Every student needs a certain set of skills to flourish in their careers. Pearson teamed up with researchers from Nesta and the Oxford Martin School to understand these top skills—learning strategies, psychology, instructing, social perceptiveness, and sociology and anthropology. In the process, they realized several leaders throughout history that have exemplified these skills, making an impact on our lives through their actions, ideals, and messages (whether we knew it or not).
Learning Strategies: Fred Rogers
On May 9, 1969, during an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Fred Rogers asked black police officer, Officer Clemmons, to cool his feet in his wading pool. This small act broke the color barrier just as racial tensions were rising. By sharing the water and a towel, the men exposed the bigotry of the time. In 2018, Clemmons said, "It was a definite call to social action on Fred's part. That was his way of speaking about race relations in America." This small act is just one example of the messages of love, kindness, and acceptance that Rogers taught children (and adults), while sending a much larger message to the public via media.1
Psychology: Dr. Joyce Brothers
During the 1960's, sexual satisfaction and menopause were considered taboo subjects for television and radio, but Dr. Joyce Brothers knew they were front and center in women's minds. As a result, she started her television show, where she gave out psychological advice on relationships, family, sexuality, and self-empowerment. Brothers stressed self-love and self-care by women, and encouraged equal relationships that allow for wives to ask their husbands for what they need to be personally satisfied in a marriage.2
Instructing: Anne Sullivan
When Anne Sullivan was only 20, she helped blind and deaf Helen Keller make associations between words and physical objects. Finger-spelling the word "water" on Keller's hand as she ran water over her other hand, Sullivan helped Keller make a major breakthrough, connecting the concept of sign language with the objects around her. With Sullivan's help, Keller was able to learn almost 600 words, most of the multiplication tables, and how to read Braille in only a few months.3
Social Perceptiveness: Nelson Mandela
In apartheid-era Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela saw a white woman stranded with her broken car, so he stopped and offered his help. After he fixed her car, she thanked him by offering a sixpence, but he declined, saying he was just happy to help. The woman asked why a black man would help her if it wasn't for the money. "Because you were stranded at the side of the road," he replied. Mandela's life as an anti-apartheid activist, politician, and philanthropist was full of moments of kindness, humility, and courage like this one.4
Sociology & Anthropology: Dr. Jane Goodall
While studying chimpanzees in Tanzania in 1960, Jane Goodall was the first person to observe a non-human creature making and using a tool. As her work continued, Goodall found that our nearest evolutionary cousins also embraced, hugged, and kissed each other, as well as experienced adolescence, developed powerful mother-and-child bonds, and used political chicanery to get what they wanted. It is thanks to Goodall and her work that we now know the many similarities between humans and chimps and have much greater knowledge of chimpanzee behavior.5
Even today, people from many fields are exhibiting these same skills and making their own impact. Browse these future skills profiles for examples of contemporary role models, and find out which skills you best exemplify.
- Kettler, Sara. "Fred Rogers Took a Stand Against Racial Inequality When He Invited a Black Character to Join Him in a Pool," Biography, May 24, 2019.
- Isaacs, Shalyn. "Joyce Brothers," Feminist Voices, 2016.
- Biography.com Editors."Anne Sullivan Biography," Biography, April 12, 2019.
- Paramaguru, Kharunya. "5 Great Stories About Nelson Mandela’s Humility, Kindness and Courage," Time, December 06, 2013.
- McKie, Robin. "Chimps with everything: Jane Goodall's 50 years in the jungle," The Guardian, June 26, 2010.