General Studies

General Studies: Which form of Knowledge is the most important? Explain your choice in comparison to the other possibilities discussed in the reading. (Note that there are 8 possibilities in all: Academic  writing Knowledge and the 7 Others.)

Do you agree that your undergraduate education has prepared you in the ways the three claims for Academic Knowledge say? Write a post in which you evaluate all three claims in light of what you have learned in college to explain your answer

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these two questions use the reading below and answer in two long paragraphs

total Academic Knowledge, Other Forms of Knowledge, and Life

We have seen what constitutes each of the Three Divisions of Academic Knowledge and how they relate to each other to form Academic Knowledge as a whole. The final aspect of them we need to consider is how they relate to other areas of and approaches to human knowledge, and how they relate to everyday life.

Other Forms of Human Knowledge

The other areas of and approaches to knowledge include the Applied Sciences, the Applied Arts, Professional Studies, the Skilled Trades, Practical Experience, Innate Knowledge, and Mystical Revelation.

The Applied Sciences are scientific studies whose main purpose is not the generation of knowledge for its own sake, what is called Basic Science, but instead serve a more immediate practical purpose. Many of the Academic Natural and Social Science Disciplines have applied aspects, like the physics used to build the atom bomb, and the social science research paper and methods used by political campaigns, but certain fields as a whole, in particular Engineering, Medicine, and Computer Science, exist to use scientific methodologies and draw on the knowledge of the sciences to apply an understanding of how things work to making them work in ways we want them to work.

Similarly, there are Applied Arts whose main purpose is not the exploration of the meaning expressed through artistic creation, what are called the Fine Arts, but instead serve more utilitarian purposes: decoration, entertainment, and psychological manipulation. People have created a vast set of interior spaces, objects, and bodies to adorn with coverings, colors, and designs that please their eyes, and have an infinite appetite for foods that please their palates. Entertainment is called an industry because it produces products carefully tailored to the market in order to maximize return on investment, which is more effectively accomplished by reflecting and reaffirming than challenging and refining their audience’s understanding of themselves and the world. The advertising industry harnesses human creativity to sell not its own products, but other products, any product, using a combination of the refined sensibilities of artistic people, the empathetic understanding of psychologically attuned people, and hard data generated by social research methodologies.

Professional Studies focus on specific occupations, both preparing students to enter them and researching topics and methodologies relevant to them. Both the Applied Sciences and the Applied Arts are in this sense Professional Studies, but certain other Disciplines are uniquely Professional: Business, Education, and the Law, specifically. Business Schools both teach and research how to effectively run an enterprise to produce a product and bring it to market; Schools of Education both teach and research how to effectively convey knowledge and foster skills; and Law Schools both teach and research how the law should be structured and practiced.

The Skilled Trades include a wide variety of occupations requiring the mastery of technical skills, but only limited theoretical knowledge. These skills and knowledge include information drawn from Academic Disciplines, most often the Natural Sciences, but more importantly specialized knowledge developed by and passed among practitioners, along with the practical experience individual gain in the course of their work.

The role of practical experience in the skilled trades connects them to the numerous skilled activities known and conducted by people as adjunct activities in their daily lives, whether as second jobs, hobbies, household duties, recreational activities, or the simple byproducts of everyday life. People learn things like carpentry, cooking, and how to skip rope in the ordinary course of living, and we have an especially rich reservoir of knowledge about human behavior and motivations from our countless interactions with others built up since the moment we’re born.

The significance of innate knowledge is subject to debate among psychologists and philosophers. No one denies that we are born with an incredible amount of basic life knowledge, like how to make our hearts beat, how to breath, how to digest food, how to move our eyes, and how to smile. We also manifest additional inborn knowledge as we grow: how to understand and use language, how to balance on two feet, how to walk, and then run, and who interests us sexually. This kind of knowledge may seem self-evident or trivial, but it is the vast preponderance of what most species know, and where the trouble begins is in the possible overlap between the higher order things that other species know instinctively — complex behaviors like mating, building a nest, and flying south for the winter, — and human behaviors, particularly social behaviors, like mating, aggression, loyalty, and deference.

