Wisdom, and the Extended Classroom
I am a wisdom educator. I didn’t set out to be one; it’s just how things evolved. It all began in the late 1980s when I came to see that what we needed — both as individuals and a world society — was more of that vital but poorly understood pinnacle of human understanding called wisdom. I read widely and meditated deeply in an effort to understand what wisdom is and how it can be developed, and in the early 1990s wrote two books on aspects of wisdom. Toward Wisdom deals with what Aristotle viewed as the existential/metaphysical variety of wisdom, and Getting a Life with the practical variety.
The Wisdom Page
In 1995 the Internet was coming into its own, and I decided to create a website devoted to sharing wisdom resources with people around the world. Called The Wisdom Page, it has grown in content and popularity over the years. Today it is a major source of information about wisdom — what wisdom is, why we need wisdom, how wisdom is developed, wisdom education, wisdom research, and more. Each month the website is visited some 12,500 times by 7000+ unique visitors from more than 130 countries. And each month, more than 24,000 requests for electronic documents, videos, and audio files are successfully filled.
The Rollins College Course
Switch the spotlight now to Dr. Alan Nordstrom, Professor of English at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. In addition to teaching Shakespearean and Renaissance literature, Alan teaches a course on personal essay writing. More than a decade ago he began using Getting a Life as an idea stirrer in this course. The book’s 21 short chapters focus on different aspects of living, and present my personal thoughts on skillful and not-so-skillful ways of dealing with them. Students read an assigned chapter and write an essay out of their own experience on that general topic or something related to it. Over the years Alan developed a set of class notes to further stir student thinking as they approached each of the book’s chapters. In late 2008 Alan and I decided to create an online course for self-motivated learners based on my book and his class notes. Called “Wisdom 101” it has been a popular addition to The Wisdom Page.
Both Alan and I are
equipped for Skype video conversations, and as we communicated with
each other in this way we became enthusiastic about the medium. Compared
with talking on the telephone, Skype-with-webcam gave us a much greater
sense of “being with” the other person. A few weeks ago Alan had an
idea. When his students had completed their tour of Getting a Life,
I would join the class via Skype for a question and answer session.
From my perspective, and Alan’s, it worked. But how did the students feel about our online session and the book? Alan’s next assignment to the class was this:
Having read Cop’s Getting a Life: Strategies for Joyful and Effective Living, having perused his WisdomPage.com, having conversed with him via Skype in class, as well as having written an essay and some talking points on wisdom—now please share with Cop something you make of what you’ve learned or are still learning. Write to give him some feedback from your perspective regarding his project of helping humanity to wise up.
Receiving and reading those letters was a delight. Whether the student brought up points of agreement or points of difference, every letter was a sincere expression from the heart. The Skype experience was seen as positive by everyone who mentioned it. Each of these students referred to some new insight, or to the reinforcement of an existing one, that had occurred during the session.
Matching Resources to Need
Another recent Wisdom Page offering focuses on making key wisdom concepts available to classroom teachers, self-motivated individual learners, and parents who would like their children to grow up not only knowledgeable, but wise. The many hundreds of Wisdom Page text, audio, and video resources were reviewed. A small number were deemed especially suited to the purpose. They were arranged in four tiers representing four different levels of interest, prior knowledge about wisdom, and personal involvement. The four tiers move step by step from a casual-interest starting point to — should the learner wish to pursue it — a deep investigation.
Tier 1: An Overview
A few brief resources that give an overview of wisdom essentials
2: The Basics
3: Going Deeper
4: Browsing for More
My experiences over the past 15 years — including those mentioned here — have convinced me of two things:
 Macdonald, Copthorne. Toward Wisdom: Finding Our Way to Inner Peace, Love & Happiness. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1993. Print. (Republished in 1996 by Hampton Roads Publishing Company and in 2001 by Authors Choice Press.)
 Macdonald, Copthorne. Getting a Life: Strategies for Joyful & Effective Living. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1995. Print (Republished in 2001 by Authors Choice Press.)
 Email communication from Professor Nordstrom on 1 April 2010.