“A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself . . .” – Proverbs 12:23
Several years ago, I was participating in a workshop where we were given a challenging project to work on in small breakout groups. Our group was really into it, collectively engaged in sharing and creative thinking, except for this one lady who refused to participate, at least not at first. Finally, she spoke up. It seems she was an expert in the subject at hand and proceeded to tell the rest of us what to do and how to do it. While we appreciated her expertise and found it informative, her authoritative manner completely shut down our conversation, putting the ka-bash on the whole project.
It just so happened this experience occurred during a time when I was enrolled in some graduate studies being taught by a fabulous faculty, also authorities in their respective fields, but whose teaching styles could not have been more different than the lady in our small group in that workshop. Instead of putting the ka-bash on our creative efforts they encouraged it and even engaged with us in the process of discovery and learning. As much as they may have been experts, neither did they pretend to know all the answers, thus creating an exciting and stimulating environment for learning.
Good teachers, I have learned, understand that true learning requires much more than just the absorption of facts and information; for effective teaching must also inspire curiosity, curiosity about the context for which those facts and information become useful, how it will make a difference in the world and in peoples’ lives. Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind says it this way, “What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.”
The COVID pandemic has afforded us a rare opportunity to witness this in its highest form through the brilliant scientists who have tirelessly endeavored putting to use their massive knowledge in the context of finding a vaccine that will halt this terrible disease, impacting the health and safety of people all over the world. “A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself,” for knowledge by itself is of little value, that is until it converges with context, a purpose for good. Then it becomes a powerful force that can impact many. What a shame, I have thought, how that lady missed the opportunity to engage her knowledge with our purpose and enthusiasm that day instead of putting the ka-bash on it.