Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The need for philosophy in narrative-based pedagogy

One of the glaring absences in public school systems, especially in aboriginal education, is philosophically-based discussion of subjects of study. In my long career as a student in the Nunavut education system, I always thought I was terrible in "math". As it turns out, I'm actually quite good at mathematical thinking but not very good at calculating or reckoning with numbers (ie, simple arithmetic).

There is a difference between mathematical thinking and simple arithmetic or performing calculations. Mathematical thinking is being able to abstract and organize significant ideas (data) from apparently "messy" reality into cogent and coherent statements. Mathematical thinking allows one to construct not only original equations and sequencing of numeral manipulations but also to perceive any of type of patterns and to make technical/ethical judgements outside of our visceral reactions using tenable and defensible reasoning behind arguments.

Rote-learning tends to be rather mechanical and prescriptive: "have faith, 1/2 is greater than 1/4"; "that 2 + 2 = 4", etc. It does not engage the student in the reasoning aspects, the organizing principles behind these arithmetical statements, and everything is particular - ie, the discussion centers around inductive thinking (reasoning from particular facts) rather than deductive thinking (reasoning from cause to its consequences).

To be sure, mastery of both types of reasoning are required for learning to take hold. But these can only happen in covert and overt discussion of philosophy behind the deeper connections between arithematical and geometrical facts that impel such statements.

Tobias Dantzig, in his book called, Number: the language of science, wrote:

The genesis of the natural number, or rather of the cardinal numbers, can be traced to our matching faculty, which permits us to establish correspondence between collections. The notion of equal-greater-less precedes the number concept. We learn to compare before we learn to evaluate. Arithmetic does not begin with numbers; it begins with criteria. Having learned to apply these criteria of equal-greater-less, man's next step was to devise models for each type of plurality...

The principle of correspondence generates the integer and through the integer dominates all arithmetic. (pp. 216-217) -emphases by Dantzig

In crude and simplicist terms, I've learned to use the concept of the number (or real) line to gain some understanding and insights into the thinking behind magnitudes of fractions, the nature of irrational numbers and/or radicands and how these concepts may be, and are, extended to serve multifarious purposes in scientific inquiry. When I first don't understand arithmetical reasons or manipulations, I've learned to seek out their geometrical causes and demonstrations if they exist. And, they usually exist. Somewhere.

The active seeking of them helps me to learn much more (even about other things) and my appreciation of mathematic elegance and beauty constantly grows. I may not create but I can see certain abstract things more clearly and appreciate them more deeply.

The unfortunate confusion caused by certain English terms that have vague and various meanings in laity also become easier to avoid for me in my thinking of them in Inuktitut (or, Jaypeetese) as I learn more about mathematics and its philosophical scaffolds. For instance, the seemingly "natural" dichotomies between 'real' and 'imaginary' numbers, 'rational' and 'irrational' numbers have very specific meanings in maths, and their diametric oppositions are more apparent than real as suggested in the English terms.

It was the great Gauss who suggested that we use terms like 'direct unity'; 'indirect unity' and 'lateral unity' for the symbols 1, -1, and -1, respectively, rather than the oft times confusing: positive 1, negative 1 and the 'imaginary square root' of negative 1. I personally think that Gauss' suggested term for the imaginary number line as 'lateral' is very intuitive, being as it is often represented as the north-south line laterally perpendicular to the x-axis (the y-axis is the up-down line, not treated as lateral to the x-axis).

Geometric demonstrations, in conjunction with deductive reasoning, behind mathematical facts tends to dispel the daunting mysteries of mathematics. Going about it this way also makes the historical developments of the ideas almost unavoidable; the seemingly perfected mathematical structures are human creations after all and, as such, the discourse on the historical developments of their logical foundations is often more interesting and instructive and inspirational than passive prescription and recitations of multiplication tables. In historical-based discourse, one also learns how to negotiate one's way through the many different interpretations inherent in all human endeavours. this is critical thinking par excellence!


