p21_logoOne of the consent items on tonight’s Anaheim City Council agenda is a resolution that officially declares Anaheim to be a “P21 city” – the first in the nation, apparently, for whatever that distinction is worth.

P21 is short-hand for Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Google searches turn up lots of information, but less illumination. According to the P21 website:

“The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national  organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. As the United States continues to compete in a global  economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs (Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation). While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school.”

Like education reform movements past and present, the language employed is so general its difficult to take exception with anything. Who can be against creativity or critical thinking? the devil with these things is always in the details.

Tonight’s proposed resolution is the culmination of a pro-P21 petition drive that has been underway in Anaheim for some time now. Hundreds of students attending high school in Anaheim attended the most recent council meeting and presented a petition asking for what is on the agenda tonight, per this page from the Our Future Now website:.

“We are proud community members in the city of Anaheim, affiliated with Anaheim High School in Anaheim Union High School District. We want to express our support for Partnership for 21st Century Education that promotes the teaching of the 4Cs — Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication — in every classroom across all courses for every student. The P21 frameworks have been embraced by the California State Department of Education and now California is the 18th P21 state in the USA.

We are petitioning to support Mayor Tom Tait’s initiative to be the first city in the state to endorse P21 so that local businesses, community organizations, and city officials can better support and collaborate with our schools through internships and other creative partnerships that are aligned with the P21 Framework.

In addition to the 4C’s, we want the city to embrace a 5th C, Character. We believe that Character, the qualities of honor, kindness, and moral integrity are vital to the growth of all citizens and believe that the city of Anaheim should promote the 5 Cs in all civic engagement.

I think it is a good thing to include “character” as a 5th C – it is one of the more encouraging aspects of this initiative. But I am deeply skeptical of the ability of a system as captive to politically correct, relativistic thinking to teach character. That requires drawing lines – something the zeitgeist of modern education is biased against.

Citizens of the World
As i said, the devil of these things is always in the details, and the worst of it usually turns up in the humanities. Sure enough, P21 tilts toward the ‘global citizen” worldview in its approach to what it terms “civic literacy.” Here are some definitions from the P21 toolkit:

Global Awareness

• Using 21st century skills to understand and address global issues

• Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing

diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and

open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts

• Understanding other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English


Civic Literacy

• Participating effectively in civic life through knowing how to stay informed

and understanding governmental processes

• Exercising the rights and obligations of citizenship at local, state, national

and global levels

• Understanding the local and global implications of civic decisions


Environmental Literacy

• Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the environment and the

circumstances and conditions affecting it, particularly as relates to air,

climate, land, food, energy, water and ecosystems

• Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of society’s impact on the

natural world (e.g., population growth, population development, resource

consumption rate, etc.)

• Investigate and analyze environmental issues, and make accurate

conclusions about effective solutions

• Take individual and collective action towards addressing environmental

challenges (e.g., participating in global actions, designing solutions that

inspire action on environmental issues)

Some of this is innocuous, other parts less so. Given the grip left-wing environmental sensibilities has on education, I’ve little doubt that the sections “:global awareness” and “environmental literacy” will be used to inculcate a belief system in which capitalism is exploitative and human existence is corrosive to Mother Nature. The cumulative result is to undermine the belief in natural rights and limited government, and instead foster the mindset that government direction of human society is necessary to save the planet and restrain the exploitative free enterprise system.

It certainly will not be about producing students who are literate in the founding principles of the Republic that has produced the freedom and abundance to which they are accustomed.

I would certainly enjoy being proven wrong and discover a P21 approach to the teaching of history and civics communicated ideas along the lines of this from Thomas Jefferson:

“It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately.”

Or Samuel Adams idea of “civic literacy”:

“If we continue to be a happy people, that happiness must be assured by the enacting and executing of reasonable and wise laws, expressed in the plainest language, and by establishing such modes of education as tend to inculcate in the minds of youth, the feelings and habits of “piety, religion and morality,” and to lead them to the knowledge and love of those truly Republican principles upon which our civil institutions are founded.”

Alas, I think this is more reflective of a P21 approach, from a column entitled “What Citizenship Means for the 21st Century”:

“We are working with leading civic learning organizations to explore and expand what 21st-century citizenship entails – and show why we must explicitly include civic learning in a 21st-century curriculum. At P21, research and collaboration with leading employers have shown us that the 21st-century workplace requires high-level skills for all workers, and it’s no surprise that civic life in the 21st century also requires more nuanced skills and competencies for all our citizens.

In this election season we urge parents, educators, policy-makers and community members – as well as the students themselves – to reflect on what 21st-century citizenship means to them. It is imperative that these opportunities are made part of an authentic 21st century learning experience for every student, to ensure that all our students graduate ready for college, careers and citizenship.”

The authors of our system of government would didn’t think that what it meant to be a citizen really changed. They believed in, and based our system of government, on transcendent principles which were true across time — not on milquetoasty, technocratic rhetoric.

I pinged an education expert at the Reason Foundation about P21. He responded:

Basically, this strikes me as a typical feel-good, do nothing effort that will focus on fuzzy stuff without making any real changes. Indeed, the Partnership was a semi-big issue a few years ago, as I recall, but mainly because it got a lot of press but was utterly bereft of concrete ideas or content.

The enthusiasm of bright and eager young people such as those who flooded the Anaheim City Council meeting two weeks ago is infectious and hard to resist. I’ve little doubt the council will unanimously adopted the resolution declaring Anaheim to be a P21 city, and unfortunately, I have little confidence it will ultimately much differently than the Reason Foundation policy analyst prognosticated.