The Need for New 21st Century (Survival) Skills

Schools have not gone far enough or fast enough to change to meet the needs of today. While the world of education has come up with some excellent models, their adoption is happening at a snails pace.

Take the 21st Century Skills. Aptly named, as they were highlighted as the skills needed at the dawn of the 21st Century. Here we are, nearly a quarter of the way into the time period mentioned in the name, and they are still secondary to subject centered outcomes classified in the 19th Century.

The world is changing, the world of education is holding on to its old paradigm like a survivor of Titanic to a piece of flotsam.

I took it upon myself to think of how these skills may be updated, focused, and revised to fit the immediate needs of our time. Like anything, I am going to remix, redraft, and revisit these…. Each of these prompts may serve as building blocks to a new set of skills, designed for now, to build a sustainable world now.

Ecosystem Literacy

You are part of the ecosystem, as is every living thing around you. The giant sequoias and thousands of species of microbes in your mouth are part of a whole. To understand even parts of this helps us unpack the immensely complex systems that are our life support.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Food Security

Knowing your food, where it comes from, how it can be produced, and how to keep it coming, is vital. This goes beyond just gardening, although that may play a significant role in this. It is about creating a culture of care around a holistic food supply system, and honoring every bite for the necessity that it is.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Relationship Resilience

Working through good and bad experiences together is part of how we become stronger as a group. This is particularly true in communities that are smaller and more static, both of which may highlight living in the 21st Century.

Photo by Hian Oliveira on Unsplash

Critical Conscience

Having morality is pretty key here, but also is just the start. Being able to question your morality as well as others in a constructive way allows for you to grow, adapt, and deepen your understanding of what makes a just person.

Culture Jamming

The concept of culture jamming harkens back to the late 20th Century, but has continued with artists like Banksy into the 21st Century. However, the meaning that really needs to be co-opted here is the active building of culture through ‘jamming’. Becoming active builders of culture through living the process of making art as a community.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Habit Forming

There is enormous value in being able to change, but often recognizing the need for change and wanting to change is not enough. It is about building habits from the change that needs to happen once you recognize the intersection of your needs and your behaviour.

Green Energy

Knowing and understanding our role in energy consumption and production can allow for dialogues and actions that can decarbonize our energy supplies as quickly as possible.

Photo by Appolinary Kalashnikova on Unsplash

Climate Impact Mitigation

We are not living in an ‘if climate change’ happens world, and need to be well informed about how we can adapt and mitigate to the changing climate.

Political Rewilding

Politics cannot just happen on a global, distant level. The most powerful actions happen locally, and through political rewilding we learn how to be active and engaged in our local decision making bodies, and how to advocate for a more sustainable world for all.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

There is a gap when it comes to the application of these skills. We need these skills present in society now, and our education institutions have proven slow to respond and hard to access.

What if one of the brightest hacks of the modern workplace, the co-working space, were to change its focus from working to learning? What could that look like?

I have a feeling we are looking at something that has existed for a long time, but also something that exists today in many disjointed unaligned pieces.

Community Centres serve as spaces for people to come together, however their focus is very much on recreation (which is of course very important) and less about adapting to change.

Schools can incorporate many of the 21st Century Survival Skills, but are mired in institutionalism and serve a very specific age group. Even if all schools shifted radically towards the mindsets instilled above, change would come too late for human sustainability.

Universities can provide many of these services, but in many cases are exclusive based on academics and accessibility. They also rarely bridge the gap between young and old.

Places of worship bring people of all ages together for a purpose, although their scope generally is limited to the spiritual domain.

Co-learning spaces, when implemented properly, could bridge these different institutions. Best yet, they could serve a specific place (place based education), and develop a flavour that suits the local environment. A co-learning space serving a First Nations band would naturally be radically different from one serving urbanites.

When it comes to the K-12 sphere, education has been sufficiently disrupted through COVID 19 that people have already started to disconnect learning from brick and mortar schools. While the choice was forced on nearly everybody globally, some have had enough of the taste to consider other options when (if?) school resumes.

The concept of Co-learning spaces has already been established, but I believe there is ample room to grow this. Places like LearnLife and Coletividad are breaking ground on the concept, and more will surely follow.

More must follow, as such as model can provide humankind the tools and hope needed to come out the 21st Century not just surviving, but thriving.

Noan is an overall green fellow, with lots of expertise in how to best live sustainably, teach sustainability to our future generations, and love nature