How do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century?

As we look back on public education reforms, historically, reforms have been inspired by a multitude of motivating factors. Today we convene to focus our efforts on the need to educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century, while maintaining cultural identity amongst the progression of globalization. Foremost we explore the inherent functions of public education by becoming aware of the components that fuel the “machine”. We ask ourselves; is there a call for an overhaul of an educational system which was based on and designed around the philosophies of the age of enlightenment and the industrial revolution? As it becomes more evident that educational degrees no longer guarantee job security, how are we restructuring our teaching practices so that we circumvent the alienation of students?  

Statistically there is a clear indication that as student progress throughout the current education system they lose their capacity for divergent thinking; Are students distracted by the incorporation of technology? Has the surge in standardization amongst our public school classrooms inhibited student’s creative thinking by limiting their aesthetic experiences? How important are vital collaborative efforts for retorting dynamic queries? Should we continue to educated students using a narrow scope, denoting only a limited amount of solutions to all inquiries?

The following sources provides insight into the areas of which we should all be concerned (assumptions about social structures and competencies) and the ways in which we can better prepare diverse learners to take their place in the contemporary world.

Ornate Divider

Changing School’s Paradigms

Ken Robinson, March 11, 2013

This video, piloted by Ken Robinson, is what sparks and ignites our inquiry question. A visionary cultural leader, Sir Ken led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements.


Banking Model Vs Problem Solving Model

Eric C Siberio & Nathan K. Wensko, November 2, 2015

As we begin to explore how students are being prepared to take their places in 21st century economics, we first take a look at historical educational pedagogies and how the perpetuation of such practices leave our students with critical deficits. Paulo Freire presents a thought-provoking look at the problem with education. He describes what he calls the “banking” concept of education in which teachers simply make deposits of knowledge into students and later withdraw that knowledge. As a solution, he offers the notion of a problem-posing concept of education in which teachers and students share the roles of teacher and learner.


Another Brick in the Wall

Pink Floyd, 1979

Pink Floyd’s song sends a message of an out-of-touch education system bent on producing compliant cogs in the societal wheel. Students are made him feel restricted by teachers who don’t let them be themselves but rather just bricks in the walls.


Historical Timeline of Public Education in the US

Applied Research Center (ARC), 2006

Race Forward advances racial justice through research, media, and practice. Founded in 1981, Race Forward brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. Here, we look at a historical timeline of public education in the US and how the events through the decades have empowered a top-down, hierarchal education system.


Build a Tower, Build a Team

Tom Wujec

The video is part of The Marshmallow Challenge and once again speaks to the question of why CHILDREN just entering the education system are more equipped to problem solve efficiently than those who have been integrated into the American education system for longer periods of time.


Preparing Kids with 21st Century Skills

LeapFrog, 2016

Research indicates that in order to ensure our students are prepared for the 21st century, concentrating on the 3Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) is an outdated model. The 4Cs (collaboration, creativity, communication, creative thinking), in addition to the 3Rs is the new classroom curriculum.


Framework for 21st Century Learning

P21, January 2016

While the graphic represents each element distinctly for descriptive purposes, P21 views all the components as fully interconnected in the process of 21st century teaching and learning. The elements described below are the critical systems necessary to ensure 21st century readiness for every student.


This Will Revolutionize Education

Veritasium, 2014

Has the root of education changed through the decades through emerging technologies? Will it ever? As educators look to technology to revolutionize education, this video sheds light on the challenges of this way of thinking. The view of the video is that emerging technologies will not revolutionize education for two reasons: 1. Technology is not inherently superior, animations over static graphics, videoed presentations over live lectures etc. and 2. Learning is inherently a social activity, motivated and encouraged by interactions with others.


The 21st century classroom – where the 3 R’s meet the 4 C’s!

Melinda Kolk, 2011

Technology is a perfect vehicle for facilitating the marriage of the 3 Rs and the R Cs. However, this isn’t about learning how to use technology or even teaching with technology tools, it is about students creating and constructing with technology.


Game-Based Learning

Quest to Learn, 2016

Quest to Learn is a public 6–12 school in Manhattan with an innovative educational philosophy developed by top educators and game theorists at The Institute of Play. Educational games are at the core of Quest’s curriculum. For example, sixth graders use Dr. Smallz, where they play the role of designers, scientists, doctors and detectives as they explore cellular biology and the human body. In ninth grade, students in Integrated Algebra participate in a project based on the TV show “Shark Tank” in which students use systems of equations along with graphing skills to design a food truck for NYC. Experiential learning positions students to take their rightful places in today’s economies.


Marshmallow Challenge

Tom Wujec

The Marshmallow Challenge is a remarkably fun and instructive exercise that encourages teams to experience simple but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity. The very idea of the structure of the activity could easily be a model for creating instruction for students to address 21st century competencies.



  1. From your exhibit question to your pieces, this was a well-done exhibition. The question is timely, the resources invaluable. It’s a serious question that we need to answer very quickly due to the demands that are placed on students (and everyone else honestly) in such a fast-moving society. Great job all around.

  2. I loved your artifacts as an approach to answering your inquiry question! Yes, education in the united states has been inexorably linked to capitalism and the industrial model of economics. I thought the article “This will revolutionize education” was a powerful piece that pushes back on the inherent “progress” model of technologies. Great job!

  3. Danielle Van DUnk

    I really love your exhibit questions and enjoyed you artifacts. Really well thought out exhibit. The question is something we really need to answer now, it is a very important topic. This has a lot to do with our students and where they can go and live there lives. Our society is always changing and we need to know what our student can do in the future. Amazing Job.