4. Communicate effectively, and with respect

“Critical thinking in the social arena.” —Ed McManis, head of school, Sterne School, San Francisco, California

“The skill I would like every student to learn would be to honor ‘dignity,’ since this is something we all have, can’t be taken away, but it is the very essence of caring.” —Diane B. Sheehan

“My vote would go to effective communication in situations of conflict. Nothing taught in school could be more important! Witness our government today!” —Sandra M. Hurst, founding director, Upattinas School, Glenmoore, Pennsylvania

“The single most important skill for every student to learn is how to communicate effectively. This, of course, begins with understanding and using simple words, gestures, and expressions and expands into written and technology-based communication using increasingly complex thought processes. Effective communication is the key to all learning and to compatible interaction with others.” —Dr. Lynda R. Ludy, grade 2 teacher, Detroit Country Day School, Professor Emerita of Education, Alma College, Michigan

“I would like to see all my students come into my courses with a consistently good ability to clearly, concisely, and understandably present and explain their own thoughts, arguments, and discoveries. Without this, I find myself needing to devote much of my time and energy trying to make assumptions (a bad thing) about the actual meaning, intention, and learning of my students in the areas they are trying to describe (in papers, presentations, and in-class responses). This situation is aggravated by second language learners and varied levels of communication backgrounds.” —Gary Berosik, lead software engineer, Thomson Reuters R&D

5. Question

“The one skill I’d choose is the ability to ask questions. A student’s ability to formulate questions encompasses and assumes a wide range of other skills: connecting with information, challenging preconceptions, evaluating validity, imagining other options, and taking ownership of his or her own learning.” —Linda Engelhard

“I would like to see every student learn to say: ‘I don’t understand this. Could you please explain it again?’” —Barbara A. Jimerson, Title VII director, Gowanda School District, Gowanda, New York

“The skill I think students should learn is asking good questions. This is a component of critical thinking that allows students to begin formulating their own ideas.” —Elly Faden, educational technology consultant

“To be unafraid to ask the questions that need to be posed to those in authority, and how to know which questions need to be asked. A bonus would be to have the skills to analyze the answers provided.” —Carl E. Heltzel, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry, College of Engineering and Science, Clemson University