More Important than Knowledge"?
When we bring
into the dialogue, it always gets interesting. He’s the source of
endless interesting and pithy quotes and, at our recent professional
day, our keynote speaker, Dr. Bruce Bearisto, brought him to my
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Albert Einstein argued this and, by doing so, he gives me (and other
teachers) a challenge. We tend to feel a bit more comfortable with the
tangible, the knowledge we can impart.
Teachers have been
imparting knowledge for a long long time. Because we often know things
that others do not, teachers have been able to provide that knowledge,
test students on their ability to remember it and, in the best cases,
their ability to manipulate it and create something new.
English teacher, I am now informed by a curriculum that argues more for
the “how” than the “what.” This is a refreshing change. But it is scary
too. In a world of smart phones, where remembering a phone number is a
lost art (and besides, how can one remember so many numbers anyway?),
and one where a student informs me that a film I refer to is
available on YouTube about ten seconds after my comment in class (by
checking his iPhone of course), how can I argue that I am the sole
keeper of the knowledge?
I’m not. Google is, and Wikipedia and
Watson, the supercomputer that beat out the two best Jeopardy players
of the past two decades—easily, hands down, without a problem!
humans still have an edge is in imagination. Where does that knowledge
lead us? What do we do with the things we know? And, sometimes, as in
the case when the CEO of Sony Corporation asked his engineers to design
a portable music player, we need to have imagination that precedes the
knowledge of how to do it. The engineers answered with the first
Walkman. Can you imagine a world without white earbuds in every ear?
one where your smartphone recognizes faces, gives you a link to a
person’s online profile, warns you about people before you’ve even met
them? Give us a year or two and that’s a reality, too.
back to our keynote speaker, Dr. Bearisto, I found myself agreeing
wholeheartedly with his notion that we have absolutely no way of
knowing what our world will be like in five years, never mind in ten or
twenty. And, if we cannot know it, then I agree that what we need to do
is prepare students’ imaginations for a challenge beyond anything we’ve
ever seen before.
The lions in Africa are nearly gone. Polar
bears are mating with grizzlies on land. Storm rains are seven percent
more intense. Droughts are more frequent. Humans demand freedom in the
Middle East. Peak oil is just around the corner.
Can we imagine
solutions? That is our task if humanity is to survive. As a teacher, I
hope to provide my students with the ability to see the world clearly,
to communicate ideas to others, to imagine how things might be and,
finally, to use their imaginations to improve our lives.
Yes, I must conclude: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
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