I was skimming through another edition of the Academic Top Ten today when this headline caught my eye:
ACCC lays out priorities for 2013 federal budget
The Association of Canadian Community Colleges has called on the federal government to invest funds to address what they call a “critical shortage of advanced skills facing employers.” While perhaps not old news, the fact that it is still news is what intrigues me.
The apparent dichotomy between knowledge and skills is fascinating. When we write learning outcomes, when we write funding proposals, and even when we read institutional vision and mission statements, there remains a clear distinction between information (knowledge) and action (skills).
“Consistent with this commitment, the University will emphasize a broad and superior undergraduate education that imparts the knowledge, skills, and values so essential to educated and responsible citizens.” Auburn University
To carry out its mission, LIU Brooklyn advanced courses for specialized knowledge and graduate programs in those areas in which it has developed strength or has a unique contribution to make. In addition, the Campus has designed programs to permit students to acquire essential literacies, intellectual curiosity, analytic and reasoning skills, and effective communication skills. LIU Brooklyn
Where does knowledge end and skill begin? Do we attain a certain level of knowledge before a skill is developed? Does a particular skill bring with it a certain type of knowledge?
In this ‘knowledge economy’, knowledge can be bought, sold, traded, valued, devalued, oversold and even pulled off the shelves by public outcry or private company recall. The ‘skills shortage’ sees our students graduate without skills (or at least a high enough level of certain skills) that will help them be successful (the definition of successful continuing to be up for discussion of course).
What continues to fascinate me is that it’s one or the other. One and the other even. Skills are ‘in addition’, the ‘and’ that goes along with knowledge. I remember one conversation, long ago, where the distinction between university and college (in a Canadian context) was oversimplified by a split emphasis on knowledge (academics) and skill (trades).
Why does this difference exist? Should it?