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12.03.2009

Building 21st Century Skills

It Doesn't Matter How Long They're in School as Long as They're Learning Skills for the Future

Posted by: Kathie Thomas - Business Week

Yesterday I wrote about the pros and cons of three-year college versus four-year college. That got me thinking about what we need to do to really teach our children to succeed in the future.

As the mother of two elementary-school-aged girls (and stepmother of three young 20-somethings), I believe one of my chief responsibilities is giving them the best possible education I can, one that will teach and prepare them to excel in all stages of life. I believe they need to be taught, at a young age, how to learn and solve new problems, and that known facts can change and learning never stops.
Therefore, it doesn't really matter how long they're in college - for three years, like U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) argued in Newsweek, or four. What matters to me is whether students are learning what they need to be able to cope and adjust in an ever-changing world.

Even Alexander admitted that "the average amount of time students take to complete an undergraduate degree has stretched to six years and seven months." One possible reason for this is that brains are still developing, even into a person's 20's.In fact, in a 2002 report by ACT for Youth Upstate Center of Excellence (ACT), Dr. Jay Giedd of National Institute of Mental Health said this means that students "may actually be able to control how their own brains are wired and sculpted." And, according to ACT, a collaboration of Cornell University, University of Rochester and the New York State Center for School Safety, "kids who 'exercise' their brains by learning to order their thoughts, understand abstract concepts and control their impulses are laying the neural foundations that will serve them for the rest of their lives."

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