I love it when a confluence of ideas gets me thinking in different ways. This past week, three separate “events” came together in the question that I’m about to propose. On Monday, I continued to ponder Wodek Szemberg’s question about the knowledge that students leaving our education systems need to have in order to meet the challenges and opportunities of this century. The following day, I had was engaged in a conversation one of my education students from Canisius College about a unit on the States of Matter that they were preparing for his grade two students. Finally, I continued to follow some of the philosophical texts by Gert Biesta suggested by Tobey Steeves.
I woke up on Thursday morning with a question that, in a way, represents a point of intersection—a place where all three streams of thought seemed to come together:
Is knowledge a solid, a liquid or a gas?
Strange question, eh? But, I’ve presented it to several people ove the past few days and, in each case, it has resulted in some interesting conversations.
If knowledge, in the sense of what we know and how we come to know it, is seen as being a solid—known, true, sure—then it is something that can be picked up and easily transferred from one place to another. Even if we break it up into smaller chunks, it still holds it essential character. A broken piece of cookie, still retains it’s “cookie-ness”
One of the criteria that distinguishes a solid from a liquid is the ability of liquid matter to take the shape of its container. Liquids flow to take the shape of the unique context in which they are placed. In addition, liquids will combine easily with other liquids, creating a new substance. Two liquids, when mixed, form something new!
A gas, the most “dynamic” of the three states of matter, has the ability to completely fill the context into which it is placed. It will mix with other gases that it encounters. Unlike liquids, however, gases will flow out in all directions!
I could go into all of the thinking that has emerged since I first started shop the question around, but I think that, for now, I’ll just leave it there.
When you think of knowledge, do you think of it as a solid, a liquid or a gas. How does your response to the states of matter question resonate with our current model of schooling? How do our current systems of education seem to view knowledge?
What is the state of the matter?