IMPROVING EDUCATION THROUGH DIALOGUE A N D ORAL TRADITION: BRIDGING COLONIZATION AND C U L T U R A L DIFFERENCE BETWEEN O K A N A G A N STUDENTS, PARENTS, COMMUNITY A N D NON-ABORIGINAL SCHOOL LEADERS by M A R K M A C D O U G A L L EDWARDS B. A., Carleton University, 1984 M.T.S., The Vancouver School of Theology, 1989 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF T H E REQUIREMENTS FOR T H E DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (Educational Studies) T H E UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 2007 © Mark MacDougall Edwards, 2007 A B S T R A C T This study is a response to the inadequacy of education processes and outcomes for Aboriginal students, and particularly Okanagan students. It builds on the premise that the failure of mainstream Canadian schools to meet the educational needs of Okanagan students is a consequence of the distance between schools and community created by colonization and cultural difference. This study proposed to find ways to bridge this distance. It takes its initial insight from a process in which Okanagan students, families, and Elders successfully connected with non-Aboriginal educators. From this process emerged the recognition of the importance of understanding, relationships, and communication processes for bridging distance. This historic process further induced the development of a theory based upon conceptions of dialogue—Gadamer (2002), Buber (1970), and Freire (2000)—and Aboriginal oral traditions—as theorized by Archibald (1997), Sterling (1997), Lightning (1992), Armstrong (1996), and Hart (1997). The study's purposes were two-fold: use a dialogic process to determine how to improve understanding, relationship, and communication between Okanagan students, families, community and non-Aboriginal school leaders; and enact and test the induced theory by implementing it as research method. Thirty-five volunteers, including Okanagan students, parents, educators, Aboriginal educators, and non-Aboriginal educators, participated in two interview-conversations followed by conversations for feedback on representations of their meanings in subsequent study drafts. The study enabled remarkable conversations and a concomitant growth of understanding and relationships. The enacted theory worked, and was augmented by significant discoveries regarding shared emancipatory purpose and participant agency resulting in the revised PURC-A framework. Participants' perspectives on improving understanding, relationships, and communication processes included deeper understanding of Okanagan culture, history, and tradition, greater knowledge of the situations of Okanagan students and families, and commitment to the self-work necessary to become aware of the prejudices that constitute one's consciousness. Respect and trust were found essential. Many suggestions for improving the education of Okanagan students emerged. With courage, sincerity, and passion, participants in this study make public silenced criticisms, perspectives, and dreams. Their voices—this study—constitute a provocative and generative moment in the on-going transformative conversation that will improve education for Okanagan students. - iii -T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S ABSTRACT ii T A B L E OF CONTENTS iv LIST OF TABLES x LIST OF FIGURES xi PREFACE xii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS xiii DEDICATION xiv CHAPTER 1: Introduction 1 Introduction 1 A need for change 2 Why public schools fail Aboriginal students 5 A basis for change—understanding, relationships, and communication 9 CHAPTER 2: Seeking A Gathering Place For Authentic Meeting 13 Bridging colonization and cultural difference 13 A call for dialogue from four directions 15 But what is dialogue? Theorizing from within my tradition 18 Understanding: Fusion of horizons 20 Seeing one's horizon 21 Acknowledging another's horizon: Putting on another's shoes 27 When horizon's meet: A process of understanding 28 Openness 29 Dialogue as a process of coming to an understanding 31 Dialogue is understanding 33 Relation: Telos of and condition for dialogue 34 Openness in a context of oppression 36 Dialogue is relation 39 Shared Purpose: A condition for openness and dialogue 39 Communication: Processes that facilitate dialogue 40 Dialogue as Living System 42 Acknowledging an Aboriginal, Okanagan horizon 43 History, situatedness, and tradition 43 Aboriginal oral traditions 47 Spilaxem, story work, and mutual thinking 48 - iv -The talking circle and the Okanagan concept of "communing" 52 Summary of Aboriginal oral traditions 53 When horizons meet: A process for improving understanding, relationships, and communication 54 Aboriginal oral traditions and dialogue: A theoretical framework comes into view ....55 Purpose, understanding, relation, and communication (PURC) 59 CHAPTER 3: Hearing Others' Voices: Dialogue And Oral Tradition As Research Method 61 Beginnings—location, dialogue, colonization, reflexivity, and doubt 61 Representation and voice 64 So what happened? 