WT 606 Knowledge or Wisdom

This week I had a wonderful conversation with a colleague around knowledge vs wisdom.

You know my favourite quote in the world is “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action” by Herbert Spencer.

Well this week I learned a new term “propositional knowledge”. It’s a concept in psychology.

If you have propositional knowledge about a topic, you know the theory and you have an understanding of the proposition that you believe to be true.

For example, you can watch someone ride a push bike. You can see that you need to keep your balance centred, your back straight and use your legs to push the pedals to make the bike go.

This is propositional knowledge. You understand the proposition or concept of riding a bike.

It is only when you get on the bike and ride it for yourself (many times) that it becomes embodied knowledge, ie experience and eventually wisdom.

As an example, I remember when I was studying for my teaching degree, I thought I knew everything about class control and discipline strategies and techniques.  I had read the books, listened to my lecturers and completed my assignments, that was, until I actually got in front of a class and realised I didn’t know how to control the class at all.

It was only after having acted out the propositional knowledge that I was able to embody the knowledge and achieve the result of controlling the class.

Propositional knowledge is like having a theory or hypothesis and then testing the hypothesis through experimentation to see if it works.

Until you have conducted a few successful experiments and altered a number of variables, all you have is theory (propositional knowledge) not wisdom or lived experience or embodied action.

Remember, “the great aim of education is not knowledge but action”.

Are you embodying what you know or are you espousing theory?

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