Learning is for wisdom.


According to Don Richard Riso (p.10)•

Knowledge alone is not enough to change us. If it were, the most knowledgeable people would be the best people, and we know from our own experience that this is not so. Knowledge would be virtue, and it is not. Knowing more about ourselves is but a means toward the goal of being happy and leading a good life, but the possession of knowledge alone cannot bestow virtue, happiness or fulfilment on us.”

• Personality Types …. Don Richard Riso … Houghton Mifflin Company … Boston.

***In our education system, knowledge has been a convenient way of assessing. So much of the old paradigm is maintained because it is convenient, easily organised and known, however it also fosters boredom repetition and stagnation. I am amazed at the amount of outdated knowledge fed to children knowingly, whilst at the same time the student’s answers are marked wrong because they don’t match the answers in the outdated book. This approach has as it’s conclusion a mind set that is demonstrated by the following statements so often heard in high schools. “I need this subject to get the job. .. I only need pass to get into my chosen course. .. I have to do this assignment so that I can pass. .. The teacher said we have to do this activity”. In all honesty these comments demonstrate that in many situations we aren’t getting any appropriate knowledge or learning happening in our schools. Going through the motions of learning is more often the means to an end. The learning has little other value. I suggest that tasks be worded and presented and assessed to accentuate the learning that is within the task. A more aware human being, a wiser human being needs to emerge through the completion of a set task.

Wisdom has its own set of components.

*The first involves looking at what is, and then seeing how it fits into the bigger picture of things. Why is it the way it is? Will it always be this way? Has it always been this way? How does it affect other variables? What is the long term impact?

*The second is recognizing the logic and reason and yet exploring what lies beyond it. Using a lateral thinking process to step into new possibilities. Taking risks and making mistakes to explore new ideas.   [De Bono]

*The third is stepping outside the rational without losing sight of it. Being a visionary. ( Yes! Children can be visionaries. It is not the sole domain of adults.)

*The fourth is putting more emphasis on the future impact rather than the present or the past. Stepping out of the short term thinking process of ‘this will get me to the next point’ or “this will get me what I want NOW!”

                *The fifth component looks at ‘what can I learn’ rather than ‘what do I have to know’ By gaining knowledge about anything, we are gaining tools. If we are not taught how to use the tool or even what the tool is for, then the tool has no value. If we are stopped from experimenting with the tool, we will never discover new uses for the tool that could be even more valuable than the known and accepted uses. This demands a space be created in which play is integrated into the learning process.

                *The sixth component begs the student to ask the question ‘Where can this lead me? Rather than what can this get me?

                *The seventh component involves looking for value and meaning. Why is this learning valuable? What does this knowledge or skill mean to me or others?

In promoting wisdom I suggest it is no longer appropriate to teach something just because it is in the curriculum, or because the teacher says so. To show such lack of respect to our junior human beings, denies them the right to question what they are learning or why they are learning. It demands passive acquiescence whilst at the same time frustrating adults when children won’t think for themselves or take responsibility or show enthusiasm.

Let us check out the actions that actually create this conflicting situation. It is not a normal nor natural state of a healthy human being to be a passive receptor. Every famous person included in our curriculums questioned the status quo and explored the unknown in some way. What is the purpose of teaching about them if we don’t use them as role models? In a year 1 class students want to ask questions, participate and give everything a try. By the time students are thirteen, teachers are tearing their hair out trying to get a decent and relevant question asked in class. I am saying that the most important questions are being asked, but being treated with contempt. The question ‘Why do we have to learn this?’ is a very familiar question and one which rarely gets a satisfactory answer. Why do we need bribery and coercion to get volunteers to participate in the classroom? What has gone amiss? Part of the problem has been focusing on the teaching of things rather than what those things are for or how they have value.

Wisdom involves work. It needs to be exercised with conviction and without subterfuge or exception. And it begins with the little things, like why wear school uniforms, why line up outside the classroom, why write with a blue pen instead of a green pen. Too much unjustifiable control on any level cannot result in a learning environment that supports the getting of wisdom. Wisdom requires asking open ended questions that don’t have correct answers. It is not something that can be done with the teacher sitting behind the desk and the students in passive, silent work.

Within the classroom there are often times when no apparent learning is seen to be taking place. The atmosphere is playful and unstructured. Space is created for the getting of wisdom to occur. Any questions can be asked, any topic can be discussed and there is no time limit on the topic. We stop when we run out of questions. This scenario is not delegated to a time when we have nothing else to do. Any time can be deemed appropriate. The learning process is exponential. Students are encouraged to see that all learning can lead us in a multitude of directions and this helps the students integrate their learning into the uniqueness of their own lives.

In my experience, this unstructured time is at first very uncomfortable for students and for me. Through the old paradigm process, students have developed such a distrust of authority that they are wary of me and don’t take it seriously. They are looking for the trap or the trick. After establishing trust, these sessions become my favourite and the students participate without fear of reprisal. Wonderful discussions with enthusiastic participation occur with little need of prompting by the teacher. This is where the wisdom emerges. It re-awakens the inquisitive child that wants to ask WHY and acknowledges that it is a healthy and vital part of learning. It provides a space for the sacred within each of us to be uncovered and celebrated.

The old adage of keeping students busy doesn’t allow for this wisdom to flow in. Most teachers have activities filed away that they openly call ‘busy work.’ These are activities to give to individuals or whole classes to keep them busy when they have finished set work or have ‘nothing to do’. Underneath this practice is a distrust of humanities’ ability to think for themselves or find something to do. We have lost the space for daydreaming. Playtime is even structured for outside in the playground and only during designated times. We are teaching an addictive attitude to work as a state of always doing. Thinking can only occur when the teacher demands it. Space for thinking and questioning is the bridge from knowledge based learning to wisdom-based learning.

Thinking requires leisure time.

If you are not in possession of leisure time,

you can’t be thinking all that much. ”   Aristotle.