“After failing to move a runner past first base for the entire game, the Giants sent Davis to the plate with the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position. Unfortunately, he hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.”
- How many outs were there when Davis came to bat?
- To whom did he hit the ball?
- Describe the kind ball he hit (pop up? Line drive? etc.)?
- What was the final score of the game?
- How many runners were on base?
Being able to answer each of these questions requires a few things. You need to be able to decode English text. You need to have some basic general reasoning ability (mostly deductive reasoning). You need to know the relevant baseball content knowledge. And, you need know some declarative facts about baseball to answer some of the questions. (There's probably lots of other basic stuff (like basic math skills) you need to know as well, but I'm going to ignore those for simplicity sake.)
Notice how there isn't any baseball-specific reasoning ability needed to answer these questions. There's a good reason for this: there is no such thing as baseball-specific reasoning ability. Rather, the kind of general reasoning ability needed to solve these questions, as well as the vast majority of questions most people will encounter in their lifetimes, is well within the ken of a preschooler.
Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes more advanced forms of reasoning (such as formal logic reasoning) are required to analyze a problem and those more advanced forms of reasoning should be learned because they are occasionally needed. However, those advanced forms of reasoning are hardly 21st Century variety as some would have you believe.
So where do the 21st Century skills come into play?
They answer is simple. They mostly come into play when you lack the requisite baseball background knowledge because the first place you are likely to turn to in your quest to acquire missing knowledge is the Internet. You'll google, twitter, blog, and facebook your way to an answer. And, when those sources are lacking, you'll fall back on your pre-21st Century knowledge acquisition tools.
But, let's step back a second and discuss how knowledge is acquired generally.
First, go read my eponymous post on this topic from back in April so you'll know what I'm talking about.
Now, think about how you acquired your baseball knowledge. If you're like me, you probably acquired your baseball knowledge using most, if not all, of the ways I set forth in the post. For example, I played little league and softball (and many other baseball-like sports (wiffleball, stick ball, handball, halfball, baseball videogames)) which predominantly involves learning many rule relations, procedures and underlying facts inherent in the game. I also watched many baseball games (and listened to the announcer commentary) and read many articles about baseball and baseball games. This tends to be fact-heavy learning and involves inductive learning.
For example, I learned the meaning of the unknown concept of "in scoring position" by observing runners and listening to the announcer say the fact "in scoring position." Eventually, I induced that this term means a runner on second or third base, but didn't include a runner on first base or at home plate. I could have learned the concept much easier by being told the relevant fact up front.
It's hard to say I inured any benefit from learning this concept the long and laborious way through induction and lots of examples, instead of the simple way of being told the fact directly and memorizing it. In both cases there would have been at least one, and most likely many other, connection stored somehow in my brain linking fact/concept "scoring position (baseball)" and the fact/concept "runner(s) on second and/or third base." (Similarly, I just selected and used the word "inure" in this paragraph without being able to verbalize the precise definition of the word (before I Googled it to confirm), but being sufficiently familiar with the word and knowing it was appropriate in the context of the sentence with imperfect knowledge. Who knows how I learned the connection of the word "inure" and the connection with the vague concept "to gain an advantage from"?) There are many ways to skin a cat. However some ways are more efficient than others. Efficiency is the main difference between constructivist and instructivist pedagogies.
In contrast I had to Google my way to an answer for the "6-4-3 doubleplay" question, mainly because I never learned the position numbering scheme for baseball. I knew such a scheme existed, I just didn't know how exactly the positions were numbered. With this critical fact missing from my knowledge baseball I was unable to answer the question, until I acquired the knowledge by looking it up. Now I know -- at least temporarily, and can use the connection. I could have easily learned that knowledge by being more observant and thinking while watching televised baseball games. But, of course, that's more cognitively demanding, and, I choose not to engage in such a cognitively demanding task and, as a result, failed to learn the connection.
There are a few take aways from this post.
There are many ways to acquire the same bit of knowledge.
The ability to reason generally is a trivial skill that most people know how to do.
Not knowing relevant knowledge (or not knowing it sufficiently) will often inhibit (or diminish) your ability to use your general reasoning skills.
Improving your general reasoning skills often won't compensate for a lack of knowledge when that knowledge is needed.
Many 21st Century skills are generally relevant only when you lack knowledge in the first place.