Yesterday, I was inspired by a great post by Chris Wilson on How to Survive the Teacher Apocalypse. I thought about it all afternoon especially as it touched upon thoughts I had had on the cost of knowledge. The interesting turn for me came when I started reflecting more on the Value of Knowledge because realistically the costs of knowledge have and will continue to drop rapidly (despite the efforts of gatekeepers) due to digitalization and other market factors, but something is rising in counter weight…
BEFORE I go further, a quick historical interlude…
2000 years ago, access to knowledge and knowledge itself were all but non-existent for the populace, which is why the origins of the word school in greek actually mean “leisure or spare time” as it was only those few privileged who had such a possibility.
So no access, and really no tools. A reality and hence a value really only for nobles.
With the Renaissance, the Printing Press(1400s), and the ever slow rise of the middle class(1800-1900s), access to knowledge became more widely available, but still limited and hence knowledge was indeed valuable, and for anyone that was lucky or entrepreneurial, the industrial revolution started to open lots of doors if you could combine knowledge, hard work and invented new tools or ways of “expanding civilization”.
So there was a slow growth in access, knowledge and tools, but still there was a general scarcity for most, and hence knowledge and access to knowledge were valuable.
How about today?
I’d say that knowledge has never been less valuable because it’s access is so open (though it takes a discerning mind to read between the lines and see what is high quality and low quality information). Thanks to computers and the internet, anyone can access even very high levels of knowledge formerly left to esoteric circles of the priveleged… so knowledge isn’t valuable, nor is the cost of it high (at least for those that are thrifty… the cultural capital earned by an Ivy League degree is of course still quite high).
So what has increased in value in turn?
True education, and education from its etymological meaning!
The latin root of all of these cognates is DUX, and actually brings us even the english word Duke. The original meaning was “to lead” “to draw out”, “to conduct”, and hence the educe in education.
More than ever before, real teachers who allow discovery in a classroom, or in an online dialogue are those that are now valuable than ever before. The understanding and creative manipulation of knowledge and language is what is truly unique, today now more than ever, and just as you’ll hear it in the famous TED videos with Sir Ken Robinson— our task is ever more to develop critical thinking and active learners, and this comes through exploration, communication and creativity there within.
I’d say professional development has never been more important, which is another reason why I think that’s a field that’s blowing up, both on and offline these days. It is an interesting time indeed, and personally I see this all as a positive evolution
(Thanks again Chris!)