As a university student, I’ve been conditioned to view education as the consumption of knowledge. Academic success is achieved through the accumulation and retention of formulae, principles, and theories. It’s akin to a banking system: my professors lend me their knowledge; I invest my time through studying, and then make repayments through assignments and tests.
Yet as I exit the site of a final exam, the concepts I’ve learned over a semester begin to fade, and they recede to become a handful of ideas which amount to little more than trivia.
The opportunity cost of something is what you give up to get it. (Economics 201)
Thomas King’s short story “Totem” is a veiled commentary on Canada’s failure to include Aboriginals in the country’s multicultural identity. (English 231)
Retention of something depends on its application. Language, or any other skill, follows this rule. Admittedly, I’ve no recollection of communication theories or the way Euler paths and circuits operate. I certainly got the grades I wanted when I was tested on these topics, but what actual value was derived if I can’t recall the knowledge that once occupied my trains of thought? Why do I remember the small details and not the big concepts? When I ask myself these questions, I get cynical.
Fortunately, I’m participating in ucalgarycares as a member of the Indigenous Leadership and Engagement team: I’ve been involved with a series of workshops which focus on Aboriginal ways of knowing. I discovered last week that education, from an Aboriginal perspective, is the renewal of what one already knows. Education either confirms or adjusts what already exists. In this light, I realize that it’s OK to not recall academic concepts.
Ask me about principles of business, and I’ll just talk about how people respond to incentives.
Ask me about communication theories, and I’ll just talk about how humans are social beings.
Ask me about English literature, and I’ll just talk about the power of words and how language is divine.
As trains of thought pass through during my stay in university, not all of them are destined for a return trip. But each one does have an impact on my perspective either through affirmation or alteration. What remains is what resonates; what resonates is what remains.