more ___” (fill in the blank with computer classes, science, math, technology, etc.) However, technology, computers, and science in general are changing so quickly that the material learned one year may not apply to the next. For example, my son Caleb wants to be a video-game programmer. When he started taking classes in this field only two years ago, app development was an emerging field and there were no classes for creating new app's. Now it is a multi-billion dollar market and Digipen is offering its first app development class.

Real “21st Century Skills” are not abilities pertaining to particular technological developments, but rather the ability to think, to adapt, and to solve new problems with whatever technology arises. That is what Latin equips students to do, and that is why even my son Caleb, who wants to study video-game programming, still studies Latin. Latin provides the foundation for critical thinking. That is why the chemist Bauer could say that he did not care if his university students had balanced even one chemical equation in high school: he preferred students who knew their Latin well!

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