Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Knowledge vs Understanding

 Efforts to move away from preparing students for specialized roles in the marketplace are being replaced, according to recent media reports, by efforts to educate the whole person for the many challenges of life. Though the attempts to express this latest trend may be different, the idea is clear: a person is more than the head and mental faculties.

A priest, profiled in a recent issue of the Peace Weekly, is doing more than just talking about these efforts; he has started his own research center to help in the process (pess.kr/rb/). "The goal of PESS," he says, "is the harmonious development of the physical, emotional, spiritual, and the study/service dimensions of a person. Such development," he believes, "will prepare teenagers to become whole persons actively creating their futures, living spiritual lives, and contributing to a future society we all would like to see."
He bases his program on the teaching of Jesus. The hint, he says, came from I Thess. "May the God of peace himself sanctify you through all things, so that your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved without blame unto the return of our Lord Jesus Christ." Though currently retired, the priest is still involved in efforts to make this happen by changing the thinking about what education should mean.
For many years he was a principal of a country high school where he developed his ideas with great success. Bullying disappeared, and with the renewed interest in the aptitude of individual students and by providing programs that met their needs, the atmosphere in the school changed.  Students who hadn't shown an interest began to appreciate education and find satisfaction in its pursuit.
The money spent on education in Korea, he says, is enormous but the more money spent the more problems appeared.  The direction we are going in and the current efforts expended will only make, he says, the breakdown come quicker. The central need to be appreciated, he stresses, is to help students increase their capabilities.  When their creativity is unleashed, when feedback and the joy of learning is experienced, they will come to terms with what they can do. He would like to see this effort applied more consistently and aggressively in the Sunday school programs.
Another matter that needs to be addressed, he added, is that students are presented with too much to learn. Reducing it by half will help them, he believes, to internalize what they will learn. And when they become aware of the potential consequences of what they are learning, the learning becomes living, and they will be better able to take possession of what they have learned. What about memorizing? he asks. Will we lose this ability? His answer: "We all have smartphones." What is critically important, he says, is not knowledge, but raising our awareness--understanding. 

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