The Price of Knowledge

One of the greatest beauties of knowledge is that it can be shared without division. I can know something and I can pass that knowledge on to someone else, without any reduction in what I possess. I will even be richer for the giving, as the process of teaching deepens my knowledge.

Knowledge grows and develops among people more like plants than like manufactured commodities, by the abundant production of seeds in the minds of those who acquire it, which in turn produce further seeds, and so it spreads, as long as the conditions are right for germination.

But how widespread are those favourable conditions? How many schools have a clear, direct mission to transfer to the next generation the most important human knowledge, which cost so many of our ancestors so much struggle? How many teachers realise that every single one of their pupils is capable of establishing firm foundations in every academic subject, so long as memorisation and repeated practice are an ordinary feature of teaching? How many pupils are cheated out of the mind-expanding potential of the great truths of science and literature, being patronised instead with ‘relevant’, dumbed down content that leaves them exactly where they started, or even poorer, convinced that it is their opinion that matters, not the timeless insights of greater, wiser minds?

Knowledge only costs us the effort to acquire it, but it is a priceless acquisition. It is one of the greatest tragedies of our education system that knowledge has so often had a price tag attached. Because of the bad ideas that have burdened so many state schools for so many years, those who have wished their children to acquire knowledge, the heritage of every human being, have often felt that they need to pay fees, on top of the taxes which they have no choice but to pay, in order for this to happen.

(Image: The Little Schoolboy by Antonio Mancini, 1852-1930).

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4 thoughts on “The Price of Knowledge

  1. I would love to see more schools proudly proclaim that one of their aims is the transfer of knowledge – the best that has been thought and said. Far too often, if you look at a school prospectus, it seems that it takes a backseat to imagination, creativity, independence etc. I don’t know anyone who would say that the only goal of education is the transfer of knowledge and of course imagination, creativity and independence are important, yet nowadays it seems that, if knowledge is mentioned at all, it is only in the context of something needed to pass exams.

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    • I have always felt that Bloom’s taxonomy had it right by placing knowledge as the foundation. Sadly, this has made many believe that it is LOW LEVEL because it is at the bottom. Now they have tried to invert the pyramid–which doesn’t make sense since they still think that knowledge is lowly even when placed at the top. It honestly leaves me feeling that it IS some big conspiracy to leave students unable to critically think all the while extolling “critical thinking” as the only important focus. I can’t help but think of double speak from 1984. I think we need a new framework that accurately depicts KNOWLEDGE as running throughout the LEVELS rather than beneath them (or worse–completely separate from them).

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      • Actually, I think that ACTFL (American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages) has a very useful paradigm for proficiency that could be tweaked for all learners in general. It uses the novice/expert distinction and instead of a pyramid it is an inverted cone. I think that making it a 3D model could be a good way to show that knowledge itself (facts, if you will) expands as one progresses in expertise/mastery and it is at the top where one is an expert that the true creativity and innovation are able to be manifested. Here’s a link if you care to see what it looks like:

        https://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and-manuals/actfl-proficiency-guidelines-2012

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Thoughtful and reasonable discussion is always welcome.

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