Sunday, 26 February 2012

The "purification" principle in pedagogical terms

There is an interpretation of the quantum theory inspired by the great John Wheeler that treats physics not only in terms of flow of energy but also as flow of information. One of its postulates, its self-evident "truths", is a principle called "purification". Despite the term's affect of grandiosity it merely means - to paraphrase most liberally simplistic - that we can come to understand something even if we do not know everything about its parts or contents. This principle is, in fact, part of a logic system that is used to derive a workable mathematic framework of quantum mechanics.

Despite its highly abstract and complicated mathematical nature the purification principle is an intuitive statement whose truth is borne out in such fields as linguistics, semiotics and epistemology - ie, how we derive meaning from language and the surround using only apparently highly-specific logical principles to guide us. In fact, it is a principle that translators/interpreters use implicitly as second nature in their work. That is, we do not have to think about the words when we talk for we communicate and derive meaningfulness at the conceptual level, which is often more flexible and accomodative than words in isolation or in specificity.

Having said that, I want to draw our attention to the need for grammar- and narrative-based pedagogy using a form of the purification principle.

Phrases, in varying degrees, seem to all have levels of ambiguity built into them; sometimes we do not even know certain words that are used in a grammatically meaningful context but we can and do derive meaning from that context nonetheless. This is the purification principle, if you will, at work using the grammar of language.

For instance, a phrase such as: "to be sure of the past we know only disparate instants" requires, demands, that we know how to grammatically analyse (intuitively) its possible meanings. We can revert to pauses or commas and do a rough analysis. In fact, we do this subconsciously:

"to be sure of the past, we know only disparate instants"

"to be sure, of the past we know only disparate instants"

The mere placement of a comma changes the meaning of the phrase completely. Disregard the actual meaningfulness of the phrase for a moment (it's a run-on/orphan sentence), and focus on the grammaticality of both choices of placement of the comma. The first one implies a conditional requirement that, in order to be sure of the past, we (must) know only (its) disparate instants; the second one makes a definitive statement that, of the past we know only disparate instants (of it).

In fact, it is in the second instance that the original phrase has its intended meaning. I took it out of Tobias Danzig's book, Number: the language of science (reprint 2007) in which he talks about the dual nature of continuous and discreet aspects in the analysis of the number- or real- line (p. 183).

Of course, I'm not suggesting - have never suggested - that we teach our students the gruelling intricacies of Inuktitut grammar; what I'm saying is that a narrative-based language instruction would naturally expose the students to Inuktitut grammar by way of story-telling where the art of paraphrasing and recasting, and, ultimately, creativity (original insights) are generated. Literacy is not just about the mechanics of reading and writing; it is about comprehension and active engagement in the act of communication.

We, all of us, like to think that we have something to say no matter how small or important it is we have to say. Narrative-based pedagogy celebrates that need. Narrative-based pedagogy, and ultimately the ability to express (think for) oneself well will save lives, literally. We can no longer afford to regard suicide, and the existential alienation that leads to it, as a purely clinical issue; the problem of suicide is a humanist issue at its core.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ullunik qaijunik = coming days?

My aippakuluk is an avid student of the Inuit language. But being a non-native speaker of Inuktitut she sometimes makes innocent linguistic errors that are quite informative for me as an analyst. That she has some grasp of general linguistic principles makes it easier for me to explain where and how a grammatical error occurred, which is sometimes quite subtle.

For instance, because her mother-tongue is French - which is has a SVO grammatical structure (subject verb object) - it is natural for her to try and transpose her grammatical structure to Inuktitut. For eg, a construct like:

kisiani isumanngittunga kaaktutit
but I did not think you are (were) hungry

may be generated at the -emic (or deeper psychological) level for her, whereas the proper Inuktitut grammar demands that we incorporate the indicated state of mind ("did not think") into the phrase structure, rendering it thus:

but I did not think you were hungry

In a grammatical structure that is SVO the subject and object will always occur separately (as in the first example of what I call French Inuktitut) where [-tunga] in isumanngittunga indicates the subject, and [-tutit] in kaaktutit indicates the object of the sentence (for SVO speakers, which also includes English).

