Friday, 25 March 2011

Rewards vs achievements

I've been hearing on the radio over the past couple of days stories that have deeply touched me from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission's hearings in Iglulik, Nunavut. I can't even imagine the horror and distress that was caused by the sometimes forced separations of children as young as four years old and parents who didn't understand what was happening, and of the unbearable, sad silence in the Inuit communities following the taking away of their children. My heart goes out to those who were made to suffer, and for those who suffer still.

Like most Inuit, even of my generation, I grew up with a deeply ingrained spiritual imperative to understand the sometimes profoundly perplexing world around us. When bad things happen to me, I begrudgingly accept that as something I either deserve or as a test I'm bound to fail (without a doubt).

For many, many years, I wanted oblivion, or at the very least, a respite from my existential angst. Having been raised a Christian, I vigilantly expected the end-times and sometimes (most times) wanted to give up the seemingly impossible task of acquiring grace for my sins from God - ie, my reward - for I was without hope of ever understanding what it was exactly Christ and God wanted from me.

I have seen the cynical cruelty of public confessions where admissions of extreme selfishness and self-indulgence are easily "forgiven" without any real thought of the victims, let alone the existing danger to the community posed by such "confessors" who invariably repeat their 'sins" over and over again. These people believe that they need only confess that the Lord Jesus is Christ in their deathbeds and the hurt and shame  they've caused most of their psychologically underdeveloped lives will somehow magically disappear.

On the other extreme, deeply earnest spiritual revival exercises happen all the time, with their unvoiced promises of spiritual high and magical and disturbing denial of the world (that has done to pot)... I've wanted this so much, but being uncomfortable and unable to deal with, at the best of times, expressions of strong emotions, I never lasted very long. Not only are the emotions expressed passionate but very communal, though feel-good they may be.

As an Inuk, I've always had a philosophical slant and given my largely self-taught liberal arts education believe in the liberating power of self-knowledge. What I mean by "self-knowledge" is the practice of self-examination of what I really value (human dignity, Human Rights, cultivation of a scientific mind, creative and artistic pursuits, etc.).

While there is the dark, dark side of Inuit community on the one hand, and the expectation of perpetual emotional high on the other, there is a third option. A liberal arts education.

A liberal arts education, though not promising anything of instantaneous value, such as the spiritual reward/punishment of religion, is very much in line with IQ philosophy (believe it or not) that not only assumes a thinking-reasoning person of everyone, but also in the high value placed on "wisdom" to counterbalance "knowledge".

I believe, as I've said before, in the historical-based pedagogy where streams of thought can be traced back to the original articulators who say the thoughts in most beautiful, compelling terms. This approach also teaches habits of attention and concentration so necessary for acquiring critical thinking skills by the way it builds up a broad body of knowledge on which to base the critical/analytical thoughts on. This approach teaches one the ability to discern the important points from the trivial in almost any argument. This approach builds self-confidence.

It also teaches, most importantly, that Education is not really a reward/punishment but an on-going, progressive achievement. Honest self-examination takes hard work but it leaves behind a foundation for wisdom and integrity to take root, and realistic (not fatalistic) thinking and expectations of oneself and what is possible. In liberal arts education, one is not so much taught but a child raised with real intellectual capabilities and confidence to survive. This is very IQ philosophy.

Jay

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