I believe one of the major problems our society has in the 21st Century is the confusion of knowledge and wisdom. It seems our priority in the U.S. is the teaching or transfer of knowledge. This is how both our public and private educational institutions are designed. Teachers impart knowledge to students, but pupils do not always possess the wisdom to put their information to good use.
Knowledge is knowing how to do something. Wisdom is knowing why, how and what to do with that knowledge. A good explanation of the difference between knowledge and wisdom:
Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and data that you have learned about or experienced. It’s being aware of something, and having information. Knowledge is really about facts and ideas that we acquire through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience.
Wisdom is the ability to discern and judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to your life. It’s the ability to apply that knowledge to the greater scheme of life. It’s also deeper; knowing the meaning or reason; about knowing why something is, and what it means to your life.
Unfortunately, too many people confuse knowledge for wisdom. While knowledge is power, without the wisdom to apply our knowledge in ways that benefit both ourselves and others, knowledge becomes harmful and destructive. This is where religion and/or philosophy often play a beneficial role in people’s lives. A healthy religious or spiritual support system can help guide people through life’s difficulties, both the highly educated and those who are underserved by public education.
Our society places utmost importance on material well-being and the accumulation of knowledge. However, according to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism,
“Though one may be ill [or poor], this has no bearing on the inherent nobility, dignity and beauty of one’s life. Everyone, without exception, is an infinitely precious and noble treasure.”
Living Buddhism, September 2015 p. 55