Definition of catchphrase1:


1. a phrase that attracts or is meant to attract attention.

2. a phrase, as a slogan, that comes to be widely and repeatedly used, often with little of the original meaning remaining.

“21st Century” has become the latest catchphrase in education. Sadly.

I’ve attended numerous sessions, classes, discussions– you name it– about “21st Century” learners, skills, education, workplace, etc. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has a set of definitions, as well as guidelines and resources. If you haven’t already read through that set of resources, you should. I think many others, however, are simply bandying about a term and then bending to fit their agenda. These ‘others’ range from educational leaders to politicians to business owners…

Where does that lead the rest of us?

Wordle: Random 21st Century Learning Wordle
Random 21st Century Learning Wordle from

Alfie Kohn posted a great proposal about this very subject.

If you agreed 100% with his proposal- we have a problem- but I’m sure you recognized the satire in his ‘voice.’ Whether or not you agree with Kohn’s sometimes controversial beliefs, I think he makes a point here that people get caught up in catchphrases. I see bandwagon jumping all the time with different educational trends. So, again, where does this lead the rest of us??

It’s important to truly understand what kids need in order to be successful in a very different world than the one we knew at their age. Mostly, they need to be able to adapt, to learn how to learn.

Alvin Toffler said:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

I use that quote OFTEN, because that is what 21st century learning means to me.

Instead of assigning a label to teaching and learning- and then simultaneously changing that label to meet our own agendas- why don’t we look at what is truly necessary for kids to be successful in their world. And when will we learn that it doesn’t look like what we’re doing now?

So… what does 21st century learning mean to you? Is it simply a catchphrase to add one more thing to what we’re already doing? or are you thinking educational reform because of the conversations around “21st century skills” that all kids need?

BTW, I really would be disappointed if the US (or anyone else for that matter) found a way to assess creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation- through standardized methods. It would make it easier to compare our kids, though, right? Because all kids are apples.

End of soap box time. Thanks for listening.

1catchphrase. (n.d.) Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved February 03, 2009, from website:

One thought on “CatchPhrase

  1. I was thinking we need to develop a website and curriculum model for the 22nd Century Skills. People would love how forward thinking we are.

    In all seriousness, when it comes down to it, shouldn’t we being doing exactly the same thing in the classroom that we’ve always done: Preparing our students to succeed in society? Laying a foundation for them to continue learning? The problem is, what was good to prepare them to be successful 20 years ago isn’t the same as it is today.

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