Thursday, September 17, 2009

Knowledge vs Skills?

It takes very little to delight me.

Back while we were at Dragon*Con, I decided I wanted to get a mask, because they kept the lights all the way up at drum circle this year and I was really uncomfortable with everyone taking pictures. And I saw this GORGEOUS black-and-gold creation on one of the back shelves.


Worth every cent, but definitely a significant purchase. So I put it back and let the guy at the booth know I'd come back after I found a spot with free wireless so that I could check our bank account. As we were leaving the booth, the Hunk nudges me and says, "hey, look." I look over at the masks, thinking I've missed one, and he says, "No. Isn't that Charisma Carpenter?"

When I went back (just to look - I'd decided that while the mask was worth that much, it wasn't worth that much to me) the Gorgeous Creation was gone. Wouldn't surprise me in the least if she'd bought it.

Anyway, long story short (too late), that's about as close as I come to fame. I happened to ride a shuttle with Wil Wheaton after sitting in on one of his panels at Comic-Con a few years ago and after listening to the people across the aisle whisper about whether or not that was Really Him I finally went up and said, "Hey, I really enjoyed your panel," and we talked for a little bit and he had some copies of Dancing Barefoot, so I bought one.

So imagine my delighted surprise when I saw not just a link but, like, a link AND AN ADJECTIVE over at Joanne Jacobs, which, like, EVERYBODY reads. (If you're not reading it, shame on you. Go now. I command it. Current educational news and issues galore. The comments are a treasure trove of often-ranting that make me feel incredibly smart by comparison, plus occasional good plain sense.) !! In this case it's not that I happened across fame, it actually reached out and tapped my shoulder!

I am a Special Snowflake.

Anyway (I really do have a point to get to eventually, I swear), Joanne's guest blogger, Diana Senechal, posted about an article by Diane Ravitch that I take serious exception to (behind the link).

Ravitch writes, “we do not start the world anew with each generation.” We need the experience, knowledge, and wisdom of those who came before us.

But every individual discovers the world anew. I'm not saying that we can't use or don't need what others have learned. But let's face it: countless generations of parents hope that their children will learn from others' mistakes, and we find time and again that the mistakes of others aren't always enough to keep us from making our own - sometimes repeating the mistakes we were warned about.

Knowledge is NOT "what matters most." It is important; I don't want to "downplay it" or ignore it. But Ravitch is going too far in the other direction. Knowledge matters, but not necessarily The Most.

And even so, knowledge seems to stick better when it's learned through first-hand experience.

Further disagreement with the statement "a great deal of knowledge is necessary before one can begin to reflect on its meaning and look for alternative explanations." In fact, I believe exactly the opposite - you don't have to have a lot of information before you start thinking about what it means and looking for other possibilities. In fact, looking for other possibilities should then lead you to new knowledge!

Learning is not a zero-sum game. While finding an appropriate balance can be tricky, teachers shouldn't diminish the importance of either knowledge or metacognition.

Image thanks to


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