67 Participants join in 67 Students—9 conversations with 9 students 68 Parents—15 conversations with 8 parents 69 Aboriginal educators—20 conversations with 10 Aboriginal educators 70 Non-Aboriginal school leaders—15 conversations with four non-Aboriginal school leaders and four non-Aboriginal educators 71 35 participants 72 61 conversations 73 Locations and numbers 75 The #%@A*! tape recorder (operator) 75 Checking understanding through summary and transcription 76 Transcriptions 78 Analysis and interpretation: grouping 79 Analysis and interpretation: each conversation 80 Drafting, analyzing, and interpreting 82 Check back 86 Findings, implications, and conclusions 87 Giving back (reciprocity) and control 87 Study delimitations and limitations 88 CHAPTER 4: Students' Perspectives 90 Conversations with students 90 Understanding 92 Understanding as a process of gaining knowledge 92 Understand what? 102 Understand Okanagan culture, tradition, identity 103 Understand racism 107 Understand our lives 117 Understand what will make for a good education 120 Understand students' self-sufficiency 127 Understanding as a means of supporting students 129 A working relation 130 A relation of care 130 - v -A relation of regard 132 A relation of response ability 135 Communication 139 Reflections on this study's dialogical approach with students 141 CHAPTER 5: Okanagan Parents' Perspectives 142 Conversations with parents 142 A journey of time, of destinations, and of many pathways 143 Section 1: What non-Aboriginal educators and non-Aboriginal school leaders need to understand 147 Understand our historic journey ; 147 Tradition, culture, and language 147 Residential school 152 Public school 156 The past is present 161 Non-Aboriginal educators and school leaders need to understand where we are now 163 The colonizing continues: racism 163 The colonizing continues: deficit thinking 167 The colonizing continues: parents are not heard 171 The colonizing continues: parents are not included 173 The First Nations advocate 176 General appreciation for the Advocate role 176 Criticisms of the Advocate role 177 What would make the Advocate's role more effective? 179 Section 2: Destinations and ways to get to them 181 Respond to the present past 182 Further destinations 184 Pathways to get there 188 Learning processes of Okanagan children 189 Connecting parents and educators 195 What parents thought other parents need to know 199 Possible ameliorative actions as responses 204 Annual conference 204 Shared projects and "thick" communication situations 206 A retreat 209 High school counselors in elementary school 211 An Okanagan mentor 213 The heart of the journey 214 CHAPTER 6: Aboriginal Educators' Perspectives 215 Conversations with Okanagan and Aboriginal educators 215 Section 1: Understanding 216 The importance, challenges, and possibilities of Okanagan Nation identity 217 Okanagan history, territory, families, language, spirituality, culture 218 - vi -Colonization, oppression, parents, the residential school, internal dissension, politics, reserve life, and racism 224 Racism is a pressing concern 233 Deficit thinking, unconscious prejudice, Canadian colonizing racist narrative 238 Okanagan Nation identity: self-determination, pride, and personal agency 245 Understand the importance of Elders 247 Understand Okanagan parents 248 Understand Okanagan students 252 Role of the Advocate 256 Challenges of the role 258 Non-Aboriginal educators and school leaders 260 Okanagan responsive education processes 263 Six themes of an Okanagan-responsive education process 266 Classroom discoveries 268 Beyond the classroom 269 Change process 272 Section 2: Relationships 272 Challenges 273 Relations Aboriginal educators seek 274 Relations of note 277 Nurturing positive relations 278 Processes for positive relations 279 Section 3: Communication 281 Ways to improve communication 283 CHAPTER 7: Non-Aboriginal School Leaders' Perspectives 288 Conversations with non-Aboriginal school leaders and educators 288 Relationships 290 Sorts of relations 291 Building relations 296 Challenges 297 Relationships—summary 300 Understanding 301 Challenges 302 "Success?" 303 Parent involvement 3 03 Racism 305 Allegations of racism 306 Politics 313 Limits to understanding 314 Ways forward 315 Preparing new non-Aboriginal school leaders 315 What Okanagan parents should know 316 Parent anger 318 Increasing Okanagan student agency 319 - vii -Understanding—summary 319 Communication 320 Difficult communication : 321 Established communication processes 323 Suggestions to improve communication 327 Pro-active and positive 327 Location, roles, projects 327 Focus groups, mentors, and an annual conference 329 Communication—summary 332 Non-Aboriginal school leaders: Frustration and hope 333 CHAPTER 8: Discoveries and New Destinations 334 Study summary 334 A telling of narratives: A fusion of horizons 336 Enacting the PURC theory as research process—My experience 337 Testing the PURC theory as research process—Discoveries 341 PURC-A: An improved conceptual framework 343 From silenced to voiced: Private to public: Oral to text: Safe to captured? 