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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Design Your Mind

The Big Idea for Monday, February 11, 2013

How should we focus learning standards in the 21st century? Should these standards be geared toward educating a productive workforce? Certainly. But should that come at the cost of teaching life skills that are fundamental to being a productive citizen and a human with the right mental equipment to deal with life's trials and tribulations. In short, do we want citizens or automatons?

While the 21st century tendency is based on productivity, the prevailing 20th century view was anchored in John Dewey's concept of educating good citizens, who are essential to a democracy. While some might argue this is a false choice between these two visions, tight budgets tend to force the issue. Moreover, when standards of achievement are set, those become the guiding principle of how we educate. It is what our students are judged by.

In today's lesson, Steven Mazie makes the argument that certain skills, that mostly have to do with creative problem solving, are being wrongly neglected. After all, he points out, these skills represent a "survival kit" for achieving happiness in the 21st century. 


  1. 1 Are We Teaching Citizens or Automatons?
    Steven Mazie Praxis
  2. 2 A Tech Geek on Why We Need the Humanities
    Jason Gots Input/Output
  3. 3 Big Idea: We Can Measure Educational Value in Words
    Peter Lawler Rightly Understood
  4. 4 Standardized Testing: The Monster that Ate American Education
    Diane Ravitch

Design Your Mind

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