However, in Inuktitut grammar, it is possible to have pronominal verb endings that indicate both the subject and object in a single morpheme (for eg, [-tagit] in kaakturinngitagilli incorporates "I-unto you").

In fact, there are complete conjugations denoting "first-unto-second" persons; "second-unto-first" persons; "first-unto-third" persons; and so on...

The implications of such calculus also allow the incorporation of adjectival and adverbial morphemes right into the phrase structure. In kaakturinngitagilli the [-turi-] means 'to think', 'to assume' or 'to suspect'.

For an analyst of Inuktitut like me, constructs such as the title of this entry (ullunik qaijunik) are examples of English Inuktitut (ie, anglicised Inuktitut). I am no purist by any stretch but I also love elegance and good form. The evolution of Inuktitut is really a fascinating process for someone like me but the transitions like the title above are haphazard, isolated instances, and, therefore not indicative of evolution but of degeneration.

To wit: in English, there was a historical change that affected the whole language in a systemic fashion called, "the great vowel shift" that marked the transition from middle to modern english where single unstressed high vowels between two consonants became diphthongs: the 'i' in night was once unstressed...; whereas the shift in modern Inuktitut to SVO structuring is not systematic nor systemic, and is more indicative of a breakdown and literalization.

The phrase 'in the coming days' in English is an adjectival phrase with the 'coming' part acting as an adjective; in a polysynthetic grammatical structure, such as Inuktitut, the adjectival function would and should be incorporated into the phrase, thus: ulluuniaqtunik = 'in the coming days' with no schism in the synthesis of the adjectival function with the root verb (ullu-) in Inuktitut. Besides, ullunik qaijunik is not adjectival but designates the phrase as the object of the sentence (with the endings [-nik].

As a critic of the "whole language approach" (which I blame harshly as one of the reasons for the degeneration of Inuktitut) this is one of the technical reasons why I would like to see reform from "whole language" to narrative-based Inuktitut language instruction. The whole language approach, far from treating language as having underlying grammar, assumes wrongly that words in isolation retain their meanings; whereas, narrative-based language arts treat language as a creative, engaging social process.

I hope to God that my pedantry didn't put people to sleep. For Inuktitut language specialists who have the mettle to come this far: I salute you.


Monday, 20 February 2012

What's up with that!

I just heard on the CBC Newsworld about a climate expert saying stuff that don't make much sense to me: A researcher from the University of Victoria, one Andrew Weaver seems to be making claims that will do nothing but be miscontrued and mislead, nay be used to disabuse the bogus science of Harper's regime (excuse the convolution).

In a commentary published Sunday in the prestigious journal Nature, Weaver and colleague Neil Stewart analyze how burning all global stocks of coal, oil and natural gas would affect temperatures. Their analysis breaks out unconventional gas, such as undersea methane hydrates and shale gas produced by fracking, as well as unconventional oil sources including the oilsands.

They found that if all the hydrocarbons in the oilsands were mined and consumed, the carbon dioxide released would raise global temperatures by about .36 C. That's about half the total amount of warming over the last century.

When only commercially viable oilsands deposits are considered, the temperature increase is only .03 C.

In contrast, the paper concludes that burning all the globe's vast coal deposits would create a 15-degree increase in temperature.

The claims seem to rely upon "facts" no one would really consider seriously. For eg: if all the global stocks of coal were burned (whether all at once or 'til it runs out is not clear); that if all the hydrocarbons in the oilsands were mined and consumed, the carbon dioxide released would raise global temperatures by about .36 C. That's about half the total amount of warming over the last century... disengenuiously downplays the potential result of pollution caused by production and refinement (in China, say). This last claim seems to stem from a highly idealized "usable" oil content of the oilsands (potential) rather than the overall cost and energy it takes to produce the oil (real).