346 Improving understanding, relationships, and communication: Discoveries 347 Improving understanding 347 Improving relationships 350 Improving communication 352 Reconsidering the literature: Reflections on the application of theory 354 Conclusion 362 REFERENCE LIST 365 APPENDIX 1: Outline for Conversations with Okanagan and Aboriginal Participants 375 APPENDIX 2: Outline for Conversations with Non-Aboriginal School Leaders and Educators 377 APPENDIX 3: Outline for Second Conversations 379 APPENDIX 4: Consent Form 380 APPENDIX 5: Ownership and Control Concerns 382 APPENDIX 6: Improving the Educational Processes of Okanagan Students 385 - viii -APPENDIX 7: Okanagan Studies Program and Portfolio 400 APPENDIX 8: Annual Conference Proposal 402 APPENDIX 9: Sterling-Collins (2001) Revisited 403 APPENDIX 10: After Thoughts for Community and District 407 APPENDIX 11: Behavioral Research Ethics Board Approval 410 Behavioral Research Ethics Board Certificate of Approval 411 - ix -L I S T O F T A B L E S T A B L E 1: Summary of concepts represented in the PURC framework 60 T A B L E 2: Student participants 69 T A B L E 3: Parent participants 70 T A B L E 4: Okanagan and Aboriginal educators 71 T A B L E 5: Non-Aboriginal school leaders and educators 72 - x -L I S T O F F I G U R E S FIGURE 1: Purpose, understanding, relationship and communication as living system 43 FIGURE 2: Graphic representation of PURC conceptual framework 58 FIGURE 3: PURC-A conceptual framework 345 FIGURE 4: Weave of proposed themes to improve the educational processes of Okanagan students 387 - xi -P R E F A C E At the heart of this study are a series of private dialogues with people deeply concerned to improve the lives of Okanagan students. We all knew that you would be joining our dialogue, that you would read our words someday. Yet, the making public of these private conversations is not without risk and anxiety. Our context holds historic antagonisms and antipathies that remind us of the possibility of harm. So, I would ask that you join us, if you can, in the spirit of dialogue that allowed us to open up to each other and share the narratives and truths that unfold in these pages. Our conversations were marked by deep respect and care for one another, acknowledgement of our differences, and a passionate commitment to our shared purposes: improving understanding, relationships, communication processes between Okanagan students, families, community and non-Aboriginal educators; and ultimately improving the educational processes of Okanagan students. Please join us. - xii -A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S This study is the result of the remarkable collaboration of 35 participants who gave extensively of their time, and with courage and sincerity shared of their lives and voiced their perspectives. To each of you I turn and acknowledge your kindness, your trust, and your faith that together we could create something that would make a difference for Okanagan students. I acknowledge that my words here do not do justice to the strength of your thinking nor the depth of your wisdom; there is much more that needs to be said. I look forward to advancing our conversations and working together in the years ahead. I wish to acknowledge the Band and the School District for their permission to conduct this study. Their gracious support, personified by their respective representatives, facilitated the process of this study tremendously. There were many whose friendship carried me across the years of this work: John, Michael, Anish, Laurie, Erica, Bob, Jennifer, Bill, Pat, Eric, Melanie, Bernie, Jeff, Carol, Corine. Thank you each of you for your care and for inspiring me with your examples and your hopes for this work. The academic journey that has culminated in this dissertation was profoundly guided by Dr. Jo-ann Archibald, Dr. David Coulter, and Dr. Carolyn Shields. This was a difficult journey; I was not the easiest of students. I am grateful to you for your thoughtful and challenging guidance, your knowledge and expertise, and ultimately for not giving up. Finally I turn to my family and acknowledge your tremendous sacrifices and your love. I could not have done this without you. But this work has taken our time, taken from our lives together. Was it worth it? I hope one day we may say yes. - xiii -D E D I C A T I O N This study is dedicated to Okanagan students, families, communities, and the educators who serve them. - xiv -C H A P T E R 1 Introduction My name is Mark MacDougall Edwards. My ancestors came to what became Canada between 1776 and 1880 from the United States as loyalists, from Scotland, from Ireland, from England, and the latest as immigrants from Germany. My ancestors thrived in this land and took pride in the country they created with others. My ancestors thus share in the responsibility for the policies and the practices that impoverished the Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, that seized territory, confined Aboriginal Peoples to economically inadequate Reservations, sought to destroy Aboriginal cultures, and assimilate Aboriginal Peoples into the British/European civilization. I was born in the traditional territory of the Blackfoot. I was raised in the territory of the Musqueam and the