Saturday, 23 May 2015

Person of Interest

I'm a huge fan of the TV show, Person of Interest, which was created by Jonathan Nolan of The Batman Trilogy. There are parallels, to be sure, between Person of Interest and The Batman Trilogy that are hard to deny. But these similarities go deeper than the obsidian aesthetics into the fracturing of the Batman symbol into the multiple principals of the TV show. And it works; it works beautifully.

The fiction genre called American Gothic has always been evolving into something of the psychologically real and the metaphorically plausible that, I think, is best captured not by description but by 'ephemera' of its kind, such as Cat Power's The Greatest:

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
Stars at night turned deep to dust

Melt me down
Into big black armor
Leave no trace of grace
Just in your honor...

In its latest iteration a la Person of Interest superstitious angst gives way to moral angst of fallible, psychologically-real people who find themselves having to deal with the fallout of unmitigated, unhindered development of technology. But technology has always been a character of Gothic fiction, you say?

No doubt. But here we see it forming and evolving organically rather than presented fully-formed and one-dimensional. In Person of Interest there is The Machine (the good guy—Root calls it a her) and Samaritan (the bad guy—whom we know to be neither 'good' nor 'bad' but for its 'father'). There is nothing cursory about Nolan's treatment of his characters.

It is the difference between vintage comic book whose Superman is Nietzschean in nature and Frank Miller's The Batman whom Jonathan Nolan pays homage to in his Batman movies. The 'villains' also are more complex and organically-derived in that they're relatable at some level. The television series format allows that space and time for its characters to develop organically, but under Nolan's genius the characters' can do it even within the two-hours normally afforded in big screen format.

There are rumours going around that CBS has bought only 13 more episodes of Person of Interest after this season's powerful finale. Man, I hope not. If so, Ed The Sock will be proven right:

"...that's enough proof, says Ed The Sock, that in order to stay alive on television for a long time, all you have to do is suck.

According to our sock-puppet commentator, the fact 'Person of Interest'—a show that actually predicted the Edward Snowden NSA whistle-blowing scandal—might not stay on the air is proof that on network television mediocrity rules." (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/20/person-of-interest-cancelled_n_7343266.html)

Jay

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Nunavut University?

I held off as long as I could...

I love the idea of developing an accredited university in Nunavut—I'm a lover of education and knowledge in general. But I have found—much to my dismay—that I often have notions that seem somewhat at odds with those of others. This didn't use to bother me much when I had that indignant hunger for 'social justice' (ie, my ideas of it anyhow). But it was a hunger and thirst of equal opportunity—shall I say?

I must admit that I didn't read the articles about the idea of 'Nunavut university' that I have been seeing recently in the media outlets that focus on Arctic issues and current affairs. The taglines kind of put me off (I thought: here we go again), and I do not enjoy getting worked up like I used to anymore. But I bit the bullet and gave in to actually read the news piece on the CBC website.

I've been a longtime supporter of Terry Audla. I think he's one of a handful of Inuit leaders who take his work seriously and actually has the savvy to advocate for our concerns and interests convincingly from inside the system on out. His words make a whole lot of sense:

"It's based on Inuit becoming more aware of where they stand in society in general. When it comes to the decision-makers, academia has a lot of influence. When you have that, the more credence you're given." (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/nunavut-university-promoted-as-voice-and-inspiration-for-inuit-culture-1.3077490)

This is in sharp contrast with what the other quoted comments say about the idea of a Nunavut university some of whom are already saying what Inuit think:

An initial course list was proposed: Inuit studies, fine arts, linguistics, political science and indigenous governance, education, health, natural science and law.

Research would be limited to what Inuit care about.

"One participant noted that the European tradition of 'knowledge for knowledge's sake' does not align with Inuit beliefs and values, and as such should not be promoted or supported by a university in Inuit Nunangat," says the report. (ibid)

wow. you don't say...

I was watching a The Simpsons episode where Lisa actually convinces Principal Skinner and the Superintendent to implement a Humboldt school. Though it made tongue-in-cheek fun of this education theory and practice the theory and practice itself is a very interesting concept.

