letter to the editor261

A shocking stance Re: Chiefs must stop talking and start working (The News, December 13) Wow! After reading your editorial, I had to check the…

A shocking stance

Re: Chiefs must stop talking and start working (The News, December 13)

Wow! After reading your editorial, I had to check the front of the paper to see if it really was the Yukon News.

Your editorial is based on the same flaw that persists in the education system — the inability to comprehend and accommodate a worldview other than your own.

There is something deeply disturbing when we diminish the aspirations and abilities of one culture while upholding those of others.

What moral ground is there in being dismissive of First Nations’ rights to educate their own children while accepting the rights of other groups in our society to do the same?

We accept and support the existence of education based on religious and cultural communities, for example the Roman Catholic and francophone communities.

Yet, we are quick to criticize First Nations, whose aspirations are no different — to provide their children with an education within the shared values and meaning of their own community.

First Nations are after all First Nations, and ought not to be last on the list of peoples entitled to live their dreams.

That aside, there is an urgent need to do some deep thinking about the world, where it is going and about the role of education in it.

We seem to be in a headlong race to eliminate diversity in this world, be it political, economic, linguistic, cultural, spiritual or biological.

The world cannot exist without diversity, and without it, it will not survive.

Mass education based on a pluralism that denies diversity is the handmaiden of global destruction — in the same vein as economic and cultural globalization.

There is a desperate need to respect and preserve our different world views, our different languages, and our different dreams before we fall into a common nightmare.

Allowing and promoting the existence of diversity in educational systems is an important way of meeting this need.

There is also a need to critically examine the meaning of education — the ends and means of education.

If our end is to create people who fit into a world that is already in serious trouble, then it truly is our end. We need people who know who they are, where they come from and why they are here.

If this isn’t education within the shared values and meaning of one’s own community, what is it?

The means used in education are also critical.

Much of what we learn in our education systems comes not through content, but the way in which the content is taught — how we relate, how we make our decisions, how we process the world around us.

In terms of education, this is referred to as the ‘hidden curriculum.’ In a broader sense, it is ‘organizational culture.’

In this, we need an alternative to the western preoccupation with product over process.

The way we do things determines the outcome, good or bad. The way we do things is the whole point of life, and if we pay attention to that, the outcomes will take care of themselves.

This principle underlies all traditional indigenous cultures on the planet, and instead of erasing it from our collective memory, perhaps we should be allowing and encouraging it to blossom.

Last, but not least, we need to remember community, put it back together. When we give away our individual responsibilities and rights to have our own communities, we lose the power to maintain a collective world view, the means to express it, and live it.

We become among the many displaced peoples lost in the history of the world.

Education within the shared values and meaning of one’s own community is the way home.

Art Stephenson


Northern reflections

Flying with friendly Air North, I traveled to the Yukon and Whitehorse this fall.

I looked down upon this snow-covered, remote Canadian landscape and marveled at the vastness of this region’s lakes, forests and mountains.

Yukon communities are connected by very few roads or linked by local air services.

As we enter the bustling terminal of the city’s airport, there is a welcoming committee of children running into the arms of several grandparents who have come to spend time with family. We are the lucky ones!

I look forward to my time being Grandma, of connecting with the children’s school, of sharing in their experiences, participating in cultural events, meeting with other families and former friends, and of walking along the high-ridge forest trails.

So what is it that makes my stay so fulfilling?

There is always the initial impact of noticing how much the children have grown, and just how short in stature I have become!

With the realization of how we all change, grow and develop, childhood itself seems such a short yet absolutely fundamental period of one’s life.

It is the foundation upon which all of us learn and become “endowed with experiences” that will nurture us throughout our lives.

Being Grandma, I reflect upon my role which contributes to a child’s heritage, whilst being sensitive to family values and community culture.

So what do I bring? Gifts include a unique rock from the seashore, a silver coin bracelet from my childhood, some budding twigs from the garden, a bag of colourful leaves, and a jar of homemade Sechelt blackberry jam.

This fall’s visit coincided with Halloween and, of course, that meant really getting into the “act.”

The local Northern Lights Dance Company had a costume sale, just for the public to purchase that unique Halloween outfit! Being a blue-haired, black-hatted witch, I visited my granddaughter’s class at Whitehorse Elementary where together we created imaginative stories of the blue-haired witch species.

Only when we can enter fully into the children’s world, by their invitation and suggestion, can we truly experience what they know.

Remembrance Day was my next inspirational community experience. 

Welcomed again to the school by the teacher, I told of my childhood wartime memories.

Reflecting upon the children’s questions brought my own childhood recollections into sharp perspective.

I was startled to realize that there is indeed a critical wake-up call for us all — to reflect today upon what each child will really remember tomorrow.

Culturally Whitehorse appears to be a community active in the arts, in celebrations of customs, and in the innovative composition of music, song, dance, film and literature.

A nostalgic show Fiddle Rush was a wonderful rendering of early life in the Klondike and Dawson City, given by the young violinists, the Fiddle-heads.

Through the creative vision of the show’s scriptwriters, music teachers and volunteer parents, this show was literally addictive!

One evening, there was a Divali celebration in which many people of diverse cultural backgrounds participated — we feasted on ethnic foods, sang, danced and listened to stories of  “how” and “why.”

Here in this northern city, where the cold winter winds blow and the snow swirls, the warmth of this happening was a joy to everyone who attended.

Coming together, being welcomed and actively engaged, was indeed rewarding for us all, especially when we observed the joy displayed by children of all ages.

Why is it that children are often excluded from what is perceived as something for adults only?

Why is it that video stores do such a brisk trade at weekends?

Images of passive, zombi-like children contrast strongly to those at Divali who were expressive, active and energized.

Children are often absent outside during the long frigid dark winter days — but go to the new Canada Winter Games Centre.

There you will discover children and adults everywhere, engaged in a variety of sports from indoor soccer to skating, badminton, indoor track walking and jogging.

Also the well-equipped swimming pool provides a variety of water activities. This diversified recreational facility is well serviced by public transport.

The physical well being of all children, families and grandparents, is a priority of this all-encompassing recreational complex.

What endowment of experiences are we leaving for our children? What is our responsibility?

Of course we need to recognize who we are in the lives of our children.

We need to ensure that we too can continue to refresh ourselves, thus replenishing our passionate beliefs and values about the truth of childhood.

For me, the daily walks I took on the Copper Ridge trail provided an opportunity to be reflective — to be grateful that I could still traverse through the forest, look out over the marsh to the snowcapped mountains in the far distance and listen to the sound of silence.

Terms “endowment of experiences” and “endowed with experiences” are quotes from Ellen Frankson, Sechelt, BC

June Meyer

Sechelt, BC