“Knowledge is flour, but wisdom is bread.” – Austin O’Malley
Today, I will drive to LAX to pick up our youngest daughter who is returning from her sophomore year of college. Next week, our oldest daughter begins a graduate specialty program for working with deaf and hearing-impaired students. And when you add that my wife and I live and work on a university campus, it seems safe to say that education is an important part of our lives. And that we are familiar with student loans.
Everyone seems to agree that education is important. There are significant disagreements on how to go about it, of course, but it is rare to hear anyone say that education is unimportant. Stay in school. Hit the books. Do your homework. Go to college. Study hard. All cliches by now, but all motivated by the idea that education is uber-valuable.
Why? Why is education so important? As a recent education professional, I spent some time with that simple yet complex question. Is it knowledge acquisition? Is it to prepare students for the working world and increase their earning potential, or more broadly, become contributing members of society?
I arrived at a working answer. In my view, the purpose of education is so that students may acquire wisdom. In other words, in its highest form, education goes beyond the impartation of knowledge and allows students to use the knowledge and skills they acquire for good purposes in this world. It teaches discernment.
The entire project may best be described by Gene Kesselman, a WW2 vet from New Jersey in his mid-nineties, who told a local magazine writer last year, “You know the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing you don’t put tomato in a fruit salad.”