Okanagan. I moved my young family back to the territory of the Okanagan to farm and to begin a teaching career. Our farm bordered on the Reserve of the Okanagan people who joined me in this study. We were neighbours, and we depended on each other as country neighbours will do. The Okanagan were excluded from the creek, the forest, the fields and the abundant wildlife of our farm in about 1896 to make way for settlers. I loved teaching in high school. Being vice principal at Beta secondary was one of the most challenging, rewarding, frustrating, fulfilling things I have ever done. We worked hard and as a staff we were proud of our school. About 36% of Aboriginal students graduated while I was working there. I engaged in this study because I thought my experience and position as a former administrator might be of use to the Okanagan students, families and community who were - 1 -my neighbours, and of use to the educators and leaders of the school district who were my colleagues. I have high regard for all of these people, and I thought that working together we might be able to make a significant difference for Okanagan children. I hypothesized that my learning, coming from my White, mostly Anglo Canadian background, would be useful to other educators who share the same cultural location, and to the Aboriginal students whom they serve. I also engaged in this study because my ancestors have left a debt unpaid. A Need for Change That educational processes must improve for Okanagan students, and Aboriginal students in British Columbia and Canada generally is well documented. Most educators point to extremely low graduation rates to make this point. In British Columbia for the year 2003/2004, 46% of self-declared Aboriginal students graduated within six years of entering high school, and the average for the previous five years was 43% (BC Ministry of Education, 2005). These figures are well below the provincial average of 80%. The numbers of Aboriginal students successfully completing upper level academic courses such as Math, Biology, or English emphasizes this disparity. One Aboriginal student for every five non-Aboriginal students successfully completed Math 12 (BC Ministry of Education, 2005).1 One Aboriginal student for every 2.7 non-Aboriginal students successfully completed Biology 12 (BC Ministry of Education, 2005).2 One Aboriginal student for every 1.8 Non-Aboriginal 1 This statistic is derived from taking the province wide participation rates and success rates of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students over the period 1999/2000-2003/2004, and averaging these respective rates over the 5 year period. 8% of Aboriginal students attempted math 12 and 6% of Aboriginal students successfully completed this course during this period. 35% of Non-Aboriginal students attempted math 12 and 30% successfully completed it. 212.4% of Aboriginal students attempted Biology 12 with 8.5% successfully completing it. 29% of non-Aboriginal students attempted this course with 23% successfully completing it. Again these are province-wide averages over 5 years. - 2 -students successfully completed English 12 (BC Ministry of Education, 2005). If the something near 50% of all Aboriginal students already excluded from these ratios (43% graduate versus 80% of non-Aboriginal students) are included, the ratios become one Aboriginal student succeeds for every nine non-Aboriginal students in Math, for every five in Biology, and for every 3.4 in English. In British Columbia, K - 12 public schools are not succeeding with Aboriginal students. In the school district of our study, the numbers tell a slightly more positive story, one that shows an improving trend over the past five years. In 1999/2000 only 40% of Aboriginal students graduated, while in 2003/2004 55% did. The five-year average was 53%, well above the provincial average (School District Report, 2006). The five-year average over the same period for non-Aboriginal students was 85%. However the ratio of Aboriginal students completing English 12, 1 to 3.1, was significantly lower than the provincial average. The math completion rate (4.7%) was also below the provincial average, though the ratio to non-Aboriginal students was the same. When one factors in the improved graduation rates, and therefore, the greater number of Aboriginal students participating in school, one Aboriginal student for every 4.7 non-Aboriginal students completes English 12, and one for every 6.4 completes Math 12. These figures would indicate greater success in keeping Aboriginal students in school, but a roughly similar picture (worse in English, better in Math) when considering academic achievement. But clearly, there is much work yet to do. There are other indicators that educational processes have been failing Aboriginal students. An Aboriginal person in Canada is, proportionally, more likely to commit suicide (Centre for Suicide Prevention, 2003; Chandler, 1998; Coulthard, 1999; RCAP, 1995, White 3 38.8% of Aboriginal students attempted English 12 with 35.4% completing it. 68.6% of non-Aboriginal students attempted English 12 with 63% completing it. Again these are