There is a lot of discussion about what should be taught in schools. People are concerned with being able to compete in the global marketplace and make a living wage, being able to have enough extra to save for their retirement, and having job security. Job skills seem to be the focus of public education, be it in the elementary grades, high school or higher education. Knowledge on the other hand is valued, but not unless it prepares you for a career. Preparing ourselves for freedom seems to be left out of the equation. Literature and history don’t get the emphasis they used to because in most cases they’re not directly related to making money. Or are they? I’d like to make the case that Education includes both Knowledge and Skills and that both are essential for your Freedom.
Let’s look at skills first. Skills are things we do. They relate to an activity that we perform.
I could teach you how to do any of these things. These skills are the HOW to do something. We can learn skills in a variety of different settings, from schools, to our homes, to a local group with members who teach skills we want to learn. Skills are typically a hands-on activity that we improve on with practice. Whether math or engine repair, when someone has enough practice with a skill, we say they are proficient.
Skills are valuable. We won’t survive in life without our skills. Skills are one of the things that make us valuable to others in this world. Every person should gain skills as part of their education. Every person needs to use their skills to be able to preserve their freedom. When we don’t use our skills, we are dependent on others to care for us and we are at their mercy. This is a form of bondage. When we do use our skills, we provide for ourselves and serve others at the same time. This leads to freedom.
Now let’s look at knowledge. Knowledge is what we know. We probably don’t think about it much, but our knowledge relates to why we perform the activities we do.
Every day we are reminded of the importance of our skills. I think sometimes, because we already know something, we forget how important our knowledge can be to us. From why we cook our meat to a certain temperature, to why I add soil amendments when I garden, to why I take some time for myself and spin yarn, knowledge is what brings understanding and meaning to our lives. For example, knowledge that my current career is going to become obsolete with the introduction of a computer system gives me the drive I need to work at acquiring the skills to become good at running that computer system. Knowing that technology brings change and that I can fight it and get left behind or learn it and move along with it into the next era is critical for my career. But I don’t always gain this knowledge in preparing for the current skills in my career. That knowledge comes from understanding history.
Another way to look at this discussion is that skills are training to do and knowledge is training to understand. Skills can be picked up while being trained in knowledge, but knowledge can’t always picked up when being trained for skills. As an example, I learned to write as I was learning to read. I picked up that skill while learning a similar skill. We are all taught the shapes and sounds of the letters and how to put them together. Once I learned how to read, I wanted to read everything I could: signs, cereal boxes, and of course books, which then provided me with knowledge. By the time I was older, the books I read for knowledge had helped me to be proficient at the skill of writing. I learned from reading good books WHY I wanted to write better and that made it easier to pick up on the skills of HOW to write better when they were taught. Having read so much, I had seen good writing modeled. When we gain knowledge, the WHY, we want to learn the HOW and be able to do it ourselves. Having the knowledge of WHY helps to cement the skills of HOW. You can see that knowledge and skills are both essential to gaining a true education so that we can lead a rich life.
Knowledge of Freedom is learned by studying the classics, studying our own culture as well as other cultures throughout the world, and studying human nature. “Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.” When we know the past, we are able to build on it, clear away the rubble of past mistakes if need be, and be forewarned of new packaging for an old scheme to take away freedom. With our knowledge of freedom, we may have to develop completely new skills to preserve our freedom. But with our understanding of Why, we’ll be able to develop new Hows. This knowledge and our developed skills bring us closer to becoming our best selves. Knowledge and skills are both necessary to preserve our freedom. Let’s make sure we are gaining both throughout our lives as we strive to find personal freedom.
List out the skills you have. List the skills you would like to gain, be specific. Are their skills you could gain that would improve your career? Are their skills you could gain that would improve your quality of life and enjoyment?
List out the knowledge you have. List what knowledge you would like to gain, be specific. Some suggestions are: history of your country, history of the world, your family history, great stories that inspire you, classics in your area of expertise, find a core book that you can turn to daily for guidance and support.