Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The two most important skills for success in school and beyond? Yup, law and technology.

That's the conclusion from this important opinion piece in the New York Times - The Two Codes Your Kids Need to Know - that reports how the College Board, the non-profit organization that administers the SAT, sought to answer the following question: "Of all the skills tested by the SAT that correlate with success in college and beyond, which two are the most important?" The answer: mastering computer science and developing an understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Why computer science? The College Board concluded that "computing, the internet, big data and artificial intelligence [are] now the essential building blocks of almost every industry. . . . [Thus], any young person who can master the principles and basic coding techniques that drive computers and other devices 'will be more prepared for nearly every job.'”  And the importance of understanding the U.S. Constitution?  The College Board explained that "the Constitution forms the foundational code that gives shape to America and defines our essential liberties — it is the indispensable guide to our lives as productive citizens.”

But not content to merely identify these two key skills, the College Board has also been in recent years revising and adapting both the SAT and the Advanced Placement tests (which it also administers) to promote in high school students a deeper understanding of these twin pillars of success - law and computing. More specifically, the Board has revamped the A.P. government course to focus on 15 foundational Supreme Court cases. More significant than that, the College Board has revamped the SAT which nearly all college bound high school students must take by incorporating a reading comprehension test that focuses on documents that measure a student's understanding of democratic processes and concepts like the constitution or important political speeches. And the portions of the SAT that assess an understanding of legal and democratic processes (along with computing skills) are now weighed more heavily in terms of a student's overall score on the SAT.  In short, this would seem to have a very positive impact on law schools in the years ahead regarding a potential increase in the number students interested in attending law school and helping to develop critical reading and thinking skills before they arrive. With respect to the latter, however, that's the hope though in reality learning is such a complex activity involving a multiplicity of factors (i.e., sound instructional techniques on the part of teachers, students who are motivated to learn, the classroom relationship between teacher and students, etc.) that it does not lend itself to such a simple cause and effect strategy.  

The Two Codes Your Kids Need to Know is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in legal education and skills development.


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