ANUAH Discussion Forum

Leading By Example, in the 21st Century...

Is WISDOM an idea that has any relevance in this day and age?  Why does this concept come up so little in current K-12 curriculum development and educational policy discussions?  If wisdom still is important, what role can social studies teachers play in propagating it (or at least inquiries about it) in 21st C. public education?  What other questions do we need to be asking?

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Since it has been 2 months since I posted this question, I'm going to consider this enough "wait time" and reply now with my own thoughts on this subject...

  • I believe that WISDOM is as important today as the first day that the idea was understood and used by human beings.  It is at the very core, if not the central pillar of what social studies should be about .
  • If by social studies we mean the study of the social nature of human beings, then wisdom is uniquely a goal of that study, as well an object of that study.
  • Wisdom discerns equally well within the realms of social thought and action... It is a unifying lens that has powerful focus in both the universe of ideas and that of events in the material world.
  • Another way of saying this is that the fruits of wisdom can be observed and described effectively within both the realms of material culture and memetic-symbolic culture.
    • Social Science relies solely on ETIC descriptions of these realms, while Social Studies and some of the Humanities rely on EMIC descriptions of material and memetic cultures.
    • Instead of focusing on what wisdom means semantically though, I propose treating it as an observable condition in individuals and social networks, when the results of their actions exhibit what the Greeks called 'ARETE' (excellence).  Wisdom is understanding that manifests in excellent results-  and these results are often observable.
  • To me, social studies is the part of our public education curriculum where learning about human nature is encouraged and cultivated in anyone desiring to grow in deeper awareness of the universe and themselves.  And just as there are multiple dimensions of abstract thinking that adult humans can construct above their concrete thought system, so too their are multiple dimensions of understanding about the nature of wisdom in our human world today.  

It is because of my love for exploring human nature and the nature of wisdom that I ended up becoming a social studies teacher.  I see this inquiry into wisdom and human nature as our central functioning role as educators within our society, civilization, and species.  "Social studies educators" alone in the public domain and institutional framework of 21st C. nation states, corporations and non-governmental organizations are tasked specifically with focusing the collective intelligence of our next generation (and the adult scholars who guide them) on the study and description of social networks and human nature across all human times and spaces (localities).  What could be more interesting or important?  

I've been meaning to respond to this post.  It is the post that made me want to get involved in your organization again, after many years of losing touch and maybe some faith. I, too view the pursuit of wisdom, in all its manifestations and facets "as our central functioning role as educators within our society, civilization, and species."  I would assign that task to all educators, not just social studies educators, but I agree that we have a responsibility to be the core of and certainly the example for such a pursuit.  If we were to do this, it would have far reaching implications on our curriculum and pedagogy, but not so much as some may fear. Most of all, I think it would fundamentally shift our motivation and our students' motivation, and we would become more intentional human beings.  I think the absence of that priority has created a void that has been filled with many dysfunctional "stuff" that I would love to look more closely at in other posts or discussions.

"What could be more interesting or important?"

Nothing could be more important!

You posed the question, What other questions should we be asking ourselves about the role of wisdom in social studies?, so I've been thinking about that, and here are a few I think may be important. Some of them are similar to the ones you already posed.  I numbered them in case anyone is willing  to explore one or the other:

1- What is the purpose of education? How does an education                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  driven by philosophy stand up to, align with or contradict your purpose of education?

2- Why, specifically, is the study of philosophy so important?
                                                                                                                                                                                               3- What are the causes for philosophy being so conspicuously absent in education today?

4- What have been the specific effects of the absence of philosophy in education?

5- What, if any, are the dangers in having an education with philosophy at its core, and what needs to be put in place to prevent those dangers from manifesting and being destructive?

6- What are the biggest misconceptions, misunderstandings, myths about philosophy in education?

7- What obstacles need to be overcome in order for philosophy to take its rightful place in education?

8- What are the arguments against placing philosophy in the forefront of education?

9- What are some models or the ideal model for implementation? What would it look like?

I have clarification question about the following statements. 

"Wisdom discerns equally well within the realms of social thought and action... It is a unifying lens that has powerful focus in both the universe of ideas and that of events in the material world."

Your first statement seems to me to say- because it is a powerful tool for seeing the truth of things/the true nature of things, we should use philosophical lens/approach/questioning/analysis to interpret  ideas and also to interpret actions/behaviors/events in the world.

