Merriam-Webster defines knowledge as “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association or the acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique.” In other words, knowledge is the collection of skills, facts, and information. It also seems to be the primary reason to send children to school. We want them to learn and to know things, to become knowledgeable, if you will, about the world they live in. We want them to succeed from an educational standpoint, and the environment inside classrooms reinforces this principle.
This mentality starts at a very young age. Elementary-schoolers are exposed to test-taking by the ripe, young age of six with first-grade level spelling tests. Essentially, this test-taking mindset never stops throughout a child’s entire education, and arguably through their entire life. Children learn very early on that the grade received on a test represents how well the child does or does not master the material. There is a certain degree of validity to test-taking and the assessment of knowledge because we have to be sure that our children are learning, understanding and mastering material before moving on.
But, what happens when kids start comparing grades? What happens when children start realizing they’re actually not as smart as they believed themselves to be? That seemingly insignificant number circled in red pen on their assignment starts to mean a lot more. Their small, little world comes shattering down and crushes their desire to learn along with it.
If test-taking ensures the learning, understanding and mastering of certain skills and information, where is the assessment to make sure this information is actually being processed correctly? Where is the emphasis on the actual enterprises of the mind and not merely just the ability to collect and remember facts and information?
That being said, there are some lessons we should teach all kids before they enter a classroom.
Unfortunately, there may never be an accurate and completely foolproof way to fairly measure the actual processes of learning that take place inside children’s minds. But, there is a way to increase the chances of it. This is why we have to, we absolutely must, teach kids the difference between knowledge and intelligence before they enter the classroom. Before they take their first test. Before they get the wrong idea about the purpose of education.
Children must be aware that if knowledge is the collection of information learned in school, intelligence is the application of it. Intelligence is the truer indicator of a person’s cognition, but it’s just harder to measure. The rhetoric and narrative that surrounds children and their need to succeed are founded far too much in the emphasis on knowledge.
So before your kids enter a classroom for the first time, emphasize the fact that the number at the top of any test they ever take doesn’t accurately represent just how smart they truly are. What really matters is the ability to apply information learned in school to other situations. Inform them that their level of intelligence is much more valuable than their ability to collect information. If you do this, you’ll see much more successful results perhaps in school, but especially in life.