Wilhelm von Humboldt (22 June 1767 – 8 April 1835) was a Prussian polymath who was appointed by Friedrich Wilhelm III to reform the education system of the empire. I first came across a reference to this great man in a book on the Riemann Hypothesis and was immediately intrigued by him in that his work produced one of the most productive era of advancements in human knowledge in the German tongue.

A cursory glance at the Wikipedia entry on his name says of him:

Humboldt installed a standardized system of public instruction, from basic schools till secondary education, and founded Berlin University. He imposed a standardization of state examinations and inspections and created a special department within the ministry to oversee and design curricula, textbooks and learning aids.

Humboldt's plans for reforming the Prussian school system were not published until long after his death, together with his fragment of a treatise on the 'Theory of Human Education', which he had written in about 1793. Here, Humboldt states that 'the ultimate task of our existence is to give the fullest possible content to the concept of humanity in our own person […] through the impact of actions in our own lives.' This task 'can only be implemented through the links established between ourselves as individuals and the world around us' (GS, I, p. 283).

Humboldt's concept of education does not lend itself solely to individualistic interpretation. It is true that he always recognized the importance of the organization of individual life and the 'development of a wealth of individual forms' (GS, III, p. 358), but he stressed the fact that 'self-education can only be continued […] in the wider context of development of the world' (GS, VII, p. 33). In other words, the individual is not only entitled, but also obliged, to play his part in shaping the world around him.

Humboldt's educational ideal was entirely coloured by social considerations. He never believed that the 'human race could culminate in the attainment of a general perfection conceived in abstract terms'. In 1789, he wrote in his diary that 'the education of the individual requires his incorporation into society and involves his links with society at large' (GS, XIV, p. 155). In his essay on the 'Theory of Human Education', he answered the question as to the 'demands which must be made of a nation, of an age and of the human race'. 'Education, truth and virtue' must be disseminated to such an extent that the 'concept of mankind' takes on a great and dignified form in each individual (GS, I, p. 284). However, this shall be achieved personally by each individual, who must 'absorb the great mass of material offered to him by the world around him and by his inner existence, using all the possibilities of his receptiveness; he must then reshape that material with all the energies of his own activity and appropriate it to himself so as to create an interaction between his own personality and nature in a most general, active and harmonious form' (GS, II, p. 117).

In the original text from which this section has been lifted without attribution, "GS" refers to Humboldt, Wilhelm von. 1903–36. Gesammelte Schriften: Ausgabe Der Preussischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften. Bd. I—XVII, Berlin. (Cited as GS in the text, the Roman numeral indicates the volume and the Arabic figure the page; the original German spelling has been modernized.) "Gesammelte Schriften" means "Collected Writings". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_von_Humboldt)

This pretty well encapsulates the Humboldtian model of higher education  (German: Humboldtisches Bildungsideal, literally: Humboldtian education ideal) that—I would contend—is more in line and spirit of what Terry Audla (and, by extension, IQ notions of knowledge) envisions as to what form the Nunavut university should take.

The Humboldtian model of higher education [...] is a concept of academic education that emerged in the early 19th century and whose core idea is a holistic combination of research and studies. Sometimes called simply the Humboldtian Model, it integrates the arts and sciences with research to achieve both comprehensive general learning and cultural knowledge, and it is still followed today. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humboldtian_model_of_higher_education)

The thing that concerns me greatly about the GN outline of the proposed Nunavut university is that embedded in it is the taking away of the notion of 'academic freedom' that founds not only our conventional institutions of higher learning but in particular the Humboldt model that has enriched the human experience in subtle but meaningful ways.

We should also distinguish bureaucratic notions of Inuit (traditional) Knowledge and the Inuit ideal of inuliurniq which is motivated by giving the individual intellectual and practical tools to be able to problem-solve even in the case of complete isolation out in the wilderness.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts...

Jay

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Does universality equal fairness?

