Wisdom and knowledge

Nick Maxwell ran a short course at the Free University last year on Wisdom and Knowledge. He explained that we have a university system which is focused on the creation and accumulation of knowledge but with no regard to how or why this knowledge should be used. For example, we have the technical capability to destroy our planet but do we have the collective wisdom to avoid doing so?

Pioneers in education such as Sugata Mitra, Bunker Roy and Sir Ken Robinson show clearly that children (and adults) have great potential if only we can find ways to unleash it. Their work shows that education is more about letting it happen rather than making it happen.

However, mainstream education policy increasingly focuses on standards, testing and league tables and the curriculum becomes ever more prescriptive. When one adds in health and safety and all the other social norms which are embedded in our bureaucratic systems, the opportunity for flair and inspired learning is all but eliminated - all in the cause of avoiding sensationalised tragedies and mistakes. But as Barry Schwartz explains in this TED talk, by being so prescriptive in education (and in many other activities) we avoid a few tragedies and mistakes but achieve, in their stead, mediocrity.

Barry Schwartz: Our loss of wisdom

Education policy is often determined by ministers who attempt to replicate their own education experience - this seems particularly true of the current UK coalition policy developed by Michael Gove. Gove and the governing generation grew up in a very different world when the education system was rooted in the Victorian era - we need a new paradigm in education to match the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

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