province-wide averages over 5 years. - 3 -& Rouse, 1997), more likely to be unemployed (RCAP, 1996), less likely to attend post-secondary education (RCAP, 1996), more likely to experience poor health, more likely to live in poverty (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2001), and more likely to commit a crime or be the victim of crime than a person from any other sector of the Canadian population (Brzozowski, et al., 2006; Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2001). I take these facts as indicative that the educational processes available to Aboriginal children in British Columbia are not working well. And there are still other indicators. Aboriginal languages continue to decline with several teetering on extinction (Battiste, 2001; RCAP, 1996; Nicholas, 2001). Nicholas (2001) observes that this decline has accelerated in the past 30 years even with the call for a focus on First Nations control of education and a commitment to competence in Aboriginal cultures and mainstream society (National Indian Brotherhood, 1972; RCAP, 1996). Along with the decline of languages there is an increasing sense of urgency among Aboriginal Peoples to connect First Nations children with their culture (Battiste, 2000; Nicholas, 2001; RCAP, 1996). The failure to support the sustainability of First Nations cultures and communities is a further indictment of the educational processes provided to Aboriginal children. In summary, poor outcomes in public schools, unhealthy and impoverished personal life chances, and weak competency development for participation in Indigenous cultures, all are indicative of a need to improve educational processes for Aboriginal children. Why Public Schools Fail Aboriginal Students Education must affirm Aboriginal people as members of historical nations with distinctive cultures, while equipping them to reach out and participate in a global society. The authentic self-expression of Aboriginal people, as individuals and collectivities, must be heard in councils and public media and seen in history books, art galleries and on ceremonial occasions, signaling that the phase of displacement and denial of their presence in Canada has been put behind us forever. (RCAP, 1996, p. 2) I submit that the failure of public schools to provide appropriate educational processes for Aboriginal students comes down to the public education system's failure to engage two interrelated but distinct realities: the genuine differences between Western and Aboriginal cultures, and the historical and on-going colonization of First Nations Peoples by Western, and specifically Canadian and British Columbian societies. Indigenous Peoples in North America, or "Turtle Island" (Mitchell, 1998), had been flourishing societies for millennia before contact with Europeans (RCAP, 1996). Such an ancient history developed complex knowledge and practices that enabled survival and cultural continuance across hundreds of generations. It should be no great surprise then that Indigenous Peoples evolved distinct worldviews and cultures different from European or Western Peoples (Alfred, 1999; Battiste, 2000; Bishop & Glynn, 1999; Brown, 2004; Cajete, 2000; Cohen, 1998; Hampton, 1995; Henderson, 2000; RCAP, 1996; Smith, 1999; Sterling, 1997). This is certainly true of the Okanagan People (Armstrong, 1996; Cohen, 1998; Carstens, 1991; Louis, 2002; Maracle, 1994; Teit & Boas, 1973). Indigenous worldviews are manifested in oral tradition, language, culture, values, economy, epistemology, spirituality— in short in all aspects of human being/living. The knowledges and practices of these ways of being have been generally absent from K - 12 education.4 4 This remains true even after the Royal Commission on Education in 1988 called for a dramatic change in educational processes for Aboriginal students (1988). However, it is important to acknowledge that several steps were made from 1991-1996 to begin to address this deficit. These included the institution of Aboriginal targeted funding, the development of a mandatory First Nations unit in grade 4, and the development of First -5 -The absence of these knowledges and practices is a consequence of the second reality which schools have failed to appropriately engage: the historical and on-going colonization of Aboriginal Peoples by Canadian society. It was the intended policy of Canadian governments from Confederation to at least the 1969 federal White Paper to assimilate5 First Nations people (RCAP, 1996; Milloy, 1999; Miller, 1996). John A. MacDonald announced that it would be his governments' goal to "do away with the tribal system, and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the inhabitants of the Dominion" (RCAP, 1996d, Policies of Domination and Assimilation). Of the first Indian Act (1876), the Department of Interior Annual Report noted: Our Indian legislation generally rests on the principle that the Aborigines are to be kept in a condition of tutelage and treated as wards or children of the state... It is clearly our wisdom and our duty, through education and other means, to prepare him for a higher civilization by encouraging him to