Recently in the House of Commons during Question Period Prime Minister Harper thought he was handed a gift from Justine Trudeau when Trudeau apparently made a "gaffe" by premising his question to the Prime Minister: "Benefiting every single family is not what is fair..."

Harper could hardly contain his glee—actually for someone with a reputation for being a cold calculator he doesn't have much of a poker-face—as he pounced on Trudeau with a comeback: "This is what happens when you get off-script". Truly, it was his Count Olaf moment.

But it got me thinking about fairness and universality (ie, 'universal' in the sense of being a flat rate for all instances of application regardless of circumstances or situation).

A qualification of individualized "consequentialism" that seems to define Harper's political understanding of governance, I think, can and should justifiably be made here.

-Individual consequentialism is a vicious variant of the Utilitarian philosophy in that it takes on some of the coloration of Machiavelli's political philosophy which holds that a state's actions are justified (ie, should not be questioned) if the ends serve the purpose of preserving and maintaining order and constancy of its political structures (ie, serve the interests of the 'benign' ruling class).

It is in this light I think that the true context of Harper's "politics of meanness" must be understood. After all, small governments are 'good' and 'lean' not so much in terms of their 'distributive capacity' to the greatest good but if, and only if their policies and means to exact taxes and levies on big business and the rich remain checked and emaciated. Forget "trickle down economics"; this is unabashed Darwinian corporatism.

Universal child care allowance that the Harper gov't is proposing is simple and seemingly 'fair' in that it treats everyone 'equally' regardless of income and socioeconomic standing. But it is really a 'regressive' benefits scheme by any other name (ie, it is tied to the notion of further decreasing the tax burden on the rich in relative terms whose take-home pay increases significantly at the expense of those who need the assistance the most simply because it adds to the tax avoidance toolkit that the poor do not have access to).

The means-tested scheme that Trudeau is proposing seems to be a complexification of the tax and benefits system in comparison to Harper's proposal because it would make these benefits to Canadian families dependent upon their ability to draw household income in absolute terms (ie, the proportional distance between benefits and entitlements as in relation to real income and wealth: the wealthier one is the smaller the gap between needs and means).

In theory, under the Trudeau scheme, the burden on tax payers is more evenly and fairly distributed because it is tied to that hypothetical zero gap between need and means.

Jay

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Stoicism and old Inuit Christians

Philosophy does not promise to secure anything external for man, otherwise it would be admitting something that lies beyond its proper subject-matter. For as the material of the carpenter is wood, and that of statuary bronze, so the subject-matter of the art of living is each person's own life.
-Epictetus, Discourses 1.15.2, Robin Hard revised translation

When asked if I believe in G*d I tell people that I'm a believer in the Gospel of Christ. I get all kinds of interesting reactions, but they always confirm to me the basic human nature of courtesy and civility. Normal people usually just want to leave it at that; I want to leave it at that.

Like Epictetus, I believe that the subject matter of faith and "the art of living is each person's own life". I think that this is the central message of the Gospel, after all.

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the philosophy of the Stoics in trying to find a level of equanimity in my life. I have a reputation of being a "hot-head" but whether it is well-founded or not (I think it is) this searching for equanimity is a lifelong project.

I sometimes fail to live up to the standards I admire and feel a deep desire to subscribe to but I'm slowly coming to realize that these "shortfalls" in ethics and morals are and can become rarer if acknowledged when they happen and a re-commitment to try again is made in that acknowledgement. This "art of living" is the definition of teshuva (Hebrew: תשובה‎, literally "return"). Aharon E Wexler gives us a good and serviceable primer on the idea of teshuva in this link: http://www.jpost.com/Not-Just-News/On-teshuva-375740.

I, in fact, believe the personification of teshuva (as spoken of by Wexler) is the key to interpreting the wondrous opening lines of the Gospel of John.

I was, for the longest time, a completely natural defeatist. Every perceived and real disappointment in life was cause for great woe-woe-is-me and for gnashing of teeth and ripping up of shirt. So much drama it is embarrassing. And disastrously costly to my personhood and those around me, especially those whom I love and who love me.

