In USA Today (March 5, 2009), Greg Toppo’s article, “What to learn: ‘core knowledge‘ or ‘21st-century skills‘?” presents a thought provoking description of the changing emphasis in how knowledge is ranked on a gradient of importance in contemporary American culture revealed that at least 10 states have committed to helping students develop 21st-century skills in schools the workplace and beyond. Analysis points to an effect that rates technological skill as the premium among valued knowledge in the atmosphere of the present emergent culture. Considering this information in contrast to past attitudes toward learning and what knowing indicates about education, there is growing disparity between traditional views of based upon theory and core knowledge as a frame work for analysis of information as opposed to skills as the model of preparation for a career path. Present emphasis suggests that a shift in epistemology and how knowledge is valued (axiology) presents a revolutionary change in approach to educational theory and delivery because of marked developments in modern culture.
To emphasize this point, Toppo reports, that a Massachusetts task force concluded that straight academic content is no longer enough to help students compete an education that will place them in the work force in the 21st Century. This presents a perspective that shifts the central focus of past generations from theoretical, content based knowledge, while at the same time emphasizes a shift toward technological skill-based proficiency. This perspective drew a rebuke from The Boston Globe, which states that it is not clear that the current approach education can be implemented without eliminating the important role that academic academic content has played in educating students with analytical skills in prior generations (Toppo, 2009). As a result, changing paradigms in educational approaches have resulted in a shift in the design of educational delivery systems and indicates developments within culture driven by economic, industrial, multicultural, and technological differences that are not only changing the content and application of knowledge, but how value and meaning is assigned to knowledge as a concept and operationalized.
Shifting Paradigm of Knowledge
The evident change of meaning related to knowledge is readily apparent in the influence that is constantly changing media platforms that are impacting the content of knowledge and how it is understood. The effects of the shift in cannot be underestimated because new educational philosophy is placing significant influence upon the way knowledge is formulated, as well as, the conclusions made by knowledge that is communicated. Therefore, given that there is a shift in the influential way that skill development is outweighing theoretical knowledge acquisition, a significant challenge is to understand how the shift of epistemology from traditional sources of knowledge will impact the future. A fundamental question that arises out of the shifting paradigm is how the shift will influence the way people will approach what is knowable, relative, and of value in the days ahead. It seems that the societal evolution of methodology reflects the thinking of George Kelley’s construct theory. Kelley saw everything only relative to the present moment and disconnected from the past and disassociated with the future. In fact, he held that nothing is really stable or fixed and that all constructs are constantly being rewritten as they fit the present. This type of thinking is diametrically different to the philosophical assumptions of a educational culture that has been based upon a body of theory taught to build a skeleton that a discipline is built upon from embracing the collective knowledge of theorists’, philosophers, and the skilled artisans of truth who have built disciplines that bring great value to truth. More to the point of my thoughts about this paradigm can spiritual leadership and Christian ministry be reduced to a skill to be taught, a marketing technology, or a professional ability without being grounded in the truth that has developed in our understanding but nonetheless timeless? On the other hand, can a culture of technocrats who have been retooled with a new epistemology be touched by a gospel that presents a wisdom that that is not based upon skill, but in power and demonstration of the gospel of collaboration and technology designed to put information at people’s fingertips, but allows them to stay as they are? Jesus came to change lives, not just to impart data to add to information technology. Have you ever looked around and looked at the condition of the world and wondered why the church is having little impact upon beliefs, values, and practices in the 21st century world of spirituality? Technology and skill cannot save people, only Jesus can.
Clashing World Views
One thing that is abundantly clear is that there is a clash of world-views that is not about skill or technology, but about spiritual, theological, and philosophical assumptions related to knowing as opposed to doing. Have people lost sight about the fundamental truth that God alone imparts knowledge of himself through prayer, His word, by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no way to to place that in a data base or teach a skill to create a formula that imparts the power of the gospel. Unfortunately, the demand for crowds, the dollar, and the entertainment culture of the church has made us much more reliant conventional wisdom from the world in the moment than it has upon to power of the gospel from a sovereign God to ignite people with the knowledge of God that draws them to Him through obedience to timeless principles presented in the gospel. On the other hand, over reliance upon informational technology and undereliance upon discipleship, obeedience, prayer, spiritual transformation, sacrifice, servanthood, and surrender questions the validity found in conventional theological, philosophical and historical authority by shifting the focus to pragmatic artificial intelligence based outcome, rather than processed thought and obedience to the gospel that is a spiritual discipline, away of life that is valued rather that a skill or trend that is popular for the moment. The point is that the skills involved in technology are tools of the gospel preaching church, they are not the gospel. Skill can greatly enhance the gospel, but cannot stand in for the gospel, can greatly enhance the presentation of the gospel, but is not the gospel, and can greatly multiply the reach of the gospel, but is not the gospel. The gospel is about Jesus and His provision of eternal life through His sacrifice on the Cross and Resurrection from the dead.
The Abundance of Popular False Teachers
Evidence of the contemporary misuse of technology can be observed by considering the plethora of sources of distorted knowledge; spiritual teachers, television preachers, and Internet religion—offering knowledge challenging the theology of gospel in the scriptures and espoused by popular icons on the technological wonder called television. The apostasy is not the technology or skilled people who provide services, but the pseudo propheton- false prophets. Jesus and Paul warned about them and warned not to go out after them. Paul said they would go from house to house leading silly women astray. What an apt description of much of the television religious networks that are no mere than religious entertainment for the undiscerning and underdeveloped. The result is felt in frustration experienced by conservative Christianity in understanding that what was once knowledge found in a system of thought is now subjugated to the popular beliefs of entertainers, politicians, or musicians who have deceived people with shallow materialistic theology. Therefore postmodern technology developments have played a role in shifting information processing constructs i.e, “Knowledge can be described in terms of an intellectual — and spiritual –marketplace” (Adams, 1997).
This point is demonstrated by Thomas Guarino (1996) presents a point of view saying that, “Postmodern thinkers reject foundationalist ontologies [sources of knowledge], of all types because these philosophies seek to ‘close down’ effective history, to end historical consciousness” (Guarino, 1996). Therefore, the source of knowledge about spirituality in matters that are religious and non-religious has been deligitimated. The source of authority in knowledge is now located in the many voices of consumer driven media messages communicating a changing value system of knowledge.
A fundamental question hinges upon whether it is right or wrong? Obviously, that depends upon your view of knowledge in an accepted value system held. It might be better to recognize it being what it is than spending time in criticism of the change. A better question is related to effectiveness in the 21st century economy and culture. If what is held as a personal belief system is important enough to feel it needs to be preserved, then maybe we should spend time thinking about how to communicate the message, definition, and meaning of spirituality in a technological– media driven culture that has embraced collaboration as a mediator for knowledge.
Adams, D. L. (1997). Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Crosscurrents: http://crosscurrents.org/adams.html
Guarino, T. (1996). Postmodernity and five fundamental theological issues [electronic version]. Theological Studies , 57 (4), Retrieved from EBSCOhost March 30,2011.
Toppo, G. (2009, March 5). What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’. Retrieved 6 2011, April, from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm