Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Review of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills White Papers

A Review of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills White Papers

Pertaining to

H.R. 2536 “21st Century Skills Readiness Act”

By Danna Foreman, Restore Oklahoma Public Education (ROPE)

The philosophical beliefs expressed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in this white paper are contrary to the principles of our sovereign constitutional republic. Restore Oklahoma Public Education opposes H. R. 2536 (Open Congress) on the following grounds:

  1. An international consortium should not be writing the Educational Policy of the United States.
  2. The whole child philosophy endorsed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills was developed by and for socialists and best serves a socialist society not the Republic of the United States of America.
  3. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills promotes information based learning in order to produce skilled workers for the global economy rather than the traditional model of education where knowledge is obtained through the rigorous study of truth, facts and principles resulting in an educated citizenry.

The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills White Paper entitled “The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework (Partnership for 21st Century Skills) openly espouses the child-centered philosophies of socialists John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky and their theory of social constructionism as it pertains to the “social collective” (page 5).

This white paper is rife with the language of the socialists of whose views they espouse. This cannot be ignored. Americans should not be embracing socialist and couching them as education reform.

Further quotes from this paper include, “John Dewey, perhaps the best-known educator of the 20th century, also responded to the transformations around him. “It is radical conditions which have changed,” he wrote, “and only a radical change in education suffices… Knowledge is no longer an immobile solid; it has been liquefied” (page 4).

And, “Unlike Cubberly, though, Dewey believed the aim of 20th century education was not the production of a labor force, but the enrichment of the individual and society by developing a child’s “social power and insight” (page 5). “Dewey advocated learning by doing and a curriculum that involved the mind, hands, and heart” (Page 2).

Redefining Education

P-21 purports to advocate critical thinking while at the same time stating that the memorization of facts is antiquated, yet how can one reason without a foundation of absolute truths, facts and principles.

“These technologies also change our relationship with information and thus, suggest changes in educational goals. With instant access to facts, for instance, schools are able to reconceive the role of memorization, and focus more on higher order skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation” (Page 6).

“For ages, traditional education, with its emphasis on rote learning and memorization of static facts, has valued conformity over novelty of thought. But in today’s world of global competition and task automation, innovative capacity and a creative spirit are fast becoming requirements for personal and professional success. Robinson says, in fact, that humanity’s future depends on our ability to “reconstitute our conception of human capacity” and place creativity and innovation in the forefront of our educational systems” (Page 15).

Interdisciplinary Themes

P-21 proposes integrating interdisciplinary topics with core subjects. Green math is an example. The Common Core Standards content P-21 supports and many states have adopted has been gutted and transformed from knowledge based education to informative learning. A tweet on the P-21 site boasts "Maryland leads in mandating environmental literacy requirement for all grads.” (Williams).

“The Partnership’s Framework stresses interdisciplinary topics focused on four themes with special relevance to modern life: Global Awareness; Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy; Civic Literacy; and Health Literacy (Page 10).

“The Partnership believes interdisciplinary topics are best approached through the core subjects listed above, as their effectiveness, according to curriculum expert Heidi Hayes Jacobs, depends on a solid grounding in the same core disciplines that are linked by these interdisciplinary themes” (Page 10).


The P-21 vision for education is unquestionably global in nature. Any ideas of American exceptionalism or achievement are noticeably missing from all papers and P-21 websites.

In the section titled “Education and Global Convergence” it explains how education in the 21st century “must be attentive to the needs of the individual child and to society as a whole” and “we can build on educational goals that have long been a part of our global heritage” (Page 7).

What about our American heritage?

The 21st Century Learning Environments

Whole Child Movement

The white paper entitled “The 21st Century Learning Environments (Partnership for 21st Century Skills) directly advocates the Whole Child Movement which leaves behind the traditional classical method of education rooted in truth and facts in favor of experienced based activity. The whole child philosophy considers rote knowledge antiquated and emphasizes present experience as a preferred means of learning.

“To educate the whole child, though, schools must devote themselves to more than the mind-body connection alone. They must attend to the emotional and social learning needs of children, as well as to more traditional objectives of academic achievement and physical education. While the roots of the whole child movement date back to the child-centered philosophies of John Dewey, current educational research and a new broader conception of student achievement add even greater significance and urgency to its appeal” (Page 4).

Internet Access - a Right

A theme throughout the P-21 Learning Environment white paper is the necessity for all students to have high-speed internet access and this access must be provided in order to ensure “educational effectiveness” and close the “digital divide.”