As a believer in Christ I have very little if any empathy for mainstream Christianity. I grew up in the faith and have known true "salt of the earth" Christians who were also stoics in inclination that I'm trying to follow in the footsteps of (ie, the older generation of Inuit who truly believed in the Stoic principle of "living in accordance with the divine order of the universe"). But I have as my goal to become less and less like the so-called "evangelists" and more and more like my father's generation of Christianity who seemed more concerned about living the life than mindless moralizing. There are a few of them left still (at home and elsewhere).

I live my life mostly in solitude and I have no interest in attending church so I listen to Charles Stanley and Charles Price. These two Charles, I have found, regard their faith as "...not just a set of beliefs or ethical claims, [but as] a way of life involving constant practice and training" (Cf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism).

The more I learn about Marcus Aurelius and the personal and historical context of his Meditations the more I'm interested in the Stoic Philosophy. He is said to be the last of the five good Roman emperors. His writings, as anthologized in Meditations, have a lot of self-encouragement and constant reminding of his commitment to Stoicism:

"See that you do not turn into a Caesar; do not be dipped into the purple dye—for that can happen" (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.30)

This certain fastidiousness (or, more precisely, assiduousness) is not surprising given that he held absolute power over one of the most powerful empires the world has ever seen. How he did this—how the Christ Himself and the Apostle Paul did, for that matter—is by recasting familiar and seemingly tired spiritual/philosophical principles into personal commitments to live up to them:

Either the gods have no power or they have power. If they have no power why pray to them? But if they have power, why not rather pray that they should give thee freedom from fear of any of these things and from lust for any of these things and from grief at any of these things [rather] than that they should grant this or refuse that. For obviously if they can assist men at all, they can assist them in this. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.40, trans. CR Haines, Loeb Classical Library)

That he came to this conclusion is to be taken in the context of him having lost three children who died early in their lives because the quote immediately above begins: "One man prays: 'How I may not lose my little child', but you must pray: 'How I may not be afraid to lose him'." (trans. Anthony Birley)

Wow.

Jay

Saturday, 9 May 2015

True North Strong and Free

I'm watching the VE Day celebrations on CBC right now as our war vets are being feted by the Dutch.

As an Inuk I have almost no linkages to those brave and inspiring Canadians, whom the Dutch clearly love and appreciate, save my citizenship to this great country of ours; as a first Canadian I realize that we have a collective, awesome responsibility to not waste, to "never forget" their sacrifice and their commitment to help their fellow human beings. Remember these Canadian soldiers so long ago were not conscripted servicemen but were in fact volunteers.

There was an observation offered by one of the talking heads a couple days ago that caught my attention when he mentioned that these Canadians really were of a different breed: stoic, humble and rather self-deprecating when asked to describe what it was like in the Second World War. They weren't fighting for noble ideals nor even against an enemy; they had seen the atrocities in Europe in news reels and wanted to help end that. Simple as that.

I'm certainly ambivalent about state-sanctioned violence but I have no problem understanding where our boys were coming from and I great admire their humanity. We know of a handful of Inuit who fought in WWII. They were of the same cloth: unfettered by any psychological BS they simply answered the call to help their fellow human beings.

Our current state of affairs would be alien and disappointing to them, I'd surmise.

I see Stephen Harper as a symbol for a great many things that I find "wrong" with our society but most of all he epitomizes, to me, the deliberate arrested development that resulted from the disastrous and long social experiment starting from the 1960s. Shamefully, I count myself among the children of these decades of frivolity, willful ignorance and uncritical (unmitigated) selfishness.

Randy Janzen is just one in the long, long line of this perversion, this hubris, this uncomprehending staring out into the maw of ethical and moral emptiness (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/randy-janzen-facebook-post-an-apparent-confession-of-killing-wife-daughter-sister-1.3066803) as much as the unhindered (perhaps unintended) bigotry, pettiness, and all negative characteristics that unfortunately marks the tenure of our current Prime Minister. He is after all a product of his times.

