Knowledgeable Tomatoes vs Wisdom Fruit Salads

Stop and think for a second… What is the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom?

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, Wisdom is knowing not to put it into a fruit salad.

– Miles Kington (Author of How to Tell the Dog).

An admirable quote, this in mind, how confident are you in your ability to question? Surely, as a teaching practitioner, we should be on top of our game questioning our students. But let me ask you again… How confident are you in your ability to question yourself? When was the last time you actually questioned your own practice?

Ultimately, we are the influencers of our future generations, if we can’t question the norm, then how can we expect that of our students? Therefore, how much do we actually value questioning? When teachers are faced with thousands of research papers claiming to know what good teaching and pedagogy look like, such as the recent paper by National College for School Leadership (2012)… How can we possibly question that?

I was sat in awe whilst listening to an inspirational talk by Richard Wallis on Philosophy of Education during a Troops to Teacher study week. He managed to weave liberating doubt into my mind about what knowledge is and how do we use it within the educational context.

What do you think knowledge is?

I personally believe knowledge to be like a door, you don’t know what’s on the other side, but you’re eager to open it. Can we say this is true for our students? How much of that unknown do we actually give them… choice and freedom to discover new things, ideas or beliefs? Do we want deep thinkers or shallow learners?

How can we as educational practitioners create magic in our lessons to enthrall and teach at the same time? This skill has been researched and included in numerous debates, but according to Christopher Emdin, it is as simple as attending rap shows, barbershop banter and Sunday services.

Controversially, some researchers believe pedagogy to be oppressive and reproductive instead of liberating and freeing of thought (Freire, 2005). In particular, Freire (2014) goes further to suggest that learning should be expansive, in the sense of exploring things we don’t know, rather than regurgitating what we do. Would our learning then be so much richer? He coined today’s educational system as a continuous conveyor belt of old knowledge that is poured into young minds.  Interestingly, there are followers of this research (Fairclough, 2001; Joy, 2007), who believe students should be thinking differently, not the same. So does that mean Teachers are therefore restricting learning rather than emancipating it?

On the other hand, most teachers are bound by policies and procedures that tell us what to teach, but not how to teach it. It can be linked to a domino effect, what is restricting the students, may actually be restricting us to.

Richard Wallis referred to this as a type of arrogant dogmatism – in essence, the belief that we already know everything. But do we truly? If you think we do, have a look at 10 things we didn’t know last week here. It can be argued, that we are teaching children how to survive in the now, but not necessarily preparing them for the future… In a recent discussion, Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan addressed The Education World Forum and discussed how teachers have the power to change lives (read here.)

Taking all this into consideration, maybe in September I should start my teaching day asking the students, “What would you like to learn today”, rather than telling them “Today we are going to be learning…”

So really, the question I should be asking myself is… Do I want a class full of knowledgeable tomatoes or wisdom fruit salads?

References –

Fairclough, N. 2001. Language and power. Pearson Education.

Freire, Paulo. 2005. Pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Freire, Paulo. 2014. Pedagogy of hope: Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Joy, Mike. 2007. Research methods in education. The Higher Education Academy.

National College for Teaching and Leadership. 2012. What makes great pedagogy? Nine claims from research. DfE.

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