Levels of Knowledge and Knowledge without Wisdom

Disanayaka, J.B.


Professor J.B. Disanayaka sheds light on the ‘crossing in life’ (i.e., the change of status) graduates go through at a convocation, and the responsibility that accompanies their achievement to change the society they live in for the better. Professor Disanayaka details the history that underlies the crossing in life witnessed at a convocation and states that it goes back to the mediaeval Europe. He juxtaposes the university system of ancient Sri Lanka with the higher education system we inherited from the British. In particular, Professor Disanayaka discusses how a graduand’s change of status is legitimized with the conferring of a bachelor’s degree such as the Bachelor of Arts (BA) or the Bachelor Science (BSc). Historically, in Mediaeval Europe, a crown or wreath of laurel was placed on one’s head to indicate high merit or honour. At today’s convocations, this wreath is replaced by a garland of a certain colour. It is delightful, according to Professor Disanayaka, that some of these ‘bachelors’ change their status to that of ‘Master’ or ‘Doctor’. Nowadays, the English word ‘doctor’ is used to refer to a physician but it is derived from the Latin verb ‘docere’ which means ‘to teach’. Similar etymological implications are seen in the degrees of ‘PhD’ or ‘DPhil’. The ancient universities, which were most of the time attached to religious educational institutions (such as the Maha Vihara and the Abhayagiri in ancient Sri lanka), had unique perspectives on knowledge production, wisdom, and knowledge practices. Traditional education, despite its many faults, placed more emphasis on wisdom than on knowledge. In the modern world, information has replaced wisdom and education without wisdom has resulted in the increase of violence as visible in the educational institutions themselves. In such a background, Professor Disanayaka invites educated members of society to denounce immoral practices seen in the modern education system of Sri Lanka, so that, every individual can live in peace, harmony, and dignity.