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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2012

Embarrassed by ‘drivel … poppycock’

After reading “Indigenous Know­ledge Can Enrich Our Campuses” (President’s Column, Bulletin, January 2012) my emotions shifted from incomprehension and disbelief to utter embarrassment.

We learn from Kwakiutl law professor Maxine Matilpi and Wayne Peters that “Indigenous knowledge is embedded within a sense of community. It is gained and passed on by doing. It is experiential, embodied, recursive, fun, and in the pre­sence of elders.” Could they perhaps explain what any of these claims means? “It also encompasses, in a holistic way, a respect and appreciation for the metaphysical world tied closely to the physical one.” What are we scholars at universities suppo­sed to learn when we are instructed by an engineer to gain insights into the metaphysical world by a holistic method?

Truly baffling and scary is the request that “a full-scale transformation in thinking is needed so that indigenous knowledge is seen to come from a position of strength.” What does it mean that my training and my career as a scholar require a “full-scale transformation in thinking”? Is it to accommodate the raven or bear? It boggles one’s mind to realize that a contemporary academic, let alone the president of CAUT, dares prattle such drivel.

“Promoting and advancing the foundations of indigenous know­ledge is … a significant act of empowerment by aboriginal people.” Has our president never read a single university mission statement to know that the university’s function is to research and to disseminate knowledge, not to empower privileged social or racial groups? Women’s departments, of course, are guilty of the same betrayal of the university’s mandate. Empowerment, he should know, is the mandate of political parties, lobbyists and unions.

If any upcoming president’s column prints one more sample of such unmitigated poppycock, I want CAUT to mercifully drop my name from its membership. Political correctness is indeed a grotesque abuse of the mind.

Heinz Klatt
Professor Emeritus of Psychology
King’s University College
University of Western Ontario

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