What matters most is content… er, form… no, I mean content…

Will the debate ever end?

This recent Education Week article outlines the current and on-going debate over whether the whole “21st Century Literacy” movement (as propounded by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills {P21}) hasn’t gone too far! Hasn’t abandoned all content in pursuit of the latest form! Isn’t going to lead to the abolition of man, etc!

Jeez! Why are these people so scared? Do they suppose that because eternal human truths are presented in new media that they have gone anywhere? That somehow people won’t recognize verifiable reality if it doesn’t come packaged in traditional texts and forms?

I think they might react so because new technology is disruptive, and it threatens them and the system that has served their fathers and them so well. Yes, perhaps these academics are frightened by sensible initiatives like the 21P suggestions because it moves their cheese and they don’t like that.

I’ve blogged elsewhere about these techno-phobes like Neil Postman, whose feverish fears are that an all-popwerful inhuman god, “Technology,” will rise up and destroy civilization. Though I can understand the conservative point of view, I get pretty frustrated. “Chill out!” I want to say to these folks. “Don’t you see that your precious content cannot be sacrificed? That, hey! It’s the same subjects we learn from now as then–they’re just new tools we’re using?”

I deplore statements that go, “You’re either with the 21st c. program, or against it,” or “You’re either a defender of traditional content or you are dangerous.” These are false choices. Look around. No matter where, you’ll see ageless human truth come through, though in different packages, new forms. George W. Bush, King Lear, or Oedipus Rex — all the same archetype!

So cut it out, you partisan, Liliputian warriors: Form and content are parts of the same whole. Don’t go stressing a country in need of reform by overly stressing one end or the other.

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