"A Clever Person Solves a Problem. A Wise Person Avoids It."

October 4, 2022

"A Clever Person Solves a Problem. A Wise Person Avoids It."

May 29, 2023

The title of today’s Wisdom Well blog comes from Albert Einstein, a clever and wise human. Would you prefer being clever or wise?

Etymologically speaking, "clever" comes from a Scandinavian word meaning "skillful," while "wise" comes from the Greek word meaning "to see." Apologies to the Greeks, but I would add “to see through the lens of the common good” since wisdom is a prosocial character quality.

Silicon Valley is full of clever people—a community that breeds smart, inventive, and enterprising individuals. Of course, this makes me wonder which habitat fosters wisdom. I asked this question in an internet search, which spit back Japan and Singapore, but it also translated “wisdom” into IQ, which is a fundamental mistake. Being smart doesn’t mean you’re discerning or compassionate, let alone wise.

My top three lists for wise habitats might include a university philosophy department, a spiritual or religious school, or a futurism institute. But, I also realize that all three are ivory towers, divorced from the day-to-day hustle, so even their wisdom may not be serving the common good in tangible ways.

I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest the place where we need wisdom the most is in elementary school with our teachers. These educational saints can “see” the value of their students and how they might offer a great benefit to society.

What if we reconsidered elementary schools as wisdom academies where independent thought, character building, and prosocial behavior were rewarded? If we created that reframe, might we pay American school teachers more than garbage collectors?

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