assume the privileges and responsibilities of full citizenship (Report on RCAP, 1996d, Policies of Domination and Assimilation). "Full citizenship" did not mean remaining Aboriginal. The Indian Act(s) (1876, 1880, 1884), ostensibly created to protect the rights of Aboriginal peoples, established the state's legal authority and were used as means of control. This policy was built on the racist premise that Europeans were superior to Aboriginal people (Francis, 1997; Milloy, 1999; Willinsky, 1998). British Columbia premier Smithe reflected this prejudice clearly when he stated to a meeting of Nisga'a and Tsimishian chiefs Nations Studies 12, an elective course that has been instituted in some British Columbia high schools. More recently the provincial government has insisted on the negotiation of Learning Enhancement Agreements between Aboriginal communities and the school districts which serve them. 5 Assimilate and colonize are simple words whose devastating meanings can be missed in their innocuousness. They represent a vast spectrum of practices and actions—aggressive and passive, overt and covert, violent and pacifiying—all intended to erase Aboriginal Peoples and their culture and that left no aspect of an Aboriginal person's collective or personal lifeworlds unaffected. "Assimilate" and "colonize" entail domination, subjugation, oppression—all justified by racist notions of superiority. - 6 -in 1887 "When the whites first came among you, you were little better than the wild beasts of the field." (Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, 1993, p. 3). Education was the primary instrument of this policy through residential schools (Miller, 1996; Milloy, 1999; RCAP, 1996), through educational programs set up to educate for inequality (Barman, 2003) and through schools' de facto enactment of assimilation via "cognitive imperialism" (Battiste & Henderson, 2000; Battiste, 2000) and displacement (if only Eurocentric knowledges and practices are taught, and if only these are deemed important, eventually Aboriginal knowledges and practices will become irrelevant to children). The intent and the effect of Canadian education processes on Aboriginal Peoples has been described as "cultural genocide" (RCAP, 1996). The violence inflicted on persons and families by educational processes that forcibly took children from parents beginning at age five for a period of ten months at a time, which instilled a profound sense of inferiority in all, and which brutally destroyed the well-being of many, is a matter of public record (Ing, 2000; Miller, 1996; Milloy, 1999; RCAP, 1996; Secwepemc Cultural Society, 2000). It is remarkable that Aboriginal Peoples continue to exist and is testament to their resilience, resistance and adaptation (Christian, 2000; Haig-Brown, 1988, 1996; Secwepemc Cultural Society, 2000). It is also remarkable that non-Aboriginal Canadian society has remained, until very recently (taking the first minister's meeting of October, 2005 as testament to a growing public awareness), quite ignorant of Aboriginal Peoples and of the racism which has guided Canadian policy making since Confederation. This ignorance certainly may, in part, be attributed to an educational system that provided history and current events only from the colonizer's perspective (Francis, 1997), and provided little knowledge of Aboriginal People (RCAP, 1996). But further, as legal historian Constance Backhouse (1999) noted, in Canada racism has been hidden by a "stupefying innocence" and a successful national "mythology of racelessness" (1999, p. 14). Combine these with the unabashed sense of entitlement6 that accrued to all who were indoctrinated into the master narratives of British superiority and the grandness of the British Empire (Francis, 1997), or the supremacy of Eurocentric science and technology that somehow imparted cultural superiority (Battiste, 2000), and one has some basis to understand Backhouses' observation that "the use of racial hierarchy to foster privilege and maintain subordination is remarkably similar across past decades" (1999, p. 11). The ignorance of this racist discourse amongst non-Aboriginal Canadians, even as we (I include myself in this) enact it, is a significant part of why public schools have failed to engage Aboriginal culture, or to engage the effects of 150 years of attempted assimilation. In 1972 the National Indian Brotherhood stated categorically that education must change. Indian Control of Indian Education (1972) articulated a new vision of education that would counter the oppressive, colonizing educational practices of the previous hundred years and revitalize Aboriginal cultures. The Royal Commission (1996) re-iterated this vision: They want education to prepare them to participate fully in the economic life of their communities and in Canadian society. But this is only part of their vision. Presenters told us that education must develop children and youth as Aboriginal citizens, linguistically and culturally competent to assume the responsibilities of their nations. Youth that emerge from school must be grounded in a strong, positive Aboriginal