The Concept of Social Wisdom

Most prescriptions for behavior, such as The Biblical Ten Commandments, and various political Bills of Rights, have laid down rules about how individuals should, or would be permitted to, live their personal lives. But organized societies have evolved what I call "social wisdom" regarding how humankind can best pursue group living as well as the preservation of civilization, itself.

The family, historically, has been the most universal example of social wisdom. Democracy, adopted by the Greeks 400 years BC, was perhaps the second. The Magna Carta was the first of a series of agreements that rule by law, rather than the power of individuals, would guide organized social life.

When the Founding Fathers of the United States of America decided to give Democracy a try, Mr. Jefferson cautioned that "You can trust people to govern themselves if you train them to the task". The commitment to government by all the people, not just the landed gentry, led to the social wisdom of universal public education.

After World War II, a group of recognized authorities representing different fields, sponsored by the Encyclopedia Britannica Inc, agreed upon two signs of democracy in any social group or government: mutual respect and shared power. Two conditions were cited that, when present, create a climate favorable to the development of these two characteristics of democracy: economic balance and enlightenment. Of these signs and conditions, general public enliahtenment was seen as the force--a social wisdom, I suggest--that makes possible all else: Teaching is the process of enlightenment--in all societies. Thus, the better the teaching, the greater the enlightenment.

Teaching is the preeminent profession, simply because it nourishes all others and every type of human endeavor. Hence, I believe it is self evident that THE BEST SHOULD TEACH inescapably must be viewed as a universal social wisdom.

The paramont moral, social, professional, technological and political goal of the next century is to impress upon society's consciousness the equation: The Best Schools, require the best teachers, which necessitates that THE BEST SHOULD TEACH. Thus, the Twenty-First Century will be viewed as the Century of the Teacher, with the social wisdom, THE BEST SHOULD TEACH its guiding slogan.
Universal Social Wisdom
Physical scientists search for universal laws which explain the material wonders of the world. Social scientists endeavor to identify the common social wisdom and systems of living which advance civilization. Such laws or social wisdom, once identified, may go unheeded for centuries as each successive generation blindly follows the endorsed ignorance of the past.

Four hundred years BC, Socrates stood on a small mound in front of the Parthenon, in Athens, Greece, and spoke these words: "From this day forward, we will abide by the majority". Thus, Democracy was born.

Twenty-two centuries later, when the Founding Fathers of the United States of America decided to give Democracy a try, Mr. Jefferson, of Virginia, cautioned: "You can trust people to govern themselves, if you train them to the task. Thus, universal education became a social goal for all Democratic nations.

But those societies which have attempted to provide schools and colleges for all have weakened their efforts by assuming with Benjamin Franklin that "some of the lessor sort can teach". Even the professions--whose standards and services depend on how well they teach themselves to new members--have undermined their quality by stereotyping teaching as being for ~those who can't do". As a consequence, the choice and practice of teaching often is seen as a shameful last resort by the bright and gifted in all fields. Societies throughout the world, and civilization itself, have been the losers.

As an educator, it has been my conviction and message that teaching is the preeminent profession: it nourishes all others and the total of human endeavors. Thus, THE BEST SHOULD TEACH became my professional legacy for those to come. The universities with which I have been associated throughout my career are urged to take the leadership to perpetuate, visibly and permanently my message:

To those to come, I leave the flame! Hold it as high as you can reach. If a better world is your aim, All must agree: THE BEST SHOULD TEACH.
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© 2001 Lindley J. Stiles