Synthesize Knowledge into Understanding
We live in the Information Age. Each of us, equipped with network access, has the ability to retrieve so vast an array of facts and figures that the storage of these data in the form of printed text would fill one’s local library to overflowing. In a recent achievement, a computer nicknamed Watson was able to defeat human opponents in the game show Jeopardy using the knowledge base that is the “World Wide Web.”
Watson’s victory signals a remarkable advance in computer technology because the game poses clues riddled with puns and complex wordplay. The engineers showed that the computer can sort and access a broader information base than the human mind – and can even be taught to dissect the vagaries of human language. Despite this advance, can we consider Watson “educated” in any sense of the term?
Many descriptions of the education process refer to “Levels of Cognition.” Simple knowledge, as in facts and numbers, is the lowest level of cognition. However, a successfully educated student draws inferences and conclusions based upon his or her knowledge, extrapolating to new levels of understanding. While the internet can provide all people with access to vast quantities of data, only the educated individual has the ability to synthesize knowledge into understanding. Therefore, our goal is to build ‘knowledge’ of human behavior and its products, the diversity of peoples and cultures, and of the natural and physical world through the study of sciences, technologies, humanities, arts, and social sciences. This progression is illustrated in Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Levels of Cognition from Bloom's Taxonomy
We have identified five areas for which the student should acquire knowledge and understanding:
- Study the Natural World
- Appreciate the Fine and Performing Arts
- Address Problems Using Critical Analysis and the Methods of the Humanities
- Understand, Observe, and Analyze Human Behavior and the Structure and Functioning of Society
- Understand Significant Links between Technology and the Arts, or between Science and Society.
Having acquired this knowledge and understanding, students in the General Education system will follow up on their interests in several of the areas they have studied at the Versatility level.