I came across this quote by William Cowper while doing an assignment for school. I think it speaks to what we’re trying to accomplish here at College Knowledge:
“Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
Have oft-times no connexion. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.
Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much;
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.”
In this quote, Cowper has drawn a distinction between “wisdom” and “knowledge.” Often, we use these words interchangeably, and admittedly the difference is subtle, yet it can have a significant impact on one’s approach to education. If it is the “thoughts of other men” that we seek, i.e. facts and figures, theories and treatises, then our education is reduced to memorization. I liken this type of education to a squirrel’s cache of acorns meant to last through winter; individual, disconnected thoughts are stashed away in preparation for an exam.
On the other hand we have the pursuit of wisdom. I enjoy Princeton University’s WordNet definition for wisdom as the “ability to apply knowledge.” Thus, it is internalizing (eating) the facts (acorns) to make them part of one’s own understanding (or one’s body, in the case of the squirrel), and, incorporating Cowper’s description, carefully considering the additional knowledge (digestion?).
Ok, I think I’ve stretched my metaphor, but the point I’m trying to make is that the two are connected, though distinct. Knowledge is required for wisdom, and the latter can be achieved simply by adopting an attitude of reflection toward the hard facts.
Now, what does this have to do with education or life in general? Learning is made easier and more interesting when the connections between topics and lessons are drawn as you learn them. When it’s like one big story, studying for the exam (or board meeting) is less painful. Besides, people who come across as know-it-alls are generally less liked than those who are considered wise.
So, why do we call it College Knowledge and not College Wisdom? Well, for one, the difference is subtle and the two are interchangeable in mainstream conversation. With our emphasis on the individual student’s needs and the mentoring component, what we market really is wisdom in a sense. But mostly we call it College Knowledge because it rhymes!