Data is energy and educating is the gasoline

Knowledge is power and teaching is the fuel

by Terry Heick

This knowledge = power is not a new idea.

“Knowledge is power” is a common refrain in the educational community, at least in spirit. The idea that knowledge changes lives and that we can change the world accordingly underlies everything we do as educators.

And that teachers are important is just as well known on paper. In the United States, the teaching profession ranks somewhere compared to retail clerks in terms of prestige and pay. Here, in the land of capitalism, booming insurance companies and pure industrialism, doctors, lawyers, CEOs and, increasingly, start-up entrepreneurs are leading the way when it comes to “power careers”.

Discussing why this is so – and how it affects students – would be worth discussing. But let’s first accept that teaching is A) important and B) culturally undervalued. It is impossible to believe otherwise.

Instead, let’s not look at how undervalued and underpaid and supported teachers are, but how they affect the world. Let us consider a flexible and general metaphor as a metaphor: if knowledge is power, then teaching is the fuel for that power.

Teachers are professionals, their jobs are children. Or rather, their customers are children and their profession is teaching and their craft is understanding.

Or maybe their craft is teaching and their occupation is knowledge and the student life arcs are their product. But that’s a little abstract.

Students are humans and humans, not technology, that change the world when for no other reason than humans create the technology, manage the technology (to whatever extent they do), and suffer or thrive under its effects.

Without knowledge, humans cannot develop technology that changes the world. Knowledge is information in context – not just knowing how to calculate the speed of light, but why. To know what happened during World War I, but also to understand how valuable that knowledge is; to know what the conditions were to allow something as terrible as the world’s first global war, and what the consequences have been since then.

Without context, knowledge is only information. With context, it becomes knowledge, and knowledge that is applied and reflected over time becomes wisdom. That’s the order.

Knowledge is how problems are recognized and opportunities are created.

Knowledge is what grows in people – able to increase or decrease suffering and ignorance and racism and love and hope.

Knowledge also grows from people – pulsates in the form of said and unsaid words, performed and not performed actions. Willpower and apathy. This growth is kinetic and dynamic and always happens in one place and with an audience and with effect. Knowledge vibrates.

Knowledge is movement and power, and knowledge is the product, purpose, effect, purpose and craft of teachers. It is what teachers do.

When people use knowledge – as teachers do, using their own knowledge to help others create theirs – the world changes. Initially, this is not a good or bad change, but an original change.

Knowledge precedes everything that is no accident. Knowledge is intent, and teachers spend all they have every day to help people achieve their purpose.

Knowledge is power and teaching is the fuel.

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