Tomatoes in my fruit salad

As a graduate student in the education department, I spend a lot of time talking about the knowledge, critical thinking and the power of raising your voice.  You see, as a future teachers we strongly believe that knowledge is power.  Knowledge is what gets kids out of the economic ghettos our society has created, into higher education and into the jobs and trades which offer financial independence.  Knowledge is writing a resume, reading a spreadsheet, building the bootstraps to pull yourself up on.  It’s important stuff.  What I love about Proverbs 10 is that it doesn’t discount the power and importance of knowledge – it encourages it!  But this passage also encourages something equally important –  a balance.

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.
The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.
-Proverbs 10.13-14 (NIV)

But what’s the difference?  Aren’t wisdom and knowledge the same thing?  In a word – no.  In a grandmother’s words (someone’s grandmother, not mine) knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing it doesn’t belong in fruit salad.  When I say this to students say of course you don’t put tomato in a fruit salad, and when I ask why, given it is a fruit and it is called a ‘fruit salad’ I am faced with the please-don’t-be-stupid-teacher look.  To my student’s credit – they get it, they just can’t explain it yet.  We teach them to value knowledge, to engage in the pursuit of information, but all too often we forget to close the loop – to teach them what to do with all this information, to think wisely not just smartly.

As the world changes and information gets to be more and more complex the stakes get to be higher and higher.  Our knowledge as a society is vast and because of our advancements in science and technology we can manipulate this information creating nuclear reactions to light our cities, or destroy them.  The fool who runs his mouth today may not just ruin himself- he may ruin communities, countries, and our world.  Knowledge is knowing how these things work, and wisdom is knowing that we cannot use them.  Proverbs 10 is cautioning us to hold our knowledge in balance with our wisdom.

So today I pray for students everywhere, I pray they learn the information we teach to the best of their ability.  And I pray for teachers everywhere, I pray they teach more than what the books and tests ask of them.  And I pray for those who are no longer in school, but in our communities, businesses, or governments, I pray they have learned well from their teachers, and that they employ not only the knowledge but the wisdom of our elders.

Be wise sweet friends,

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