Competence and Capability


Having thought about this idea of phronesis for a while it didn’t come as a surprise to learn that the three ‘R’s’ – usually taken to mean reading, writing and ‘rithmatic – were originally conceived as

Reading and writing
Reckoning and figuring
Wrighting and wroughting

… where the third ‘R’ refers to the knowledge of action, of making and undertaking, of phronetic knowledge.

… and brings to mind, again, the distinction between competence and capability, a foundation of skills and competencies which are not ends in themselves but the testbed and toolbox for an occupation – and a life – which is creative, sustainable, meaningful, valuable.

Better to have a ‘skilled’ workforce or a ‘capable’ one?

My hon. Friends on the Select Committee will have heard me say this before. The narrow concept of the three Rs has no historic justification, even in this country. It was a mistake by an illiterate Member of Parliament in the early nineteenth century. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the original three Rs were, first, reading and writing—literacy—secondly, reckoning and figuring—numeracy—and, thirdly, wrighting and wroughting. The concept of education was that one-third of the time should be spent on creativity in schools. The only point of the literacy and numeracy was to move to the flowering of the individual’s personality in creating things.

Mr.Andrew Faulds (Warley, East), Hansard, United Kingdom, 22 February 1982

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