Monday, 9 July 2012

Some notes on the IQ concept of Pilimmaksarniq

I asked him where he had made it, he siad he made it himself, & when I asked him where he got his tools said he made them himself & laughing added if I had staid for other people to make my tools & things for me, I had never made anything...
John Conduitt (Newton's niece's husband)

I have read many authors write that Isaac Newton was an asshole. I tend to believe them. But I like to think about the quote above and see a man undomesticated by conventional "education" for I recognize that aspect of him in many Inuit I know and have known. The creative genius of Newton, to be sure, is unsurpassed in my estimation. But this is more a difference of degree than kind.

The IQ (Inuit Knowledge) concept of Pilimmaksarniq - learning by doing and practice - is not just a pedagogical device by tradition but proven time and again to be a teaching/learning technique far superior to rote memorization and micmickery. It has in it experimentation and familiarization of first principles rather than going by what people think and opine about.

When one looks at hunting equipment, even modern ones, of Inuit one is likely to see modifications (snowmobile, rifles, etc.) and/or some uniqueness and improvement to a basic design. Some of these variations are exactly like the reflecting telescope that Newton designed and made spoken of in the above quote. He understood the first principles of optics (he create the calculus after all): what is the thing in and of itself?

Where Inuit children are nudged and challenged by their betters to think how and why things fail or succeed, Newton did largely for himself. Like Newton, Inuit children are challenged to think for themselves rather than fed pat answers: they are taught to see for themselves how things work and fit into the overall design; the tools themselves are just logical consequences of first principles. In that knowledge, there is a wide field of variation. Teleology and entelechy: these are the true tools of the human intellect.

This conceptual device works in almost any field of human endeavour. I'm sure that had we not wasted time in mindless arithmetical exercises but apply them concepts in play and experimentation, we'd have started creating our own. Ditto for creative and productive writing; rather than mindless copying and memorization of spelling had we focussed on comprehension...

I don't rightly remember when I first started reading, but once I acquired the ability I went off on my own. I slowly acquired a taste for rhetoric and structure but it was through doing not memorization nor being told what good form is. What is at first a chore becomes love if left to wander with a purpose. The ability to read is not just a skill but a tool for further learning. One has to learn the rules before one can break free from them and transcend the skill itself.

Truly, the developmental axiom of Northrop Frye that one takes a subject before one is taken up by the subject is a sound and proven path to learning.


No comments:

Post a Comment