I've stared into this darkness (uncomprehendingly at first) but I consider it a great blessing this existential alienation from my parents, my grandparents and my culture in that it allowed me the opportunity to reflect upon how great the chasm was and had become through no fault of their own devising. I'm usually a bit too dense and self-absorbed to profit from my many mistakes in life but realizing how different I was and am (in all possible ways) from my parents stirred something deep within the darkness of my soul and I realized that there was something profoundly wrong with me.

The character of the liberating soldiers now celebrated in the Netherlands is the exact same character of my dad's generation. The twin fires of hardship and suffering seem to have a way of annealing the soul of the frivolous, the superficial but if and when we allow ourselves honest reflection and guard against embitterment from our personal experiences. The Book of Job talks of this at length, culminating in the 23rd chapter:

...if I go to the east, he is not there;
    if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
    when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
    I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. (Job 23: 8-12)

I am no saint and if I seem that I'm trying to give that impression I profusely and sincerely apologize. If anything has taken hold it is despite myself, and only and truly because of love—of those who have loved me, all of them contributing individually to the person I have become and am still becoming.

The words of my dying father to me were: be kind and compassionate. He knew who I was and how cruel, selfish and thoughtless I can be without guidance. I am not and never have been a demonstrative person of human affections, and I have largely reserved them only for my children (though I definitely feel it for my siblings, my mom and those who love/have loved me). My dad's last gift to me was a new perspective: people deserve respect (agape) because no human is an island.

This is the message I take away from the VE celebrations from Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.

Jay

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

What is "literacy", and why do we need it?

What draws me to ideas is often much enhanced by the historical developments of the ideas themselves and life stories of the people who have helped developed those ideas. It is never enough for me to be presented with an idea already fully-developed and impervious to further input. There is no satisfaction in that. I have to seek out the subject further if it interests me.

For the longest time I thought mathematics was arithmetic and mindless algorithms (BORING!), and after I learned in first grade how to add and subtract I completely lost interest in it (or, more precisely, what I thought was "it"). I know I'm not alone in this indictment on the (public) education system. There is even a word for lack of interest in maths and the sciences in general: Meh.

When I came across what is called "pebble notation"—a method of arranging numbers (pebbles) into geometric shapes invented (or, adopted) by the ancient Greeks—I realized how much is robbed of us starting from day 1 by inadvertently unimaginative elementary school teachers.

For eg, square numbers are not just N2, nor is the definition even really:

"...a square number or perfect square is an integer that is the square of an integer; in other words, it is the product of some integer with itself. For example, 9 is a square number, since it can be written as 3 × 3" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_number)

A square number can literally be arranged into a real square! For eg, nine dots (or pebbles) can be arranged like so:


For other numbers there are other shapes in which they can be arranged: squares, triangles, rectangles, and simple lines (or, numbers that cannot be arranged into perfect rectangles—ie, prime numbers!).

There is much more to this seemingly simple pebble notation, much much more. In fact, this is the very beginning of "number theory"—what Gauss called "queen of mathematics".

In Mathematical Mysteries: the beauty and magic of numbers, Calvin C Clawson writes of one of the greatest of number theorists from England:

...[Godfrey Harold] Hardy believed a mathematical idea is good because it is beautiful, beautiful because it is serious, and serious because it is connected [in a deep way] to many other mathematical ideas...Hardy's claim that beauty is central to the enjoyment of mathematics is fervently believed by the majority of all who are enthralled by mathematics. In this he seems to have captured the essence of our love for this subject matter. Jerry King, in The Art of Mathematics, points out, "Mathematicians know beauty when they see it for that is what motivates them to do mathematics in the first place. (Clawson, Mathematical Mysteries, Perseus Books, 1996, p. 213)

But it is what Clawson says in the continuation of the passage above that I'm interested in:

Hardy's idea that pure (good) mathematics should be devoid of meaningful applications has been adopted by many mathematicians at our universities. Unfortunately, this idea has caused some mathematicians to become elitists, casting disdain on all other branches of knowledge. This, in turn, has tended to alienate mathematicians from the rest of the academic community. Most elementary and secondary teachers we send out of our universities are not professional mathematicians, and they feel this alienation between themselves and what they see as snobbish old men barricaded in the ivory towers of academia.These same teachers, who feel alienated from higher mathematics, are asked by us to teach our children the foundations of mathematics. Do you imagine they embrace the task with enthusiasm? (ibid, pp. 213-214)

Given this state of affairs in teaching mathematics it is hardly surprising that our children suffer the drudgery of what is passed for mathematics as we ourselves suffered before them. Yet, this laying down of "foundations of mathematics" is absolutely essential to what I call "mathematical literacy".

