Editorial: The proper place for knowledge


  • Yngve Nordkvelle




Knowledge is an interesting word, which never goes out of fashion. In the political context, knowledge is something everyone hails and cherishes. An example is that the Socialist Government in Norway renamed its "Ministry of Education and Research" to the "Ministry of Knowledge". It would probably be politically wrong to defy the word "knowledge". The word "knowledge" stirs, however, different sentiments in people. In modern education, the word signifies something notable, discernable, visual or at least possible to distinguish from what it is not. In learning in higher education, knowledge is most often considered as the raw material for learning, with the little extra that distinguishes it from "information". 

Knowledge is information with a direction, a purpose and meaning, but without the implied cultivation of a teaching and learning process. Given knowledge is used for educational purposes, the processing of knowledge from its basic concepts to embodied and reflected knowledge, properly understood and reconceptualised by the learner, transforms not only the learner, but also the knowledge. In a peripatetic tradition, one likes to think of knowledge as foundation elements for constructions of ethical wisdom as its highest reflective level. Probably we will never see a "Ministry of Wisdom" established, because what is "wisdom" is probably so much more politically charged than "Knowledge". One can only wonder why anyone would degrade a ministry for education to something less.

In Europe a rewriting of university curricula is underway all over the continent, because "knowledge" is a key concept in the writing of "learning outcomes". It appears every college is absorbed in sorting out what knowledge is and how knowledge can be classified in categories and levels, and then composed to readable descriptions of syllabi, course descriptions and schemes. Let us hope they are more able than what has been the case. Professor Ronald Barnett of the London University, Institute of education, described, in a book published in 2000, how awkwardly most of this literature was written and claimed that most of the academic community was rather unskilled in prescribing the paths we want learners to follow to achieve wisdom. It is "...grossly under-conceptualised in higher education...." (2000, p. 322) And, he asserts, for the most they miss the point of how we become educated in our age. He comments the following about knowledge in this context, which is inescapably a supercomplex one. He suggests:


The key problem of supercomplexity is not one of knowledge; it is one of being. Accordingly, we have to displace knowledge from the core of our pedagogies. The student's being has to take centre stage. Feeling uncertainty, responding to uncertainty, gaining confidence to insert oneself amid the numerous counter-claims to which one is exposed, engaging with the enemy, and developing resilience and courage: these are matters of being. Their acquisition calls for a revolution in the pedagogical relationships within a university. (Barnett 2000, s.170-171).


He clearly states that knowledge is pretty useless in itself, and that higher education has a significant way to go in order to put knowledge in its proper place. Writing well about what role and position "knowledge" has in the life of higher education is difficult, and Barnett's comment should remind us that there is more to education than "knowledge".


In this issue of Seminar.net, we find three different approaches to handling knowledge and putting it in its proper place. Knut Arne Strand and Tor Arne Hjeltnes focus on the process of helping corporate customers to explicate their needs for turning professional knowledge into teachable material for e-learning. Knowledge is here understood as a complex matter of people managing a professional knowledge base, and transforming it to a platform from which students can learn in practical contexts online. Siv Oltedal's project describes how a particular seminar form, using video and videoconferencing technology allows participants to elicit their knowledge and share their reflection and learning during seminars. Finally, Gunilla Jedeskog and Inger Landstrøm describe how a particular sort of knowledge, materialised in a manifest technological item, alters and disturbs the established ecology of knowledge in an organisation.





How to Cite

Nordkvelle, Y. (2009). Editorial: The proper place for knowledge. Seminar.net, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.7577/seminar.2467