pedagogy of the perplexed

learn to kill a bear.

The following is from here.

In June 1744, the College of William & Mary invited the Indians of the Six Nations to send 12 young men to be “properly” educated. They received this reply:

We know that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those Colleges, and that the Maintenance of our young Men, while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinc’d, therefore, that you mean to do us Good by your Proposal; and we thank you heartily. But you, who are wise, must know that different Nations have different Conceptions of Things; and you will therefore not take it amiss if our Ideas of this kind of Education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some Experience of it: Several of our young People were formerly brought up at the Colleges of the Northern Provinces; they were instructed in all your Sciences; but when they came back to us, they were bad Runners, ignorant of every means of living in the Woods, unable to bear either Cold or Hunger, knew neither how to build a Cabin, take a Deer, or kill an Enemy, spoke our Language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for Hunters, Warriors, or Counsellors; they were totally good for nothing. We are, however, not the less oblig’d by your kind Offer, tho’ we decline accepting it; and, to show our grateful Sense of it, if the Gentlemen of Virginia will send us a Dozen of their Sons, we will take great Care of their Education, instruct them in all we know, and make Men of them.*

growing up, i found it so trying to learn things that were totally detached from my world. i had these underdeveloped but passionate ideas about how education should look. i grew up in alaska, so i thought i should be learning how to tie a lure / kill a bear / grow grass (the legal kind) / whittle flutes. immature, but not totally misplaced. this provided, perhaps, part of the impetus for becoming a “liberal art-ist”.

liberal arts is a bit like this entry - great ingredients, but a bit vague in direction. vague and also kind of vogue. what do you do with these pieces? it used to be very clear what you needed for your given context*. but now the context is entirely shifted because of “global-ization” (new and rare term; look it up).

how do we prepare people for this phenomenon? part of it will rely on engaging all interested parties (i.e. everyone) in defining appropriate fields of endeavor - the skills of today’s Hunters, Warriors, and Counselors. and more and more - perhaps the result of living several years in the Orient - i am realizing that this is impossible until the contexts and knowledge of all peoples are accounted for (and respected). and those “peoples” aren’t just other countries, but peoples within countries (especially women).

only then can we learn to kill the world’s bears (metaphorically-speaking) and to use an appropriate number of parentheses in blog posts (many).

- Naim

*the blog from which this quote originates is fascinating and wonderful.