Then there are the relative rises in global temprature that do not make any sense: .36 C or .03 C (depending on an addict's level of denial) to natural gas (3 C) and the whopping 15 degree increase for coal. In fact, "Burning all the oil in the world would only raise temperatures by less than one degree, the paper concludes."

This seems not so bad. But it is misleading. The gloabl effects of buring of all fossil fuels is not selective but cumulative regardless of whether the source is natural gas, coal or the oilsands. Beyond any reasonable doubt I can say that all of these sources will be burned and used up if the corporate world has any say about it. Then, poo-pooing one source over another is really quite meaningless.

The CBC website piece, in fact, reports almost as an after-thought:

Weaver's analysis only accounts for emissions from burning the fuel. It doesn't count greenhouse gases released by producing the resource because that would double-count those emissions.


Saturday, 18 February 2012

The need for narrative-based or historic based pedagogy

I think I've mentioned this before in my earlier blog entries about the need for narrative-based or pedagogical methods that follow roughly the historical developments of subjects of study. This is especially true for mathematics curriculum whereby problems and puzzles (and their possible solutions) are examined not as prescribed-solutions-perfected-from-on-high but rather as story-telling demonstrations of how people have struggled mentally and intellectually in formulating questions/issues at hand and in seeking their solutions.

Reading a book on Newton, for eg, makes one realize that often geometrical insights help arithmetic understanding and vice versa. James Gleick's book, Isaac Newton (2003), talks about how Newton came to realize that the quantity of time is not just the passage of time, per se, as most of us "understand" it to be, but may be captured as a length in a line: time equals distance; or that "colour" may be said to be a degree of refraction - ie, that we may describe spectrometry of light (the different colours) by "their different refrangibility to sort them out." (Gleick, p.82)

Gleick goes on to say that

Newton's letter was itself an experiment, his first communication of scientific results in a form intended for publication... ...He had no template for such communication, so he invented one: an autobiographical narrative, step by step, actions wedded to a sequence of reasoning. (p. 82)

The passive approach to rote teaching and learning is really mind-numbing and literally kills curiosity; a historical narrative based pedagogy not only inspires one to dig further (mostly on one's own initiative) but informs one of multifarious aspects of what education asks of us (teacher and student alike) - to discuss and interact with each other to draw out insight and context of the problem naturally (ie, as opposed to dogmatic recitation of supernatural "facts"). The cultivation of humanist scientific mindset offers infintie possibilities without having to resort to apparently divinely-inspired laws perfected without human participation.

One other insight that I've come to realize is what ties elementary school maths to higher level maths are the four fundamental operations of arthmetic (ie, one need only addition, subtraction, division, multiplication to negotiate one's way thru this wonderous field of human activity); the differences and degrees of difficulty come about as a result that in lower maths one only concerns oneself with counting numbers, integers and rationals (for simplicity: both positive and negative numbers, say), while in higher maths the elements of arithmetic have come to include the broader irrationals, algebraic, transcendentals, and imaginary numbers for solutions. Nothing of the grammar of arithmetic has changed, only the elemental terms that may be included in the language have been broadened.

But all of this comes about naturally as one explores the historical developments of mathematics. A number problem is realized, seek its solution. The story line is simple but it is a human story nonetheless where the developments in human thought are humanized - ie, opened up to not only English-speaking peoples but to all. Folk etymology of the rational vs irrational numbers in English may be by-passed completely; same for trying to fit latin- and greek- terms to the English grammar from which much math phobia arises; the pitfalls of word-games and deeper philosophical issues are much better clarified/formulated when one is not forced to rely solely on just one or similar language structures to generate insights but open to a broader and richer linguistic base to draw upon or from.

To wit: Indian maths created the negative numbers and zero, for eg. more than a thousand years ago (practically if not actually) while Europe struggled dogmatically/theologically with them right up to the modern age - in most certain, definitive terms as only hubris affords.

