Schools are in the knowledge business. We need to be in the wisdom business. Let’s find the fusion of those two.
Great educators know this is true. We look back on our own lives and know that our moments of success come more from clarity and experience that lead us to make wise decisions than from acquiring packets of knowledge. Growing up, all of my heroes were teachers. Miss Elsworth taught me to stand up for the underdog; Ms. Heilman taught me a fierce passion for learning; Mr. Page taught me humility; Mr. Chanteloupe taught me the power of ideas; Dr. Ingle taught me to differentiate between possible and probable…and so many more. I know that all my teachers at some point also fed me knowledge, but I have forgotten as much as I remember.
Students, given the time to reflect and dive deeply into their own aspirations also know this is true. In my first Falconer class in 1999, one student told us that they would all “give up a lot of knowledge for a little bit of wisdom”. The next year the school valedictorian told us that, in 12 years they had learned a lot of stuff, but the real value was in learning the wisdom of “the glue that holds the stuff together”. Already this year in his capstone course for seniors at Townview Magnet School, Aaron Baldridge reports a student finding and articulating the difference between knowledge and wisdom: knowledge is learning that a hot stove burns you; wisdom is parents knowing how, when, and why to teach their kids to not touch a hot stove. Need a subjective assessment rubric? Easy. That kid gets an “A”.
Yes, we need the tools of knowledge, and we are seeing an explosion of ways for students to gain knowledge. It is hard to argue that teachers in front of a class of 15 or 30 or 40 students will be the best way to transfer knowledge in the future. But I have not seen anyone yet propose a distance learning, blended learning, or online module for the acquisition of wisdom. This is the ground of hero-teachers. We know it and our students know it, so let’s get it out there and get schools into the wisdom business.