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Debate arises between proponents of ‘core knowledge’ vs. ’21st-century skills’

A small group of outspoken education scholars is challenging the assumption that students need to be taught 21st-century skills, saying the push for these skills is taking a dangerous bite out of precious classroom time that could be better spent learning deep, essential content, USA Today reports. For the first time since the push began five years ago, they’re pushing back. In a forum in Washington, D.C., last week sponsored by Common Core, a nonprofit group that promotes "a full core curriculum," they squared off with education consultant Ken Kay, co-founder of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the main advocate for the 21st-century skills movement. "It’s an ineffectual use of school time," says E.D. Hirsch Jr., founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and author of a series of books on what students should learn year-by-year in school. He calls the P21 movement "a fragmented approach with uncertain cognitive goals" that could most profoundly hurt disadvantaged children: At home, he says, they don’t get as much background as middle-class students in history, science, literature, and the like. Kay calls criticisms by Hirsch and others "a sideshow that distracts people from the issue at hand: that our kids need world-class skills and world-class content."

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