Bird Droppings March 9, 2011
Searching for knowledge
How do we as teachers and parents convey knowledge to our students and children? It could be said that by following the established curriculum guides and maps and doing what is expected of a high school student you will learn this material as indicated. I think my frustration comes when students do not want to learn at all. I get very frustrated when I hear statements such as I know enough to get along in this world already or know enough about this subject. I think my favorite is why do I need this anyhow?
“I do believe that with some students, if they are not ready, learning cannot occur. But I worry that some students aren’t ready because they are not aware of the full table that is set. There is rejection without knowledge. I think the challenge may be to try to get them to the full table and then let them decide.” Frances Friedman
I have been sitting here thinking about this email from a dear friend and mentor for several minutes, pondering and reflecting. What if we do not provide enough information to a student? I spend much of my day doing academic support with emotionally disturbed students. Many times I will hear from students the teacher never taught us that. Trying to keep both sides in perspective I will discuss with the parents, teacher and with the student and work out a compromise of sorts, often just buying a bit of time. However often there can be learning curves on both ends especially with special needs students.
“Rejection without knowledge” Frances Friedman
“Knowledge is that which, next to virtue, truly raises one person above another.” Joseph Addison
I have always been fascinated with information. It made my day when several years back the game Trivial Pursuit came out and became a big hit. On TV the show Jeopardy is still a popular game watched around the world where a few years back Ken Jennings won over two million dollars with bits and pieces of information. He defeated opponents by answering over 2700 questions correctly. It has been a few years now since the final episode of his wining streak aired and more recently Jennings went up against a super computer on the show.
“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black
“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball
We have to encourage active participation in students. We have to try and instill a curiosity and not set limits and parameters on learning. If students do not know something, provide the means, the pathway, so that they can learn. Knowing where to find an answer can be as meaningful in the life of a student as the knowledge of that answer.
“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R.K. Bergethon
“Knowledge is like money: the more he gets, the more he craves.” Josh Billings
Trying to keep learners learning is the key to great teaching. Make learning something students want and need. I would borrow from a friend who teaches high school who teaches in Pennsylvania “make learning fun”.
“To me the charm of an encyclopedia is that it knows and I needn’t.” Francis Yeats Brown
“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” Sandra Carey
When I was in second grade we got our first set of World Book encyclopedias. I thought I was in heaven and literally began reading the books cover to cover. As I now sit and remember minute details of the ancient past and try to instill knowledge to young folks, it is not to go read the entire encyclopedia but it is, in which room and on what shelve they are located. With modern technology it is now about what and how to find information on the internet. Knowing where things are is really becomes more important than knowing every fact, although the facts help. We in education get into a content and context sort of disagreement. Some teachers want to teach only content and others context. However for information or knowledge to be useful and coherent, it has to have context.
“It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge which determines the mind’s dignity.” William Ellery Channing
“Knowledge of the world can only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” Lord Chesterfield
We have to provide the venues and pathways to information, to knowledge, Ms. Friedman stated in the first quote. Students have to have access to the table. If we set a wonderful feast before them and don’t allow access to the table, of what good is all that is there.
“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius
“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper
Can there ever be enough knowledge? Should we ever limit what knowledge is available? In 1956 the great theologian Reinhold Neibuhr wrote this simple prayer as part of one of his sermons.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Neibuhr
For many years that simple philosophy written on a card has been laying on my desk. I recall a scene from a movie, most will not remember, “Billy Jack” where this prayer is used. Imagine a school or society where we lived what Neibuhr thought in his prayer. What if we applied serenity, courage and wisdom to our lives daily? Today we are challenged by which way to go and why. Thinking back many years to an old movie “Indiana Jones and The last Crusade”, “choose wisely” the old knight told Indiana Jones and he did. May your day be filled with knowledge and peace and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.