Ben Franklin wrote of an interesting exchange between some of the early colonists and the Native Americans. It seems that after the treaty of Lancaster was signed by the two parties in June 1744, the Virginian government offered, as a gesture of goodwill, to take 6 of their young men and educate them at one of the colonial colleges. After thinking it over, the Native Americans gave their answer the next day…
“For we know that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men with you would be very expensive to you. We are convinced therefore that you mean to do us good by your proposal, and we thank you heartily. But you who are wise must know that different nations have different conceptions of things, and you will therefore not take it amiss if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some experience of it: several of our young people were formerly brought up at the colleges of the northern provinces; they were instructed in all your sciences; but when they came back to us they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either cold or hunger, knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy, spoke our language imperfectly; were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, or counselors; they were totally good for nothing. We are however not the less obliged by your kind offer, though we decline accepting it; and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.”
-from The Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin
For the Native Americans, knowledge carried more importance than just understanding a concept or committing a fact to memory. The knowledge had to hold a practical component; something meaningful should result. Being educated was more than passing a test sitting at a desk. Education and wisdom was learned by hands-on experience and intensive practice.
It really reminds me of the idea of wisdom found in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the word used often for “wisdom” could be translated as “skilled living.” When God gives us His wisdom, skilled living is the desired result. It’s more than just being able to win a Bible trivia game. There must be a practical application of truth. Because of the importance of living a skillful life, we are admonished to seek this wisdom. “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7). God wants us to run after that type of true wisdom with diligence and passion: “If you seek [wisdom] as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:4-5).
God offers to take us, and take great care of our spiritual education, instruct us in His wisdom, and make fully-devoted followers of us…but we must seek it as the treasure it is.