Developing Wisdom in Schools

Image result for Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end. Leonard Nimoy

I have been reading, “The Seven Decisions; Understanding the Keys to Personal Success,” by Andy Andrews, and this quote on “wisdom” stuck with me:

Most people mistake wisdom for education, like a high school diploma or college degree. Seeking wisdom is not the same as gaining knowledge: Knowledge is a precursor to wisdom. Wisdom includes an intuitive element, an insight gained from personal experience that serves us as we make choices in our lives. Seeking wisdom should be a continual process.

For me, it is easy to identify between “knowledge” and “wisdom”.  I have met many people who have large amounts of knowledge who do not necessarily have wisdom, but I have never met someone who was wise and didn’t have an abundance of knowledge.

When I look up the definition, here is what I am referring to:

…the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

But this quote makes the most sense:

“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” ~ Unknown

This is something that we want from our students but in the past, has the system of “school” taken away the application of wisdom from teachers?

In the book, “Practical Wisdom,” Barry Schwartz shares the following observation from the “No Child Left Behind” initiative: 

Supporters of lockstep curricula and high-stakes standardized tests were not out to undermine the wisdom, creativity, and energy of good teachers. The scripted curricula and tests were aimed at improving the performance of weak teachers in failing schools—or forcing them out. If lesson plans were tied to tests, teachers’ scripts would tell them what to do to get the students ready. If students still failed, the teachers could be “held accountable.” Equality would seemingly be achieved (no child left behind) by using the same script, thus giving the same education to all students. But this also meant that all teachers, novice or expert, weak or strong, would be required to follow the standardized system.

Teachers on the front lines often point to the considerations left out of the teach-to-test paradigm. Tests are only one indicator of student learning, and poor performance on tests has other causes aside from poor teaching—poorly funded urban schools, students from poor or immigrant backgrounds with few resources at home and sometimes little or no English, overcrowded classrooms with not enough teachers, poor facilities, lack of books and equipment, students with learning problems or other disabilities. But one of the chief criticisms many teachers make is that the system is dumbing down their teaching. It is de-skilling them. It is not allowing them—or teaching them—the judgment they need to do good teaching. They are encouraged, says education scholar professor Linda Darling-Hammond, “to present material that [is] beyond the grasp of some and below the grasp of others, to sacrifice students’ internal motivations and interests in the cause of ‘covering the curriculum,’ and to forgo the teachable moment, when students [are] ready and eager to learn, because it [happens] to fall outside of the prescribed sequence of activities.”

Sooner or later, “turning out” kids who can turn out the right answers the way you turn out screws, or hubcaps, comes to seem like normal practice. Worse, it comes to seem like “best practice.”

Does what Schwartz describes still happen in classrooms? From my travels, some teachers still discuss how they are bound by things like scripted curricula or a laser-like focus on doing the “test”, has hampered their ability to serve the students in front of them.

From what I have read on the “No Child Left Behind” act, my understanding was the intent to ensure every child got the same education. But the problem is that every child did not necessarily receive what they needed.

As we look forward to the work we do in education, is “wisdom” something that we see as important in education?  My focus on shifting from “engagement” to “empowerment” is not about saying knowledge is not essential, but as I think about it, it is to develop the wisdom in our student and educators to use what they know in a way that gives them the opportunity for ownership over their path, and the ability to lead others.

To do this, wisdom is needed, but it is a trait that can be nurtured and developed at all levels in education.

Image result for "Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone." ~ Horace

Source: George Couros