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.



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