Monday, August 13, 2012

knowledge without thought

In the first semester of my freshman year, one of the gen ed courses i took was called "Biblical History and Literature", aka Bib Lit. Most people hated it, because most of the class could be divided into two groups: people who had grown up in the church and already knew as much as they wanted to know about the Bible, and people who hadn't grown up in the church and weren't religious and didn't want to be. I thought the class was okay, but wished that there were more people in there who cared about what we were learning.

One day, after we had all turned in a paper about our definition of religion, the professor was talking to us about that paper. He said that many of us, in our papers, had said some variation of "I know what I know, and I don't know how I know it, but I do, so leave me alone." Far from being annoyed or angry by this, he was interested in our conclusions. He asked us if we thought that was a fair assessment of what we all believed. The response was a handful of halfhearted murmurs. He wanted to have a class discussion about knowledge, and truth, and belief. How do we know what we know? Where does knowledge come from?

But the discussion went nowhere.

No one wanted to talk about truth or knowledge or belief. Everyone wanted to know what grade they had gotten and move on. They didn't want to be challenged, they just wanted to be right. Can there be knowledge without thought?

This wasn't the last time i had an experience like this in a classroom. Students would do only exactly as much as was necessary. They didn't want to learn anything that wouldn't be on the test, and once the test was over, they didn't want to hold onto their learning. They didn't want to be exposed to new kinds of thinking, new ideas, different views. They just wanted to know what they knew and be left alone.

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