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Is it more important to be smart or wise?

For those who have worked with elementary-aged children for many years, the premium has usually been placed upon being smart. Wisdom has been the purview of the teacher. Teachers are considered wise and children are receptacles for knowledge imparted by the “sage on the stage.”

A quick look at the origin of these two words may explain our distinction. The word “wise” comes from Old English before 900. “Intelligent” (a reasonable synonym for “smart”) comes from Latin circa 1500. Does this mean people were wise before they were smart? I was taught to value intelligence — nothing wrong with that! If someone asked me I could always identify the smartest kids in my class. This judgment was based upon my observations of their ability to exhibit their “smartness” in the context of the traditional classroom.

Now that I am on the other end of that equation, my job, of course, is to impart knowledge to the children in my midst. By virtue of my education, I am wiser than my students. But there is something inherently misguided about this conclusion? It is dangerous to assume children are not wise. To treat them differently is not smart.

Montessori educated children are treated with the respect that they possess discernment, judgment, and discretion. That is the very definition of “wise.”

-Whitney Slade H.O.S.

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