Always start from first principles, let them carry you where they may. Even the venerable axioms of Euclid are yet productive, still able to generate new insights never before thought of or realized though two thousand years old they are. And yet forever young. Even the realization that something is "missing" in the logical structure opens up new vistas. Linguistics and maths - the new bones, skins and stone (as Balikci said of the Natsilingmiut).


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"A government of laws and not of men"

The notion of the "rule of law" is an ancient legal maxim, of which:

At least two principal conceptions of the rule of law can be identified: a formalist or "thin" and a substantive or "thick" definition of the rule of law. Formalist definitions of the rule of law do not make a judgment about the "justness" of law itself, but define specific procedural attributes that a legal framework must have in order to be in compliance with the rule of law. Substantive conceptions of the rule of law go beyond this and include certain substantive rights that are said to be based on, or derived from, the rule of law. (Wikipedia)

Much of the Harper regime here in Canada, especially after achieving a majority government, may be characterized as a radical shift (at the least) towards the more formalist definition of the "rule of law", which, on the surface, does not seem so bad - even tolerable. But, when we actually reflect upon the issue, the facts are really quite dismaying to any reasonable person who values the notion of "a government of laws and not of men" as opposed to "rule by law" (ie, placing elected officials and ideological value systems (in our case), in effect, above the law or making them sole arbiters of it).

Much of the policy decisions and actions by the Harper regime and its principals are centered around notions of vengeance (C-10), deregulation and repeal of protective legislation and public and commonweal safeguards (the Canadian Wheat Board, environmental review process, labour dispute resolution mechanisms, etc.), not to mention the most recent assault on civil liberties couched in terms not unlike Bush era vitriol and belligerence.

-I'd not be at all surprised if this blog be black-listed by Toews' Ministry.

I just started reading a book that I'm enjoying immensely called, A Thousand Times More Fair: what shakespeare's plays teach us about justice, by Kenji Yoshino, 2011. In the first chapter, The Avenger, on Shakespeare's play Titus Andronicus, he strikes a compelling cast on the post-9/11 world, one that is less based on reified labels as "war on terror" than on "blood feuds" and the vengeance imperative and its consequences.

You see, when the requirement (in liberal democratic societies) "that laws be written down and applied in standardized ways" (Yoshino, p. 30) - ie, in especially value-free terms as possible and multilateral agreement on its definitions - "...some individuals will be unusually adept at manipulating [the laws] for their own interests. The fear and mistrust of lawyers is at heart a fear and mistrust of skillful rhetoricians." (ibid) - I would add "fear and mistrust of demagoguery" that the neo-cons of Harper's regime weld so blatantly.

The thing about vengeance-based "justice", writes Yoshino, is that we start out by identifying with the victim, the wronged, but when they act out their desire for revenge we tend to recoil in disgust and distress. "We may experience ourselves as Titus [Andronicus] mourning an unforeseen and unprovoked attack on his daughter. But the instigators see themselves in Tamora's position, exacting revenge for prior wrongs." (Yoshino, p. 24) But, what we do not realize is that in the revenge narrative

...we begin the story in the middle, with the harm done to us. This is an entirely understandable human tendency, and I admit my own complicity in it. After the [9/11] attacks, I shared the visceral outrage that made the country rally around George W Bush, whose approval ratings roared from 51 percent to 90 percent in the days after 9/11. With those on the right, I celebrated the solidarity we felt as a nation on 9/12. Again, an often overlooked aspect of revenge is that it breeds love - love of country, love of murdered innocents. I endorsed Bush's demand that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden and his fellow instigators. I also supported the invasion of Afghanistan for the narrow purpose of toppling the Taliban regime and anyone who would give safe haven to the perpetrators of the attack... ...The Taliban was willing to hand over bin Laden, so long as the United States proved his connection to the 9/11 attacks. President Bush refused to supply that proof, in terms that echo Saturninus's peremptory claim - "If it be proved? You see it is apparent... their guilt is plain." As Bush said: "There is no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty." (ibid, p. 25)

