Skills Mania

Skills Mania

Snake Oil In Our Schools?

By Bob Davis



In Skills Mania Bob Davis argues passionately that the emphasis in the secondary school classroom must shift from a technocratic, skills-based approach, to teaching and discussion that focuses on real, substantive issues. He also calls for a new emphasis on the teaching of history, a practice that has been sadly lacking in recent years.

Two central qualities warm up this book: first the story is told through the author’s own teaching, and second, the author presents us with an original and frank point of view.

This is a stiring, engaged, and practical book.


[Davis] is a passionate and charismatic teacher who can seamlessly imbed the teaching of skills within the ‘bursting framework of history, humankind, animal kind and the earth; war and peace; protest and self-knowledge; contemplation and the design of blueprints for change.

– Myra Novogrodsky, Our Schools/Our Selves

This is a book which moves beyond postmodern irony and skepticism, beyond the “current fashion of seeing through everything and owing allegiance to nothing.” Bob Davis has issued a powerful clarion call to resist “training people who are mentally skilled but mindless.” He is a lover of the big questions and the absolute possibility of meaningful human advancement. His book is a loving commentary on Einstein’s dictum that “All means are but a blunt instrument if they have not behind them a living spirit.”

– Ted Schmidt, Canadian Dimension

In Skills Mania, Davis offers every teacher the chance to examine one of the informing principles of our system and to reconsider the fundamental questions of the profession.

– Gayle Gibson, Education Forum


Chapter 1 How the Skills Philosophy Thrives in New Fields: Child Care, Conflict Management and Media Literacy
Chapter 2 Collaboration and Collaborators: The Cooperative Way to Compete — The Case of Collaborative Skills
Chapter 3 Collaboration Part II: Curriculum Examples, Weak, and Strong
Chapter 4 English: Literature and Film Shrink, Language Grows
Chapter 5 History: The Fall from Grace
Chapter 6 Citizenship Education: Seize the Moment of Sociology, but Fight to Restore History
Chapter 7 Sociology: Know the Conflicts, Know Your Own People
Chapter 8 Psychology: Know Yourselves, Know Your Families
Chapter 9 Strengthening Science as a Subject for All Students — Part I: How Science Crept into the Curriculum of a History Teacher
Chapter 10 Strengthening Science as a Subject for All Students — Part II
Chapter 11 Why We Should Turn Away from Skills Mania and What We Should Try Instead
Appendix I Africa and the West Indies I
Appendix II Africa and the West Indies II