If you had to ask what I, as a teacher, think is one of the biggest problems facing children today, I would say 'attention' or, more accurately, the lack of it. Even children who are very committed to the subject or task at hand can find it difficult to maintain their concentration for more than a few minutes at a time. One of my tasks is to find ways to rekindle their interest, or to get them (as they say in somewhat ugly teacher-speak) 'back on task'.
The school in which I work allows a good deal of freedom to its teachers, and one of my regular routines is to have the children sit quietly and still at various times in the day - before our daily meeting, or before lunch. My aim is to have the class be still and collected for a whole minute, and sometimes they manage it. I knew it was worth trying when one of my more fidgety 5th-graders confided recently to my co-teacher, 'You know, I actually get it when George talks about silence.'
And if you think a short attention span is only confined to children, watch any film or TV ad, which changes shot every second, or a political soundbite that works on the premise (presumably well researched) that anything more than ten words is beyond the attention span of a listener.
Developing and maintaining attention is an important part of the Skills-for-Life program, whether it is attention to our inner state, attention to the practical task we're engaged in, or both together. We might even manage to sit still for a whole minute!