Nadler and Chandler, writing in their 2004 book “Smart Questions,” set forth a ‘data to wisdom’ continuum, with “raw data” — information whose validity depends on the methods of collection and context,– being the least valuable information, and “wisdom” being the highest level of information. From “raw data”, the continuum proceeds through “real information” (raw data placed in context), to “knowledge” (digested information), to “understanding” (insight into how knowledge integrates into the big picture and how it might be used by others) to “wisdom.” Wisdom is defined as “the ability to put understanding to use” or the “transformation of understanding into concrete action”. Both understanding and wisdom require an integration of information with values and beliefs, and are particularly needed as circumstances change. Daniel Yankelovich, writing in “The Magic of Dialogue” wrote that “An ideal use of dialogue is to reconcile conflicting systems of social values” and that dialogue can help to “focus on our imaginations on what kind of society we really want.” As he points out, such dialogues occur in a framework of mutual respect and help build both trust and a sense of community. Our country faces a number of highly complex issues that will require many wise decisions along the way if we are to effectively work our way through them. Citizens have much to contribute to that wisdom. How can we engage in more effective dialogue as we seek to find our way forward?
October 15, 2008 at 3:00 pm
Here are three ideas, all of which involve using the web: (1) Hypothetical case studies. Bill has such-and-such a problem. (For example, maybe he’s an illegal immigrant looking for work. Maybe he’s an employer who has hired an illegal immigrant. Or, Bill’s employer has just cancelled the employees health insurance plan) Factually, why is this a problem? What options does Bill have to do something about it? What are the good and bad points of these choices? Should any laws be changed to deal with this kind of problem? Solutions and answers should not be suggested in the statement of the case, but open responses should be requested. If enough responses are received, a compilation could be made and posted with suggestions for sources for further study. (2)Test your public affairs IQ! A list of 20 questions, with multiple choice answers given to each. Each question is factual, not value driven. When the test is completed, one can click to find the right answers (and maybe a short list of materials that can be read to give more information and comment on each question. (3) We’re not the only country that has problems. Other countries have the same, and in some cases they are ahead of us in working out solutions. How about a web site that has short statements on how other countries have responded to social problems (medical care, immigration, housing, etc.), with opportunity to click on additional material, and allow comments like a blog so people can say what they think of these solutions?