The 6 C’s: Co-Creating Competencies for 21st Century Citizenship
Cynthia Drew Barnes, Ph.D.
Chief Empowerment Officer, Learning4Change

Some years ago, my brother, then a Senior Vice President for McDonald’s Corporation Worldwide in charge of Innovation, told me something I’ve yet to forget: “The difference between your industry and mine,” he said, is that “in my industry, we have to change before we need to, while, in your industry, you won’t change even when it’s clear that you must.”
Those words stung, after spending more than 30 years in education, a profession, from pre-kindergarten through graduate school, that looks exactly as it did when I started school more decades ago than I care to admit. No one would want to spend her professional life in a career—one of the most noble of all professions—that 30 years later appears much worse off than it did when she began. With high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent in some urban and rural areas, and college graduation rates limping along at about 29 percent (Harvard Civil Rights Project), something seems intractably wrong with the Nation’s educational system.
Corporate partners lament the lack of qualified workers. Parents and school board members haggle over which latest educational “fad” constitutes the “magic bullet” needed to help children learn. Educational bureaucrats seek new and better ways to leave “no child behind,” at the same time that adults and children lag far behind the performance of learners in such distant lands as Hong Kong, Latvia, and Russia.
And higher education, once the enviable ivy-colored bastions of learning and leading, commissions one more study or panel to provide us with the definitive word on the best policy and practices needed to catapult us into 21st-Century learning and teaching excellence.
Well, after more than 30 years in the profession, one thing rings clear. While we haggle over what strategies and techniques will make a discernible difference in producing a world-class, educated citizenry and we reflect on decades of educational experimentation, those learners languishing in preschool through university classrooms are the real losers. Samuel Clemons quipped many decades ago, “For every complex problem, there’s always a simple solution—and it’s always wrong.”
There is no “magic bullet” for what ails our antiquated assembly-line educational system. We cannot expect to produce innovative, critical thinkers for tech-savvy occupations—most of which do not currently exist—through time-based, seat-based models of schooling that lead to time-based, cubicle-based models of work. If we are to, once and for all, forego schools as the primary sorting mechanisms for capitalism, places where children get sorted into economic and social classes based on such accidents of birth as skin color, median family income, origin of birth, or first language, then we must redesign our educational system—particularly our higher education system—to do much more than divvy out “credits” for time served in our schools.
We must move into a new model that clearly adopts the strategy that “one size does not fit all.” We must embrace the concept that each human being, no matter his or her origin of birth, has been imbued with unique talents and gifts. And that the goal and role of education is to help each person discern, develop, and then use those unique gifts and talents to create not only a better life for that person, but for his or her family and community—and the planet as a whole.
In the 21st Century, the “3 R’s” must give way to the “6 C’s,” competencies each person must master for effective functioning and citizenship in our global village:
The 6 C’s for 21st Century Citizenship
  1. Connect
  2. Create
  3. Collaborate
  4. Communicate
  5. Compute
  6. Think Critically

Make Connections…

Time was, we bemoaned a lack of information as an impe