It gets even worse. It is not just this basic subject that suffers thusly. The language arts (at least, in the aboriginal experience) is likewise an utterly alienating experience where the mechanics of reading and writing (becoming a copyist of mindless word lists seems to be the goal here) is heavily emphasized, full stop. This, in lieu of regarding and treating the field of language arts as a means to enhance the humanity of our students.

In my efforts to learn in the style of "the liberal arts", I've had a happy accident in discovering an appreciation for good writing. Under this broad rubric of "good writing" I would include not only literary classics, great historical documents such as the "Declaration of Independence" but also movies, tv and radio.

It is the ideas that get me. These ideas, in turn, further enhance my appreciation of what and how the subject matter is expressed/articulated. It is a snowball effect. Some experiences are so exquisite it is very much like a spiritual euphoria.

I know of someone who is likewise affected by well-crafted linguistic expression, and, whom I would consider rightfully belongs to a master class of French letters. My attraction to and admiration for this person has transcended the physical, into the deeply spiritual, if I may unabashedly betray my true affections.

Literacy, thus defined above (ie, as mathematical literacy, as linguistic literacy, as any kind of literacy that inspires self-improvement), is less a skill than a state of being, and it truly goes beyond the act of reading into a realm of becoming. Northrop Frye said that up to the secondary grades one takes a subject, and at the college level the subject takes you. I have always found this to be a truism.

Literacy as such may not save our lives (that is not its point after all), it may not promote us to the status of a rock star (who but the very banal would regard art as such anyhow), but it truly has the capacity to raise us above ourselves and provides us space to imagine the possible.

Jay

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A call for the democratization of knowledge

I think my notions of "education" are decidedly ancient. I'm very much a proponent of what is called "liberals arts education", an approach that was invented by the ancient Greeks who valued well-crafted ideas and the powers of articulation that demonstrate their acquisition as marks of being educated.

At its core a liberal arts education consisted of three broad subjects of study: grammar, rhetoric and logic—all of which, in some way or another, have to do with the development of linguistic/thinking skills. The additional feature of this linguistic-based approach is the learning of history as the backdrop for the development of the ideas pertaining to a given subject—for the ancient Greeks, even the mythical recasting of history is less entertainment, moralizing and fancy than a vehicle for propelling desirable characteristics and reasoning away undesirable ones in the student.

Louis Tarpardjuk, whom I esteem highly and respect much, mentions an IQ concept (or, at least a name of an elders' group) that I had never heard of: Itiakuyassuqtiit (sic)—from which we may reasonably derive the stem as itiakujassurniq—that seems pretty close to the notions of phronesis by way of counseling (Fighting for Our Rights: The Life Story of Louis Tapardjuk, CIERA, 2013, p. 69). Itiakujassurniq seems to be an approach that reasons to negative and/or positive consequences.

Talking about consequences of our actions and attitudes differs slightly from the Socratic approach in that Socrates' central idea in all of the Dialogues is the notion of "living well/rightly" though the results of the two approaches are indistinguishable in their results: phronetic insight.

I love Aesop's Fables (very short vignettes attributed to "a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE" (Wikipedia)). The "true to nature" aspect of these fables would be familiar to Inuit culture, certainly. And Socrates, himself, seem to have had affinity with the short tales as demonstrated in Plato's Phaedo which documents Socrates incarceration before his execution.

