It is hard to succeed in life without skills in reading and math, but they are not the only ones that count or the only ones children learn in school. Education is a broader enterprise, as a recent survey by the Pew Research Center demonstrates. Pew asked a national sample of adults to pick select skills from a list of ten, which “are most important for children to get ahead in the world today.”
Reading and math are considered important by most, which is no surprise. But “soft” skills such as communication and teamwork were also chosen by many:
Many of these skills will be developed outside of formal educational environments. As Robert Putnam’s new book, Our Kids, shows, however, there appear to be widening class gaps in participation in extra-curricular and community-based activities, those which in his words, build “strong work habits, self-discipline, teamwork, leadership, and a sense of civic engagement.” He urges action to narrow these extra-curricular gaps. But they also mean that learning soft skills in the classroom increases in importance.