Guest post by Graham McTavish Watt
Apropos of nothing other than a getting over a haggis munch yesterday at the Robbie Burn’s Evening, let me run this by your keen eyes.
The Inuit people have been teaching and learning for at least a thousand years. And their learning is important because frequently the lack of it can be fatal. Not fatal to the learning, fatal to the learner. They have done all this learning through the oral tradition. They are acknowledged technological experts and tremendous innovators: The geodesic dome, the kayak, the bone-spring-in-frozen-meat Polar Bear killer with built-in blood trail feature, and so much more. Much of today’s technological detritus is in a way oral, even text messaging. But much of it is frittered (sorry) rather than substantial.
How would we equate the essential oral aspects of Inuit learning efficacy with your industry’s seemingly ever-changing technological learning approaches (I might add, often delivered with scorn for the already existing)? Why do we not go back to survey and explore the aboriginal learning perspectives rather than pushing forward with this or next week’s latest technological thematic? Or would Inuit learning just become next week’s technology thematic? Perhaps you do go back, I’m sure you do, and I acknowledge there are oral aspects to technology, but the oral tradition among aboriginals means the learner and teacher both learn, and it is the synergy which keeps the learning momentum going. There is humility to it, rather than a wisp or two of contempt
Two interesting books you may have read but which I am presently reading:
The former has incredible detail on clothing, skin preparation, fashion, astronomy, medicine, external relations, food sharing, navigation, kayak building, trading, hunting, fishing, social activity, house building, leadership and many other orally learned techniques. Is it any wonder they valued their elders? Why do we tend to denigrate ours? Saul’s book is, in my view, a wonderful continuation to the work of Harold Adams Innis on the oral tradition, and draws upon the aboriginal example as a main component of many aspects of Canada’s rather well-known use of negotiation rather than violence and threat. Ironicly, caucus is an Algonquian oral word which meant meeting, talking and listening. Now we use it to plot to defeat others. It was used by aboriginals to find ways to reach agreements that sustain each other’s cultures and prevent war.