Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996)
Volume 1 – Looking Forward Looking Back
Part Three: Building the Foundation of a Renewed Relationship
Chapter 15 – Rekindling the Fire in the subsection “Words Are Not Enough”
The perception of the world as ever changing, ever requiring the human being to be alert to the requirements of proper relations, means that views from every vantage point are valuable in making decisions. While older persons are generally thought to be wiser by virtue of their longer experience, the perceptions of children and young people are not discounted. The roles of teacher and learner in an Aboriginal world can be interchangeable, depending on the context.
Quite apart from the who, I am brought to consider in ever changing world two elements: mobilizable knowledge and transferable skill. One of course is a product and can be captured in artefacts, songs and performances. The other is learnt by observation and by doing and by refining technique. Each belongs together: we learn from people and things. Views from every vantage point. It means in non-Aboriginal culture being able to read in the widest sense of the meaning of the word.
In trying to distinguish word-bound learning/teaching from experiential learning/teaching, RCAP gives a characterization of a Western view of language and learning/teaching that is partial. The paragraph preceding the one above about older persons and children invokes the land as context different from word-bound journeys
The need to walk on the land in order to know it is a different approach to knowledge than the one-dimensional, literate approach to knowing. Persons schooled in a literate culture are accustomed to having all the context they need to understand a communication embedded in the text before them. This is partly what is meant by ‘clear writing’, which is urged upon children as soon as they begin communicating practical or academic content. Persons taught to use all their senses — to absorb every clue to interpreting a complex, dynamic reality — may well smile at the illusion that words alone, stripped of complementary sound and colour and texture, can convey meaning adequately.
But words have colour, timbre, accent, nuance. They call out to the senses.
Where I defended theory here I seek to explicate the literate approach as being complex and learnt from hours and years of observation as to the workings of language and its environments. Clarity in writing is no mean accomplishment and certainly ranks with being able to identify medicines or gut a fish.
A word about “context”. It is like a bundle we bring to our encounters. It is a mobilized knowledge and it is tested by the transferable skills we bring, the questions we ask. Persons schooled in a literate culture are accustomed to doing research to establish which context fits.
There is intrinsic worth in walking the land. In interpreting a text. Challenging cognitive separatism.
And so for day 1734