“Organizational efficiency and educational effectiveness also depend on a flexible telecommunications infrastructure or backbone, with sufficient bandwidth to handle anticipated telephony, Internet, and local area traffic, plus overage to allow for future growth and new applications. To provide guidance, a recent SETDA report, “High-Speed Broadband Access for all Kids,” describes desirable performance standards for both local and wide area networks. A Local Area Network (LAN) for a school or school district needs to cover all physical areas, including classrooms, the library, cafeteria, administrative, counseling, and special services offices. Thus, the LAN should cover instructional, transportation, food service, nursing, and ground and facilities personnel, as well as provide virtual areas for distance learning and remote access for educational purposes.”

“The same SEDTA report calls on communities to provide 24/7 high-speed broadband access in order to create “rigorous, technology-infused learning environments” for students.” (Page 20)

“The report notes that broadband access is especially critical in overcoming the digital divide in rural and low socio-economic areas.” (Page 21)

National Data Centers

The collection of data raises a myriad of privacy concerns such as: Who will have access to the data? With what countries will the U.S. be networking? Why are FERPA guidelines being changed (Regulations.gov) this year to allow the collection of data from a minor without parental consent?

How does the collection of data in the name of education help a child learn to read or excel in mathematics?

“In addition to local area networks, states and countries need to consider deployment of a broadband network linking schools together with their central administration or ministry of education. It may also be advantageous to link such a broadband network to higher education institutions, thereby creating national research and education networks. Data centers, located on the broadband network and centrally running multiple academic and administrative applications, can enable economies of scale and lower servicing costs across a number of educational institutions, while facilitating research, scholarship, and learning at all levels” (Page 21).

School Replaces the Family as the Center of Life

Should America’s schools aspire to overreach into every area of a child’s life when they aren’t even effectively fulfilling the role for which they were established – academics.

“John Dewey long ago conceived of schools as ‘miniature communities.’ ” (Page 22)

“Schools in the 21st century do more than meet academic needs; they function like miniature cities, providing food, facilities, health, security, transportation, and recreation services for their students. Likewise, technology must do more than support than instruction. Powerful enterprise management applications can knit together the many functions of a school, and help make a complex organization coherent and efficient.” (Page 20)

Federal Control

The P-21 is concerned with “decentralized” (state and local) control of our education system and advocates the use of policy to create alignment toward centralized federal and global control.

“Educational policy is never a simple matter, especially in the United States. Much policy originates at the state level, as states are chartered with providing public education. The federal role has been increasing in recent years, though, in particular since the passage of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. Local policies abound as well, as district- and building-level officials determine how to implement state and federal policy.”

“Having a clear sense of overarching objectives can help with alignment. When policies are aimed at the same goals, conflicts among them are reduced. So, as in any planning process, the first step in creating good educational policy is articulating what education should accomplish.”

Policy must serve as the steering mechanism to guide the creation of learning environments that are both more expansive and more inclusive – spaces for learning that offer more people more access to more places and information while also allowing for close-knit social relationships among community members to flourish. Making all this happen is the task before us. It will not be easy, inexpensive, or quick. But it is essential” (page 27).


Knowing the Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a global initiative as stated on their own website, why are any elected United States Representatives considering an education policy proposal from an international consortium whose goal is to produce a skilled worker for a global economy rather than an educated citizen necessary to preserve the Republic of the United States?

The P-21 white papers conclude with a quote from John Dewey reiterating their vision of society which is undeniably socialist.

“In creating such learning spaces, we will have come closer to the vision John Dewey articulated over a century ago: “…to make each one of our schools an embryonic community life, active with the types of occupations that reflect the life of the larger society, and permeated throughout with the spirit of art, history, and science. When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely, and harmonious” (Pages 28 & 29).

John Dewey and his plan (Novack) for education has been reiterated throughout American education since Lyndon Baines Johnson inexorably tied the states to the bidding of the federal government (White) through 1965’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (United States Public Law). The progressive theory of education as authored by Dewey so many years ago, has been a proven and dismal failure. Why are we continuing failed policy that not only undermines the ability of students in America to learn, but our sovereignty as well?

End Notes:


Open Congress. H.R.2536 - 21st Century Readiness Act. n.d. August 2011 .

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 21st Century Learning Environments. n.d. August 2011 .

—. The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework. n.d. August 2011 .

Regulations.gov. Document Details: Family Educational Rights and Privacy. 8 April 2011. August 2011 .

United States Public Law. Sribd. 11 April 1965. August 2011 .

Warde, W. F. Marxists.org. 2005. August 2011 .

White, Jenni. American Thinker. July 2011. August 2011 .

Williams, Matt A. Twitter/P21CentSkills. August 8 2011. August 2011