Knowledge is a Thing

The idea of knowledge as a thing and knowledge transfer as an almost physical process seems to be deeply embedded into the human psyche. Here’s a very unpleasant video illustrating this.

3 Comments so far

Luis Suarez

Hi Patrick ! Goodness grief ! That is certainly NOT the way you teach students about anything ! I cannot believe that there are people who still think that could possibly be a good method of teaching something to someone. I would only hope, thanks to that video clip, that individual does never get a chance to teach again. A disgrace for all of the good teachers out there. No doubt !

Posted on June 20, 2006 at 07:16 PM | Comment permalink


Hi Luis nice to hear from you. There’s a long tradition of violence in educaton as you probably know… my mother was “educated” like this, and the ancient Romans used to employ slaves to beat their sons on the teacher’s behalf. It still goes on in many places, and I guess as your comment suggests the interesting question is whether the ability of today’s students to make this disgraceful behaviour socially visible will moderate it.

I guess the other question I had in my mind when I posted this was about the degree to which power and authoritarianism lie behind the way we perceive and impose KM practices on our colleagues in organisations. The very physical metaphors of “extracting” “transferring” “embedding” knowledge encourage this idea of knowledge as a thing that can be manipulated, and people as objects or carriers of knowledge, who must be themselves be manipulated coerced or influenced so as to generate value for the enterprise.

Maybe I’ve been reading too much Foucault grin

Posted on June 21, 2006 at 10:33 AM | Comment permalink

Luis Suarez

Thanks a lot, Patrick, for following up on this. Yes, I certainly agree with you. Older generations were probably “educated” that way, but then again it does not necessarily mean that today’s generations would need to be “educated” in the same way, so I hope that as a result of that video things would change at that school for good !

Regarding your other comments about the very physical metaphors I think you are on to something. There has always been this very physical connotation when transferring knowledge, indeed, and as we have seen all along it hasn’t taken us very far, has it? So I think you are right, that perhaps we would need to look into other ways, a whole lot less aggressive to get the message across on the benefits of knowledge sharing. The key question would remain: would we be up to the challenge of looking for new ways of facilitating this ?

Posted on June 21, 2006 at 05:25 PM | Comment permalink

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