June 29, 2009
As we approach the end of the first
decade of the first century of the third millennium of the Christian
Era, the corporate members of the new and influential Partnership for
21st Century Skills have begun to look beyond and behind and beneath
their earlier commitment to the education of our students in critical
thinking, collaborative problem solving, and global awareness.
It has become obvious to industry leaders
that more fundamental than all these new student skills for success in
the business world is really Critical Likability. While it may be useful
for new employees to know that the world is round, and that solving
problems is sometimes easier if others provide help, and that real
thinking is superior to not thinking at all, these all pale in
importance to whether other people like you or not.
Being a great communicator is important,
and reading and writing have received some support from the 21st Century
leaders, but those are not of much value if no one likes you and no one
wants to hear what you have to say, whether oral or written.
Critical Likability, it must be
understood, goes far beyond mere popularity in school, although they
share some essential tools and characteristics. Future employees must
learn, while they are in school, the basic lessons of smiling, personal
hygiene (including the control of bad breath and the release of hydrogen
sulfide gas), grooming, table manners, the correct handshake, and at
least the basics of dressing for success.
At a more advanced level students should
be taught to listen, empathize, seem to agree, laugh, hug (only where
clearly appropriate), tell jokes, drink (where and when culturally
appropriate), play a social sport (like golf), and generally to be
likable in the most efficient and effective senses of that word.
Everyone knows that while space in the
curriculum must be arranged for instruction in these Critical Likability
skills, that will take some time, and, at least for the immediate
future, there will still be courses in history, literature, math,
science, languages and all that. In fact, it is generally acknowledged
that at least math and science can make a contribution to Critical
Employability in our modern economy.
Some of this work is still in the
planning stages, as the Seven Techniques of Critical Likability are
being developed and forged into new curricula. But the work is
As always there will be rearguard efforts
to retard progress in teaching these Critical Likability skills to
students. Teachers and conservatives educators will fight to defend the
sciences and humanities as necessary to leading the good life, and to
preparing students for success in college. But if a person is truly
likable, "with a shoeshine and a smile,” as Willy Loman used to say,
they can make at least part of their way in the business world, no
matter how ignorant they are of anything beyond the work of their
employer. Cultural literacy may be fine for some people, but Critical
Likability is what we want for all of America’s future 21st Century
Academic subjects and intellectual work
will still be provided in our education system of course, but this is a
new century, and new ideas are needed in this Post-Recession economy.
Some students will probably always be willing to read nonfiction books
and to write serious academic research papers, and some teachers will
want to help them with that, and surely room can be found somewhere in
our economy, and even in our government, for people who do that sort of
Nevertheless, Americans have always been
noted for their high likability skills. People in other countries have
often noted that while Americans may be ignorant and thoughtless, they
are at least likable, and we should be sure not to give up that
important advantage, even as other countries like China, India, Korea,
Singapore and Taiwan (CHIKSAT) gradually bury us economically, by means
of the complete and rigorous academic schooling they are now requiring
millions of their students to complete.
20th century proves to be the last and only American Century, and even
if other countries stop lending us their money to prop us up, at least
we will slide back behind other nations and other cultures with a nice
(likable) smile on our faces...