Wisdom is not the same thing as “education” or “cleverness”, although obviously these are related, it is not even the same thing as “gifted and talented”!  Wisdom can best be described as an ability of discernment or understanding which doesn’t come automatically but is gained from life experience—these experiences are then meditated upon and distilled into the guiding principles of a person’s life.

There is a type of literature in the Bible that is called ‘Wisdom Literature’ (the book of Proverbs is the best example) and an important idea in these writings is that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs chapter 9 verse 10) (fear here means “awe” rather than “cringing”). Thus Wisdom is having a true insight into the way life works: t h i s  m e a n s  h a v in g  a  realistic understanding of the consequences of our thoughts, words and actions upon ourselves and upon others,  coupled with an awareness of the true value of things. Wisdom is rooted in worship of God, who is the source of all life and all values.

The opposite of wisdom is foolishness, which is a wrong understanding of life. Jesus tells us the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke chapter 12 verses 13-21) which is essentially a warning about putting our trust or faith in the wrong things (here, money and possessions). The fool has missed the point of life—he does not realise that his soul is ‘on loan’ from God, who can require it back whenever He likes. The fool thinks that the aim of life is to ‘be happy’, however you interpret that,  and he thinks that he personally can gain happiness by doing what he wants and by accumulating possessions. The wise person recognises their own limitations, trusts in God and understands that there is more to life than may be seen on the surface.

The Bible often points out that God’s wisdom is the reversal of ‘the wisdom of the world’ (I Corinthians chapter 3 verse 19) and this means that Christians may often come in conflict with the perceived wisdom of society or of their peer groups.   Christ’s sacrificial life and his teaching about love and humility may appear foolish by the world’s standards but, in reality, it expresses the Wisdom of God.

Wisdom in School

Ethos

  • How do you share the Christian values which underpin the school with pupils, staff and the wider community?
  • How are pupils taught to respect the wisdom of people of all ages and walks of life (not just the teaching staff)?
  • Do teachers recognise the wisdom of young people?
  • How are pupils helped to be empathetic, discerning and sensitive towards the needs of others?
  • How do we enable our children to grow in wisdom? Do they understand the difference between being clever and being wise?
  • How are people encouraged to examine honestly the values upon which their lives, their attitudes and their decisions are based?

Worship

  • How does worship help pupils to grow in understanding of themselves?
  • How are pupils helped to understand that Christian values challenge the secular views of the world?
  • How do you encourage pupils to reflect on what is of real value in life?
  • Do pupils have the opportunity to hear from people of all ages in worship (including a pupil worship team)?
  • How does worship help people grown in understanding of themselves and of their relationship with God?

Curriculum

  • RE—where do people encounter wisdom teaching from Christianity, but also from other faiths?
  • History—how does history help pupils to see that it is not necessarily the best educated who are the most wise in their actions and dealings with others?
  • Do pupils realise that much “knowledge” is actually “provisional”?
  • How are pupils helped to understand the difference between fact and advertising?
  • How are pupils made aware that there are many kinds of wisdom and that wisdom is not a prerogative of people of a certain age or certain way of life, or even of themselves?

Leadership

  • What are the leadership team’s personal sources of inspiration?
  • What are the foundation values of the school? How are these shared?
  • How do the adults of the school community ensure that they are “life-long learners”?
  • Who are the sources of wisdom in your school and community? How can you ensure that each one of them is heard and valued?
  • Are your decision making processes structured in such a way that you will make wise decisions?