I very much appreciate the participation of more than 15 people in the session I facilitated at Kwantlen University College a few days ago.  As I mentioned to them, it was somewhat overwhelming because it was a rare opportunity to gain feedback on the ideas I’ve been surfacing in this blog. It’s one thing to talk to myself here; it’s a different thing to get instant verbal feedback.

 In the few times I’ve been with a group, I’ve seen a similar reaction when I ask questions such as: What do you know? What is knowledge?  When you talk to someone about what you know, is that an exchange of knowledges?  Some people immediately fall to defending the proposition that there is one common body of knowledge that must be acquired. Others become quiet and thoughtful and they recognize the common sense of referring to knowledges in the plural.

I continue to maintain that the best teachers, such as the ones at Kwantlen, put enormous effort into trying to make factory schools more humane and learner-centred, against the insurmountable barriers put up by the power elite who have a vested interest in maintaining that system. It’s a difficult message to phrase, without insulting teachers.  Imagine what might be possible if they put their energies into creating a new system, more suited to the twent-first century.

A question was posed by a participant at Kwantlen, which has given me pause for thought. He wondered aloud about the benefits to society when certain knowledges are valued and given more recognition than others. The example he used was based on advances in medicine. Would we have cures for certain diseases if the knowledges of scientists that discovered them had not been rewarded more than other knowledges?

This is an excellent point, because I have argued here that in our education system, and in the broad social context in which that system exists, reward should be offered for exchanging knowledges, not individual acquisition of a knowledge set.  I have to think this through a little more, but my first thought is that those medical break-throughs probably wouldn’t have happened if the scientists had not worked together and shared information. We read occasionally about scientists who have slaved away in an isolated lab, and I’ve never heard that Einstein was a great team player. But more often these days we hear that a whole laboratory staff is being acknowledged for a discovery that will improve our lives.  Is rewarding teams and recognizing the achievement itself the key to curing the credentialism disease in our world?