"Another way of saying this is that the fruits of wisdom can be observed and described effectively within both the realms of material culture and memetic-symbolic culture."

Even though you say this is another way of saying the same thing, I interpret this statement like this: The wisdom/philosophy/world view of a group of people is manifested (the fruit) both in their culture that we can observe (behaviors) and also the memetic-symbolic culture, both of shed light into their wisdom/philosophy.

Your first statement had me thinking of the philosopher as us, the student.  The second statement had thinking the philosopher was the object of study, the culture that holds its own philosophy that we can interpret through material and symbolic manifestations.

Sorry if I'm off the mark, but both of the statements are worthy of being understood.

A few more semantic reflections before I get into substance:

I thought it was interesting that you used the word "wisdom" to describe this core piece of education that is missing, and I tend to use the word, "philosophy."  I am assuming we are saying the same thing.  I use "philosophy" in the spirit of its origins, "love of wisdom."

I like your reference to Arete as excellence, the observable results of wisdom.  This immediately made me think of Robert Pirsig's quest for the answer to, "What is quality?" If wisdom can be manifested in observable ways, I would want to be careful not to make wisdom pre-defined and capitalized. Excellence contains social connotations that I would not want to see imposed on our youth or on an educational institution.  While I think the quest for wisdom is both an individual and collaborative pursuit,  it's critical to honor each person's construction of what wisdom, excellence, quality are.

It was thought provoking to see your discernment between social studies that is free to be emic in its pursuits; whereas, social science is bound to an etic approach.  I don't know if this is semantic or not; there may a critical need to bring in both ways of knowing, as well as so many others, into our arsenal of processes to teach kids multiple ways of finding truth and wisdom. I think the empirical approach as exclusive and superior to other approaches is how philosophy and the humanities have been relegated to such a marginalized place in education and in society, in general.   I think social studies has tried too hard to be a part of the "cool group" by acting like a science when it's not, and as a result, it has participated in its demise- something to explore maybe...

I introduce most of my classes with a bunch of concepts to carry us through the year into whatever we study with some stories, metaphors, quotes, and and in this case, a cartoon. I like it because it captures how important the study of philosophy should be in whatever we study or do- if we are not reflecting on ultimate meaning , by this cartoon's standards, we are acting sub-human.

Wisdom is one of elite component of human nature. Played very important role in teaching social studies. It create inquiry, intellect, reasoning and progressive promotion of society. Society can live without inventions but not without wisdom. A prophetic message for social studies

Does Pakistani and/or your school curriculum leave room for the pursuit of wisdom in social studies? If so, how?  If not, why not?  I think, in U.S., we do not emphasize it all, virtually.

We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, and effort which no one can spare us.- Marcel Proust (In Search of Lost Time Vol. II: Within a Budding Grove, 1919)

In Pakistan. most of school/university curriculum, not depending on wisdom in social studies because teachers don't differentiate between knowledge and wisdom. In my university, most of my classes are filled with wisdom

Rumi has some important advice.  In his poem The Guest House Rumi suggests that “this being human is a guest house”.  We need to welcome each guest, “even if they’re a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.”  He implores: “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond”.

Well said, that wisdom is to be discovered for ourselves

I am intrigued that education in the university in Pakistan does not draw lines between "knowledge" v. "wisdom."  I wonder why students and professors are still able to pursue academic quest for truth in Pakistan university in a way that goes completely AGAINST the grain of the American university and k-12 system.  Why do you suppose Pakistan has retained philosophy's place within the fabric of all human experience at your university?  It certainly breaks down some stereotypes that Americans likely have toward Pakistan and other South Asian countries' education system.  I would love to hear more.   I love your references to Proust and Rumi. Thank you so much!

Dear Kathy,

good to hear from you. Pakistan is undeveloped country. In our education system we have two school of thoughts.;

Liberal, progressive and conservative, orthodox, It is basically, the conflict between wisdom and faith, we are working to dissolve this dilemma. Although its is very deep rooted, but most of the members of civil society struggling for liberal, social and cultural school of thought based on wisdom, the prophetic phenomenon.. Pakistan is suffering of political and social diseases and educational institutions are  also searching their survival. We are  not Teachers we are only servants of our desires,

"How can I know you when you are the inwardly hidden who is not known?

How can I not know you when you are the outwardly manifest, making yourself known to me to every thing?"




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