Saturday, 17 September 2011

IQ concept of Pittiarniq and First Principles

In my recent blog and earlier ones on Inuit Education I spoke a little bit about the Inuit Knowledge (IQ) concept of Pittiarniq as having more than one meaning (moral/ethical behaviour and doing something well). I think that both senses should be part of the Nunavut curriculum:

1) in the first sense, the study of ethics (and liberal arts in general) should be grounded upon not only Inuit legends but also that psychologically-insightful classics literature and world history should be translated. I say this because I find contemporary approach to education as largely a one-way communication (from teacher to students, much like from the pulpit to the lay-people). And because Inuit children aren't trained from the start to engage in and discuss ideas (whatever they are) this is carried throughout their academic careers and beyond where they lack self-confidence to really exercise their voice and thoughts (not having been trained in school where most languish in boredom and deep existential angst).

Many of us have been in meetings here in Nunavut Government boardrooms where the discussion of sometimes very important topics and issues are completely dominated by non-Inuit who seem completely oblivious to the consequential power imbalance. Some of the "old hands" and long-time "northerners" naturally begin to assume that they speak for Inuit, especially if they've married into Inuit families.

But the nature of bureaucracy and its need for control of information and jealously guarded gate-keeping function only allows serious exchange and discussion between those at the same level and/or ideological bent which leaves out a great majority of Inuit whose lives are impacted by the decisions they make. This denial of critical information (double-speak calls it "sensitive information") precludes Inuit from inputting when we are already in the margins of real power.

The one instance where I've seen it backfire is in the Mary River iron mine project where the main proponent largely decided on its own to plan for the construction of a deep water port and spent some pretty coin based on that assumption only to face resistence from Inuit. For a government bureaucrat whose projects are publicly-funded the loss of money would be a desired outcome, but for a private concern this is a real set-back (as it should be). Live and learn, fool.

2) in the second sense of Pittiarniq (doing something excellently), the pedagogical approaches should be based on the notion of "first principles". I said something to its effect in my last entry when I spoke about "internal logic systems".

It has been said more than once in the past that Inuit are "born mechanics". The traditional IQ approach naturally produced people who sought out the underlying functions and purposes of what caught their attention and what was important to survival and thriving. Inuit took and take to technology like ducks to water. And this is at a deeper level than most non-Inuit ways who only acquire it but are incapable of fixing it when it breaks - this is throw-away culture if nothing else.

But this pittiarniq is an extremely powerful device for learning and acquiring knowledge. Much of the old world pedagogy once had this same outlook. Knowledge of first principles (whether music, story-telling, oratory, mechanical knowledge, everything really) is what allows original insight, creation and transcendence to happen. IQ assumes at its core that human beings are rational, thinking beings and what is called "a theory of mind" - that what one mind is capable of creating, achieving insight and epiphany, etc. another mind is also capable of feeling, learning and producing.

A "politically correct" outlook - as vacuous and dullardly as it is - is highly suspicious and fearful of what it doesn't understand and cannot control or take credit/ownership for. The imperative of colonialism is the self-same outlook. It is a blunt outlook and utterly incapable of subtlety and originality and compassion for everything is prescribed and memorized from the outset. But so much more that is out of its control is not all necessarily "bad" or "evil". In fact, much of it is really human- and humanity- affirming.

A mind trained to be capable and reasoning is more likely (more than likely) to show and demonstrate compassion, love (of not only people but as a general, generous outlook) and meaningful contribution than a mind dependent upon its overlords for everything. We are not animals to be domesticated. Most of us, really, appreciate and believe in the "greatness of Rome" at our cores of being.

The Spartans of legend were trained as both self-contained, self-sufficient individuals as well as integrated community members capable of great discipline as soldiers in a fighting force. IQ pittiarniq similarly produced highly capable individuals and compassionate community members. I strongly suspect that much of the Turtle Island hunter/gatherer peoples were raised that way. The rotting away of the great soul was achieved through subduing by superior death technologies (of military and church, then by corporatism).

Let us just take off the shackles of sadomasicism and see what happens. I think it will not destroy our great country as the emancipation from the shackles of slavery did not destroy America but added to its greatness and the nobility of its ideals and spirit. Only small minds like the misguided neo-fascist tea party base is capable of and will destroy one of the greatest nations the world has ever seen, not the descendents of slaves themselves.

Jay

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