My feelings about the Bush administration's actions mirror my feelings about Titus. In the beginning, I wished the avenger the best of luck. Yet, as the vengeance surged, I began to detach. Certainly by the time the photographs of Abu Ghraib and the executive branch's memoranda authorizing torture surfaced, the line between the "civilized" United States and our "barbaric" enemies had been blurred. (ibid, p. 27)

Titus Andronicus instructs us that we must resist our instincts, lest the ensuing revenge cycle consume us all. But it offers no easy solutions. We are not the only culprits here - terrorism [and criminal activities] is the quintessential extra-legal activity. yet we must recognize that we cannot dignify the "war on terror" with the name of "war" unless we constrain it with the rule of law. Otherwise, our "war on terror" is a blood feud. (ibid, p.28)

The "righteous" indignation of the neo-cons in Canada on those not "for us; with us" is the same kind of done-wrong-by mentality that CPC is counting on us to assume unquestioningly. There is a deliberate blurring of degrees between simple misdemeanors, serious crime and terrorism. The recently tabled "lawful access" legislation, in fact, cloaks itself in "protection against on-line child predation" with the broader public safety issues and terrorism. In Canada, power is truly becoming "alternative ground for action" where it can be exercised coercively and at the periphery of law proper.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Inuit Language Week in Nunavut

I was listening to an interview with the president of Pauttuutit Women's Association on their meeting in Nunatsiavut by CBC North on the need for standardized Inuktitut terms for medical conditions and sexually-transmitted diseases - such as chlamydia, HIV/AIDS, etc. - and I thought to myself, what a great opportunity and forum for generating standardized Inuktitut terms for such important issues as sexual health and subsequent medical conditions.

This specific approach, encompassing a natural class of concepts, is something that is actually quite rare in public terminology workshops. Though some terminology workshops focus on such things as fields as health, legal, climate change, etc. these workshops tend to be broad, sweeping treatments with not much thought given to etymologies, logic systems and processes of nomenclature. Then, there is the problem of specialist-/expert-training that is often unaware of where the basic concepts come from or how these specific terms came to be "naturalized" into the discourse.

Most laypeople who are aware have a vague understanding of what, for eg, "chlamydia" is and how it may affect the health of a host, but few would know that "chlamydia" is a family of parasitic bacteria with more than one sub-species. The etymological source of "chlamydia" is Greek for a "cloak" or "(military) mantle". Though this description may seem a bit extreme, using only symptoms or modes of transmission as the starting point for terminology development may not be desirable. For eg, certain strains of chlamydia infect the eyes, the "skin" of the urethra and cervix; the bird version of chlamydia causes pneumonia in humans...

There is that infamous Inuktitut term for "cancer" which is rendered loosely as "an illness that cannot be cured", probably taken from "a terminal illness" that may have been only one type of "cancer" (whatever it was). There are many types of cancer, but most, if not all, stem from the same phenomenon and are therefore classified as "neoplasia" (or "new growth") or "neoplastic diseases". Many an Inuk person has given up and become resigned to dying in hearing they have "cancer"; whole families have given up an affected family member for dead. Imperfect information, in this case, is really a death sentence.

This type of misunderstanding is not just in the medical field. There was a mass panic a few years ago in Eastern coast of Baffin Island when a huge pocket of methane burst up to the surface off the coast of Greenland. Having recently seen a tsunami decimate Indonesia and the Indian coast, a specific word "seismic" was enough to trigger a panic and religious hysteria. Not knowing anything about the logarithmic scale that is used to measure and classify "earthquakes", not to mention the constant subsonic and imperceptibly small tremors (seismic activity) that happen all the time, are all under the rubric of "seismology"...

Then, there is the term for "uranium" which is rendered as "ever-lasting" (source of energy) in Inuktitut. I'm obsessed with physics (or was for many years) and can intellectualize the deeper connections between alpha- and beta- decay and the electro-magnetic radiation from visible light to invisible x-rays, and the varying strength of covalent (electron or hydrogen) bonds in all matter. The emphasis on "ever-lasting source of energy" (as originally described by a non-specialist most probably) does not connect beautiful and elegant physical principles with physical phenomena, giving the wrong impression that radiant heat from fire, the visible light and x-rays, the different colours, electricity, the recent explosion of technological advances made possible by understanding these physical principles, are all unrelated.