identity. Consistent with Aboriginal traditions, education must develop the whole child intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically, (p. 1) This vision poses the challenge for schools set out at the start of this section most clearly: find a way to move beyond the racist experiences of 130 plus years of colonizing Canadian education and bring to life in each Aboriginal child his or her respective, distinct culture. And simultaneously, prepare students to "participate fully in the economic life of their 6 George Frederickson (1997) refers to this sense of entitlement as the "hardcore of racism" because this sense of entitlement legitimized the sense of superiority over others no matter what the basis for discriminating. - 8 -communities and in Canadian society." Importantly for public schools, this vision expresses a fundamental tension: Aboriginal students must be able to participate fully in both Aboriginal and Canadian societies. Not either/or, but both. In order to achieve this vision, which I believe is foundational to improving educational processes for Aboriginal students, First Nations communities, families, and students and non-Aboriginal educators must find ways to work together to mutually redefine education. A Basis for Change—Understanding, Relationships, and Communication Non-Aboriginal ignorance of cultural difference and colonization distance public schools from Aboriginal communities. Generations of negative experiences with schooling have further distanced Aboriginal Peoples limiting their effective knowledge of school systems. There is a need for greater understanding between non-Aboriginal educators and Aboriginal Peoples, if they are to work together. Relations have been corrupted by racism, assumptions of superiority / inferiority, exclusion, oppression, and economic destitution. New relations are needed. Historically, non-Aboriginal society and schools have communicated what works for them without hearing the Aboriginal response. Schools have communicated what is good for Aboriginal students. One-way communication processes have worked to strengthen or maintain ignorance and exclusion. Communication processes must also change. Considering understanding, relationships, and communication as the basis for change in this context arose from an experience with Okanagan families and educators while working as a vice-principal at Beta secondary. My early reflections on this experience led 7 Beta is a pseudonym for the secondary school of this study. The school had a student population of about 900. 6 - 7% are Okanagan students. Alpha is a pseudonym for the elementary school of this study. Alpha had a student population of about 230 students, and approximately 24% are Okanagan students (2003 conversation - 9 -me to theorize that it was its dialogic nature that enabled a successful bridging across colonization and cultural difference. When I thought about taking this idea back to the community to investigate this further, my research into dialogue led me to believe that particular sorts of understanding, relationship and communication were essential dimensions constitutive of dialogic events.81 then found support for these themes, though not necessarily together, in the Aboriginal change literature (Bishop & Glynn, 1999; National Indian Brotherhood, 1972; RCAP, 1996; Smith, 1999), and in the leadership and school leadership literature (Donaldson, 2001; Fullan, 1999, 2001; Gardner, 1990; Greenleaf, 1991; Schein, 1992; Senge, 1990). Thus, I proposed raising three primary questions with study participants: What would improve communication? What would improve understanding? What would improve working relationships? The title of the research project that I proposed to participants stated just this. It was: Improving Communication, Understanding, and Working Relationships between Okanagan Students, Parents, Community and non-Aboriginal School Leaders. Answers to these questions, I conjectured, would give a strong basis for working together for change. Thus seeking answers to these questions became one of the purposes of this study. A second purpose was to enact and test the very theory proposed to improve communication, understanding, and relationships by implementing it as research method. If participants and I were indeed able to improve communication, understanding, and relationships between us, the process that enabled this to occur would itself be an important discovery. The conversations that resulted with Okanagan students, parents, educators, Aboriginal educators, and non-Aboriginal school leaders and school educators were with principal). Both schools have a history of non-Aboriginal school leaders that included the period of the research study. 