Wayne Gretzky - the greatest hockey player ever said something once that is most widely quoted in business strategy circles. I'm paraphrasing, but he said something like: "a good player skates to where the puck is, a great player skates to where the puck will be."
So what does that have to do with 21st Century Skills and Learning? Simple. This report seems obsessed with the current state of education in the United States, the current state of industry, and the current needs of businesses in the US.
There is no recognition of the truth that it takes decades for change to permeate a system as large and autocratic as this. There is literally no way to turn the "Edutanic" on a dime or even a silver dollar.
So - why are we assuming that 21st century skills are only what we know now (only 8% of the way into this century)??
Why are we not positing the argument that says this is about learning not skills. This about the capacity to adapt; the ability to persuade; the wisdom to evaluate; the insight to choose well. These (and more) are all learnings that would take any of our children to wherever the puck will be.
Moreover, with whom should we be competing? Surely not any other country in the world! Why not instead declare that our "competitor" if you could call it that is the future. We want the best possible future for our children; their ability to thrive there is what we seek. If we knew what that was going to be, we wouldn't be sitting around writing reports (or blogs for that matter).
The imperative then must be to build a system where every mind is opened, inspired, and made supremely able; the assessment must be such that these abilities are tested, not small things like rote memorization, or the ability to type on a keyboard, surf the Internet or program your (god help us) VCR.
We need educators, parents, schools, societies that are able to bring out these abilities in our children. This is what the 21st Century Skills report should argue for.