January 5, 2016

When I worked in St. Louis public schools during the early 2000’s, the phrase “21st century education” buzzed on everyone’s lips. The goal of every school was to prepare students for success in the 21st century economy. And to achieve that goal, schools worked to expose students to technology and technology driven systems. The idea, of course, was that familiarity with technology would make students more marketable in the technological age.

As I caught up on some reading during the Christmas break, I ran across a 2010 study commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The study polled top employers to discover from them what qualities and characteristics they wanted to find in the college graduates they would hire.

Interestingly, the top answers had nothing to do with cutting-edge technology, the supposed marker of “21st education.”

The whole report is available here, but consider the following quote from The Humanities Institute at Wake Forest University summarizing the findings:

“The most desired quality, by 8% points, was effective communication skills, followed by critical thinking and the ability to apply knowledge to real world settings. Other highly valued learning outcomes included the ability to connect decision making to ethical dilemmas and to think creatively. This kind of expertise does not require a business degree or specialized training; rather, it is derived from a rigorous intellectual environment, one that compels students to confront big questions, challenges them to engage their community, and asks them to take ownership of their own scholarly production” (http://humanitiesinstitute.wfu.edu/leap-what-employers-want ).

According to this study, the qualities and “highly valued learning outcomes” that top employers want to see in their potential employees are exactly those that classical education has produced for hundreds of years — up until the 20th century, at least, when a huge worldview shift degraded what it meant to be educated. Effective communication, critical thinking, the ability to apply knowledge ethically and creatively — these are outcomes of the grammar, logic, and rhetoric that form the foundation of the classical philosophy of education abandoned by 20th century educators.

Apparently, 21st century employees want graduates with a 19th century education. Which is to say, they don’t want to hire people who follow the times, but those equipped to transform the times.

Those same qualities and outcomes are the ones Covenant Classical Christian School has instilled in 11 classes of graduates. They’re the same qualities I want to see instilled in my own children, and as we look forward to rest of this school year and into 2016-17, I hope it’s what you want for your children, too.

In Christ,

Mr. Bolen

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