I was a policy analyst, first for NTI then QIA, during the "negotiations" on the Nunavut Education Act. It was an intellectually draining and existentially dismaying experience right from day one, where the claws of bigotry, willful ignorance and "bad faith" predominated the whole process (all this from our own Nunavut Government). It was utterly shameful, and the blame can be rightfully placed on both sides because the main representative of the Inuit side was said to have suggested—after all the pain and grief—that he was willing to sign away the unfair document in trade for federal concessions on the infamous long-gun registry (in case it failed to pass).

I know for a fact that the government "negotiators" had this narrative that the Inuit language is a doomed language and that we shouldn't even waste (their) available time talking about Inuit language rights. There is one section on the whole of the education legislation that briefly speaks to Inuit language rights (section 8). All of these issues of Inuit rights, en masse, were put into "dispute resolution" one by one, then banned from memory never to be recalled again under implied threats of collapse in the talks.

It was shameful.

I think I know how and why the largely Anglo contingent came to the unfortunate conclusion that we should not waste time with the Inuit language. In the English language, science and mathematics are very hard subjects (unnecessarily). The reasons why these subjects are "hard to learn" (in English) are many, but the prevailing reason why the English-speaking world find them such hard subjects to learn and retain has to do with the Latin- and Greek-word derivation rules that are built-into the discourse.

People in the know say that this must be so for reasons of precision, concision and permanency. I beg to differ: the European experience has a long history of treating knowledge as a mark of socio-economic status and class. There is an unconscious fastidiousness to enforcing this "fiction" that very few are capable of challenging. Latin and Greek are impassive to scrutiny and questioning precisely because they are dead to most Anglophones. Only the right kinds of people should be privy to such dangerous ideas. It is less (and never was) about social justice and it really has everything to do with "status". Small and petty, much?

It is not the case in all European languages, especially those closer to the roots of the Indo-European language family writ large. The daughter languages of Latin and the more conservative Germanic languages tend to birth luminaries of science and mathematics more so and often than their English sibling because these languages need not stretch the credulity of the students as is unavoidable in English. By design, no less!

The adopted and adapted words of foreign sources in English alienate rather than capture the attention of the student, so circuitous and contrived they become even when "grammaticized" into the English language. Look at this example:

The sine function is commonly used to model periodic phenomena such as sound and light waves, the position and velocity of harmonic oscillators, sunlight intensity and day length, and average temperature variations throughout the year.

The function sine can be traced to the jyā and koṭi-jyā functions used in Gupta period Indian astronomy (Aryabhatiya, Surya Siddhanta), via translation from Sanskrit to Arabic and then from Arabic to Latin. The word "sine" comes from a Latin mistranslation of the Arabic jiba, which is a transliteration of the Sanskrit word for half the chord, jya-ardha. (Wikipedia, Sine).

The source language (Indian) describes the concept in real terms (geometrically—ie, as lines, points and ratios) whereas in English any linkage to the real experiences of humanity is completely severed by way of mistranslation and mindless transliteration, the resulting term having gone through multiple languages. -"half the chord" (the thing that is describing a rotation) is really talking about the radius of a circle, finally. Elegant and beautiful, dare I say.

Elegant and beautiful that has been manipulated and perverted for purely political reasons.

I can understand, even forgive, the ignoramuses (ignorami?) who sat on the other side of the table those years ago for the fact that they acted so genuinely, and so earnestly in their (perhaps unintended) bigotry. Paragons of the "civilized" and "sophisticated" English-speaking world, really they were.

They looked down on the Inuit for ideological reasons. They did not see the possibilities of advancing our language rights because they themselves had all been inculcated into that unsustainable worldview that all knowledge is privileged, nay, mystical.

I know for a fact that the polysynthetic structure of the Inuit language grammar is highly flexible and adaptive and could more than accommodate these "new" concepts in ways that the English language cannot (by design!) because what can be described in Inuktitut can be lexicalized into new "words". Lexicalization is a process where descriptor phrases become actual words in their own right.

Knowledge is not something to be doled out by priests and charlatans; it should be a democratic phenomenon. Imagine a global renaissance hitherto never seen. It is a question of ideology, and must be fought in ideological terms.

Jay