Thoughts on competence and education

Becoming competent:

“… the kind of technico-rational knowledge that contributes to competence consists of idiosyncratic combinations of up-to-date specialist, and usually tacit, knowledge. It cannot usually be specified in advance but is accumulated through feeling-guided adventures into the unknown. Failure to build up such pools of knowledge stems from an absence of the motivational disposition to do so and thus cannot be rectified by external compulsion.”

“… occupational competence depends, above all, on ‘the ability to deal with the swamp’.”

Formal education:

“… the so-called educational system mainly performs sociological functions, like controlling access to protected occupations and legitimising huge disparities in quality of life. These, in turn, have the effect of compelling most people, against their better judgement, to participate in the unethical activities of which modern society is so largely composed – the manufacture and marketing of junk foods, junk toys, junk education and junk research.”

Helping others become more competent:

“Effective parents, teachers and managers study their children’s, students’ or subordinates’ interests and incipient patterns of competence and create situations in which those concerned are able to exercise and develop competencies like initiative, creativity and the ability to understand and influence their organisations and society in the course of carrying out activities (ranging from putting people at ease to creating political turbulence) that they themselves care about. They also expose those concerned to appropriate role models, in person or in literature. These role models are unusual in that they portray the normally private patterns of thinking and feeling which contribute to effective behaviour. They demonstrate how to set out into the unknown, reflect upon what one finds, and take corrective action when necessary.”

—John Raven, CPD – What should we be developing?