Thursday, 26 May 2011

Is University Knowledge The Same As Knowing?

The BBC reports that India aims to be the next university superpower and the metric chosen to indicate this 'super-powerness' is the number of graduates.

Just stop and think for a minute. Is that really the most appropriate measure of how intellectually powerful your nation is? It's the same as a student claiming that an assignment of 10,000 words is better than than an assignment of 2,000 words.

The other issue is that churning people out of university with extant knowledge is not really an adequate measure either. What about new ideas, new ways of characterising problems and deriving solutions? As Casanova might claim 'its not the size of the boat, its the motion on the ocean'

Knowledge is a crude nominalisation of the adverb knowing. Knowing implies insight and wisdom. Knowledge implies collecting and hoarding. Knowing implies an awareness of one's own pre-suppositions and how they affect our approach to the world, the nature of reality and what are claims to certitude are based on. I wish India all the very best in her ambitions. She should not mistake the filling of undergraduate heads with 'stuff' as an indicator of knowing, and then multiplying the amount of stuff collected by the number of people with that stuff as how good her universities are.

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