Wisdom or Wiz-dumb?


In this culture, much emphasis is placed on the importance of education. While it is true that an education can go a long way to help an individual learn skills that can be quite useful, we are missing an important element in our education: Wisdom and its application. Just because we know how to do something, does it mean that we should do it? If we know how to build an atomic bomb, should we build one?

This importance of education, a mental process, is born out of a culture that values rationality and the mind. Wisdom, on the other hand, transcends the mind and the individual. It involves a different kind of “thinking” from rational thought. It is sometimes described as “opening one’s heart”. It is accessible to everyone from the day they are born and requires no formal credentials. While our culture is not oblivious to wisdom, I have noticed that we do have a tendency to ignore it a lot. Why is this?

It seems to me that when one is born, he loses his sense of oneness with his mother and begins a process of learning how he is a separate being from other parts of the Universe. He learns about limitation and boundaries. He learns that sometimes his desires and intentions are not fulfilled and eventually that he is mortal. No wonder why people might believe that the world is a hostile place! Hence, it is, perhaps, unavoidable that we are full of fear.

Education, then, in addition to quenching one’s curiosity (another result of the human experience of separateness), can be used to deal with this seemingly hostile world. We can learn how to maintain our existence by manipulating Nature to do our bidding (e.g., science, engineering and medicine). Within a society, education can also be used to manipulate its members in order to help preserve the existing social order (e.g., history, law, and religious doctrine).

In the examples I gave above, I see an absence of wisdom in the educational process, in general. Even though wisdom is always available to each of us, humanity on a large scale has been ignoring this access, given the incredible problems we face. While each individual is ultimately responsible for remembering to access wisdom, teachers can be of great service to students by shifting their curriculum from an emphasis on facts to an emphasis on wisdom. I am sure that students will be more successful in a wisdom-based education than a fact-based education because in large part, a wisdom-based education is a reminding of what one already knows at a deep level, whereas a fact-base education is more of a presentation of material that is relatively alien to a generic human being. Note that I am not condemning the learning of facts. I am merely saying that the learning of facts would best serve us when they are subordinate to wisdom.

So, for example, instead of teaching the “letter of the law”, emphasize timeless principles of social justice and how a region’s laws may or may not fit into supporting these principles. Instead of memorizing scripture for the sake of justifying one’s actions, seek out its deeper meaning with others in order to transform your actions for the betterment of all. Instead of learning about what an organ does physically in order to determine if one can live without it if it “misbehaves”, observe how it behaves with relation to a person’s whole being–physical, emotional and mental. Instead of studying how to manipulate a crop’s genes in order to make it invulnerable to “forces of nature” that would destroy it, study how the crop interacts with its surroundings and how it is affected by the presence of other organisms in order to work with Nature, instead of against it.

This reminds me of a truth that I have learned (or rather, remembered) in life. It is certainly relevant to education, but it could also apply to daily life, in general. If I encounter resistance to my intention, I am at that moment working against Nature. So, the choice at that moment becomes: Do I become arrogant and angrily attempt to force my way through the situation or do I humble myself and open myself to the truth that the Universe is demonstrating to me. Choosing the latter represents the essence of what I mean by a “wisdom-based education” and can also represent the first stage of a “wisdom-based scientific method” that is not just concerned with physical phenomena but also subtler phenomena.

Instead of seeing education as a means to better compete with others economically, treat it as an opportunity to learn to live in harmony with others and Nature as we each contribute to the good life of all. Remembering our innate wisdom brings us a sense of peace when dealing with life’s challenges and fortunately, it is contagious when we share it with others!

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3 thoughts on “Wisdom or Wiz-dumb?

  1. Being a teacher, I really enjoyed this blog, Pete. I teach the facts because, frankly, the kids have to know them in order to have some knowledge from which they can continue self-discovery in each content area, but you are right– wisdom is what makes the lessons meaningful, purposeful, and personal.

    My goal is to help children take what they discover in my class not only to the next grade, but throughout life as I never know what path they might take. I also attempt to serve the entire child…mentally, socially, spiritually, and academically. Of course, I can’t share my personal spiritual beliefs, but there is a spirituality that shines through to them when I show how much I care for them, helping them learn and grow each day…finding what is special and unique about each child.

    Speaking of spirituality, I am a Christian. I can relate to your comment about being humble. In Christianity, it is a ‘sacrifice of praise’ when you turn from what your conscience tells you is wrong, and that takes humility. I always had heard of that phrase, but didn’t know what it meant until now. Praising God is a not a sacrifice for me, so it didn’t make sense. But now I know that the act of turning from what I feel like doing, such as being arrogant, is a sacrifice on my part that then gives praise to God. This understanding has changed how I look at things and has served as a bridge of sorts to deepen my ‘walk’ with God. We live in ‘opposite world’ and it’s hard at times.

    Interestingly, the Bible says in many places that ‘wisdom’ is ‘the fear of the Lord”, and ‘understanding’ is defined as “shunning evil”, which works regarding the ‘sacrifice of praise’. Those both give much different definitions than we are used to. I don’t look at the word ‘fear’ such as when a bear is about to attack, but rather I want to do what is right because I fear God’s disappointment. The worst thing that could ever happen to me is to feel disconnected from God.

    I enjoy how you write and look forward to reading more!

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    • Wow! Thank you for the incredible feedback, Maria! It means a lot to me coming from somebody who is not only an educator, but a published author and blogger! You packed a lot into your response and I learned some new things from it. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective!

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  2. To educate, from the Latin educair, means to bring forth that which is within a being, and so to truly teach, we are not just filling the student with facts, but also helping them to find their purpose in the universe, the destiny that is theirs to craft. Essentially, teaching is a path of assisting one in the crafting of their unique destiny.

    As an astrologer, I use the birth chart as a symbolic map of one’s destiny, revealing characteristics as well as crucial seasons of the soul. It has brought me tremendous self-realization over the years, and inspired me to become an astrology teacher.

    When I teach astrology (their are videos on Youtube called the Tao of Astrology) I enjoy imparting the facts but also enjoy and balance the facts with the wisdom that is inherent in archetypes and planetary cycles. I like to bridge the wisdom with the intellect by using stories, proverbs, poetry, and humor to help people realize their own truths. Life itself is such a teacher…

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