The practical outcome that Qallunaat have god-like qualities because so much technology seems to be produced by them keeps Inuit from acquiring self-confidence to participate in the scientific discourse in any meaningful way. This mystification and aggrandizement has no basis on the reality of things. Since the English-speaking world uses and relies upon terms and nomenclature (ie, from latin and greek) that are not indigenous to English much of this knowledge and its organizing principles seem inexplicable and mysterious.

Most scientific and formalized knowledges stem from principles so elegant and logically- productive frameworks that a child capable of interpreting and comprehending them can start participating and contributing original insights almost immediately. Child prodigies are not magic, not freaks, just unusually sensitive to the structures of thought and postulates of fields they excel in. It has always been my experience that, aside the mystification of Qallunaat imperative, Inuit have this very human quality, this human intelligence, in generous measure. So much potential is lost for lack of explicating these scientific principles in any meaningful way at the initiation of our children's education.

The tools and knowledges are there already, it is a matter of how we use and explain them in Inuktitut.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

The importance of "education"

As an observer of education and language issues in Nunavut, I'm always struck and dismayed by the unconscious codependency that is the Inuit-government relations. Wikipedia entry on codependency states:

Codependency may [...] be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, or control patterns. Narcissists are considered to be natural magnets for the codependent.

Without getting into the psycho-babble and judgemental labelling, I'd rather focus on the need for critical examination of what "education" really is, and how we can all work together to reclaim our respective humanities.

To most Inuit parents, when "education" was first introduced to Inuit communities, it was seen an official recognition, a citizenship to dignity. It carried a certain magical power, a leap of faith. And, as such, was not seen to be, not regarded, as being part and parcel of character and the work that goes into building character. It was the new E-5 tag, a ticket to consumer products and privileges that only the "educated" could access. "Education", thus, became a drug of codependency.

A few weeks ago while I was waiting for my aippaq in a restaurant, I overheard from another table a very intent and earnest conversation on the "philosophy" and history of education at the dawn of industrial age. The hushed tone of conspiracy, of evil machinations of the factory-owners, from the two in the conversation never made the connections between the dark realities of social injustice that Dickens spoke of in his books to the real world. In fact, Dickens was never mentioned and neither the notions of social justice. The humanities and liberal arts education principles, specifically, never really figured...

...knowledge you will gain from a liberal arts education, together with the tools of examination and analysis that you will learn to use, will enable you to develop your own opinions, attitudes, values, and beliefs, based not upon the authority of parents, peers, or professors, and not upon ignorance, whim, or prejudice, but upon your own worthy apprehension, examination, and evaluation of argument and evidence.

The problem of "education", as I see it, is lack of self-confidence or a willingness to explore further and deeper than what is prescribed by "officialdom" - whether it be teachers or the student body that teachers are ostensibly in charge of. It's as if there is a "catholic" way and, by design, a danger of "heretical" diviation from the "norm". The concentration of power to the "privileged" few is too great a temptation here to walk into unconsciously, especially when that privilege is totally unfounded on reason and good form. We are easily intimidated by what we perceive to be "intelligence" and "authority"; and so easily "convinced" by arguments we do not easily comprehend, so readily accept as truth.

The problem of "education", as I see it, is that we are not applying critical examination and thought of what "education" is and how to obtain/impart it. In short, we are not educating ourselves on "education". I know that the educators in the curriculum development office in Arviat have much more to say and offer than is obvious - but I kind of doubt the resources and thoughts they have to offer are being accessed by those most in need of them.

Without two-way communication, wonderful and beautiful ideas die, wonderful and beautiful people die, never having reached even the minimal fraction of their potential.

"How much land does a man need?" Physically, very little, as Tolstoy determined; but, psychologically and spiritually, nothing less than the whole universe should be denied us.