Judgment

“Intelligence on the other hand is associated with judgment; that is, with selection and arrangement of means to effect consequences and with choice of what we take as our ends.” John Dewey in The Quest for Certainty, 1929, p. 203.

We can all point to times in our lives when we have made good decisions which produced good consequences. Regrettably, we can also point to times in our lives when we made decisions that did not create the consequences we were seeking.  Dewey suggests that it is this ability to make judgments which result in good outcomes which is the true mark of intelligence rather than determining intelligence by having a firm grasp on elements of knowledge about something. This is why Dewey is one of the fathers of the pragmatist school of philosophy as what you do with what you know is more important than just what you know.

The knock on academia is that it is all about theory and accumulation of knowledge rather than practical application to real world problems.  It is tempting for the PhD student to focus only on intellectual growth and build intelligence around theory alone.  In fact, this is what others expect of you when they hear that you are a grad student at the doctoral level and will say things like “Why do you want to know more about education?” However, if you have experienced the candidacy process where one turns from a student into a PhD candidate, then you will know there is another side to the story. I am at the point where I am working toward that next step in the Doctoral process and have my research critiqued and then approved so that I can go out and collect my data. 

Becoming a PhD candidate is about taking the knowledge of theory that has been gained from classes and individual reading and applying them to a do-able and practical-able research proposal which will add to the knowledge base.  This step requires the approval of a supervisory committee which is charged with maintaining the standards of academia as they provide a critical eye to the aspiring PhD candidate’s work. It is a daunting prospect for sure.  As Dewey talked, about we are only seen to be truly intelligent when we are able to do something with our knowledge and address a real-world problem.

My research is about how Superintendents responded to the uncertainty created during the pandemic.  Where the uncertainty came from, what were the responses to this uncertainty, and what action did the Superintendent take toward influencing these responses.  Understanding more about how these important educational and community leaders acted to determine responses to uncertainty will contribute toward the knowledge base of how leaders of organizations should act in response to uncertainty which will surely arise again (or maybe never leave us!). That is my intent at least.

Dewey goes on to say that if better judgments can be made, it will be worth the trade-off of “a loss of theoretical certitude for a gain in practical judgment” (Dewey, 1929, p. 204).  Is this trade off true in your field of work or life as well? 

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