Traditional (pre-scientific) understanding of the human condition ascribed a relatively large amount of human thought, feeling, and behavior to innate (instinctive) knowledge, but since this was used to defend traditional, exploitative class, race, and gender power structures, Enlightenment thinkers in the Eighteenth Century argued that people are born a blank slate (tabla rasa) that is only inscribed by post-natal experience. This view became an object of faith among liberally inclined people because it implied that human nature did not doom us to eternal oppressive patterns of individual and collective behavior, but that humanity could be improved by restructuring the environment and teaching things to promote the good and discourage the bad. More recently, though, research in the cognitive sciences suggests that instinct has more of a role than by-now traditional enlightened thought had given it credit for — although nowhere near the role that traditional thought had given it. While this dispute remains unresolved and highly controversial, suffice it to say here that instinct is an oft-overlooked form of human knowledge, responsible for the entirety of our bodily functioning and some amount of at least the basic patterns of our higher order feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

An even more controversial form of knowledge is mystical revelation. Some people claim to have gained knowledge, or that other people have gained knowledge, through an extraordinary process that involves neither learning nor instinct, but instead a direct, unmediated awareness of some transcendent reality. Strict rationalists deny the existence of such knowledge at all, ascribing claims of it to some combination of delusion and fraud. Less doctrinaire materialists acknowledge that such flashes of insight may occur and reflect an extraordinary realization of profound significance, but ultimately ascribe it to the internal processing of the person’s nervous system. Even more open-minded rationalists posit that such insights reflect the acquisition of knowledge from outside through some extraordinary channel or process currently unrecognized and unexplained by science: telepathy, clairvoyance, or precognition. And, of course, the great majority of the 7.8 billion people on earth believe that such knowledge represents direct communication from supernatural entities to special individuals, some of which the has been collected in a handful of sacred texts that provide a guide to life on earth and/or into a better life hereafter.

Academic Knowledge and Everyday Life

The primary purpose of Academic Knowledge is simply to add to the store of human knowledge, with the implicit promise that a significant enough portion of its yield will provide practical benefits to justify society’s investment in it.

One form of value Academic Knowledge provides is thus the pool of basic research which provide the fundamental information that practical applications can be built from. Chemistry thus provides the basis for medicines; physics the basic principles of engineering; psychology the essential elements of pedagogy; economics the foundations of business; and philosophy the basis for law.

Another form of value the Three Divisions of Academic Knowledge provide is the information, insights, and methodologies taught in the educational system from elementary school through College. The American educational system, in particular, does not focus on vocational training, preparation for a specific position or level, but instead develops students understanding of the Three Divisions of Academic Knowledge at successively more advanced levels from the most rudimentary in first grade to the final preparation to generate original Academic Knowledge as a Doctor of Philosophy.

The justification for this approach is three claims about Academic Knowledge: that it better promotes job performance and professional development in the long run than narrow vocational preparation; that it prepares the student to participate as a full citizen in civic life; and that it equips the student to live a richer and more fulfilled life.

In the realm of job performance and professional development, it is claimed that studying the Three Divisions of Academic Knowledge promotes critical thinking, the ability to analyze other people and one’s own thoughts and see their strengths and weaknesses, and conveys of a broad knowledge base to contextualize specific issues in order to both understand them better and to know where to go to get more information about them. From these, the student learns creative problem-solving, the ability to come up with novel solutions to novel problems. The academic study also promotes intellectual self-discipline, which gives the person the ability to plan and carry out the solutions so conceived, and communications skills needed to convey ideas effectively, particularly in writing. In addition to equipping the student to handle specific novel situations, it provides a robust ability to adapt to changing professional situations over the person’s lifetime.

In the realm of citizenship and civic life, study within the Three Divisions provides a basic knowledge of history and politics, including the benefits of a political system that permits people to express themselves and participate in governance and civic organizations, and the methods and limits of such participation. It conveys an awareness of the range of human circumstances and experiences, across cultures as well as interpersonally, which fosters an ability to communicate more widely, inter-culturally as well as interpersonally. Such study develops a familiarity with the macro perspective, the “bird’s eye view of human life and society” that requires exposure to both the range of human circumstances and experiences and to theories based on them, as a supplement to the micro perspective, which more directly reflects one’s immediate experience of life. It equips the student with a familiarity with the current state of human knowledge, and the ability to update this over the life course, and, finally inculcates a readiness to lead and an ability to do so effectively.

While not everyone who studies the Three Divisions of Knowledge ends up happy by any means, and an hour spent leafing through

The New Yorker magazine will reveal high levels of neuroticism, self-doubt, and compensatory superciliousness among the highly educated, a longitudinal study showed that a strong Liberal Arts education correlates positively with a greater sense of well-being than average, including a heightened sense of autonomy and environmental mastery and even higher levels of positive relations with others, personal growth, life purpose, and self-acceptance. (Seifert, et.al., “The Effects of Liberal Arts Experience on Liberal Arts Outcomes” in Research in Higher Education (2008) 49:107-125, p. 121.)

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