Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Knowledge in Search of Wisdom

We have been hearing lately the same sad refrain about the need to change society but few positive suggestions on how to bring about meaningful change. Our society, according to most observers, seems fatigued and in danger mode. Writing in the Peace Weekly, a professor in the Sogang University philosophy research department turns to a Korean scholar who  teaches in Germany and is the author of The Society of Fatigue, in which he writes that "Everyone living in the self-displaying modern society has been worn out and frustrated."

Our society is sick and drifting, the writer says, and we don't know where it is headed. She  goes on to cite several reasons for this dire assessment, calling it a crisis of life: intense competition for college entrance, graduates  are finding it difficult to find work, high unemployment, escalating small business bankruptcies, more 'tin house' transactions (Buying a house and finding that the present price is 80 percent lower than the price you paid years earlier),  increase of the homeless, the skyrocketing suicide rate--all  indications we are living in a severely dysfunctional society and the reason so many are looking for healing.

The writer tells us about a young woman who, while in college, was filled with energy even though her situation at the time was difficult. Today, with no steady employment, she looks tired and without a sense of belonging. She is attending an academy at government expense and working part-time in a Shabu Shabu  shop, making about 400 dollars a month. Never did she imagine  this as a possibility for a graduate of a distinguished teachers college. Although we can say there are no  noble or  base occupations, when college graduates are forced to look for jobs as domestic helpers, they are taking the work that normally goes to older women. Where are the older women going to go?

The numbers going to college have increased but not enough jobs are available when they graduate. What is the reason for this situation? the writer asks. She feels that we have not been educated in a way that will help in solving these societal problems. The emphasis on memory-style education, she says, leaves no room for creativity, and when faced with problems, we find it easy to give up. Living means that we are going to have problems, but they are solvable problems, she says, when we are properly educated.

To illustrate what she means, she quotes a line from the Analects of Confucius. "When we learn only by gathering information and don't think, we will perish; and learning only by thinking without sufficient information is dangerous." She adds that knowledge that does not bring luster to our lives is dry knowledge. Our college students these day learn to meet specifications that society has given them to succeed, but this is not going in search of wisdom, she says, and ends by expressing her desire that our educational methods will ultimately educate the whole person and enable our students to think creatively and search for  wisdom. Creative thinking and wisdom will help in the urgent tasks of solving our societal problems.

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