81 will elaborate on this further in Chapter 2. - 10-remarkable. I have organized the major themes of these conversations into the four "data" chapters. Chapter four presents Okanagan student perspectives. Chapter five presents Okanagan parent perspectives. Chapter six presents the perspectives of Okanagan and Aboriginal educators. Chapter seven presents the perspectives of non-Aboriginal school leaders and educators. Their length and detail, though not initially intended, result from an important discovery. In the process of these conversations, Aboriginal oral tradition and world views became increasingly obvious as very significant to any bridging process. As a consequence, the literature review, which was drafted after the four data chapters were completed, reflects a further engagement with Aboriginal oral tradition. This helped give needed research and theoretical context to the findings, and to the unanticipated length of the study. Of particular note, was the realization that the narratives shared by Okanagan participants were inherently of value to a community that is just beginning to gather its understandings of education, and were equally valuable for a non-Aboriginal community that is just beginning to open itself to understanding the lived experience of Okanagan people. The depth and range of narratives were a remarkable and unexpected outcome of our shared inquiry about improving communication, understanding, and relationships. Another unexpected outcome was the clear articulation of a third purpose for the study by participants as the study progressed. Although our stated purpose was to improve communication, understanding and relationships with a hoped outcome of improving education for Okanagan students, many Okanagan participants were clearly in the study to improve educational processes for Okanagan students and they thought communication, understanding and relationships were important too. Thus, the perspectives chapters include participants' thoughtful views on how the educational processes of Okanagan students may be improved, as well as on how communication, understanding, and relationships may be improved. This participant re-shaping of purpose was itself a significant discovery, and it marks an evolution in the communication, understanding, relationship dialogic framework that resulted while analyzing our conversations. By study's end, this framework had expanded to include purpose, elements of Aboriginal Oral tradition, and a recognition of the importance of participant agency. - 12-CHAPTER 2 Seeking A Gathering Place for Authentic Meeting Symbolically, the Sacred Tree represents a gathering place for the many different tribes and peoples of the world. The Sacred Tree provides a place of protection in the world, a place of peace, contemplation, and centering. Like our mother's womb, which provided nourishment and protection during the earliest days of our life, the Sacred Tree may be thought of as a womb of protection which gives birth to our values and potentialities as unique human beings. (Bopp, Bopp, Brown, and Lane, 1984, p. 22) In a successful conversation they both come under the influence of the truth of the object and are thus bound to one another in a new community. To reach an understanding in a dialogue is not merely a matter of putting oneself forward and successfully asserting one's own point of view, but being transformed into a communion in which we do not remain what we were. (Gadamer, 2002, p. 379) Bridging Colonization and Cultural Difference Cultural difference, colonization, and non-Aboriginal ignorance of these, distance public schools from Aboriginal communities. While I was working as vice principal at Beta, there evolved a sequence of events that, in retrospect, bridged this distance. The heightened degree of engagement between non-Aboriginal school personnel and the Okanagan students, families, and community that resulted was startling. This sequence, now bundled together in my mind as a single process, was a "Eureka!" discovery. Making sense of what happened there and why it worked is the beginning place of this study-journey. The process had several stages. First, a planning relationship formed between an Okanagan educator/facilitator (Mr. Mitchell) and the vice principal (me). We shared a commitment to improve the learning situation for Okanagan students. Our shared planning resulted in a series of four one and a half hour sessions facilitated by Mr. Mitchell and attended by 11 Beta educators (teachers, administrators, and support teachers). Mr. Mitchell's partner joined in too. After working with the group for these four sessions, Mr. Mitchell felt - 13-that it would be worthwhile to organize a gathering of this study group with several Okanagan Elders, parents, Beta Okanagan students, and younger children.9 This session was followed by a professional development day for the whole Beta staff that began with an overview of the historical relationship between the settlers and the Okanagan People. This presentation was followed by a two hour talking circle session with half of the staff in the morning, and the remaining half in the afternoon. In all, the sequence of events spanned a period of about six months. Afterward, several teachers noted how powerful and important the professional development day had been for them. Participants in the Beta study group were thrilled by the gathering with Elders, parents, and children. I was impressed by the way in which the progression of meetings prepared participants to hear the Elders and parents and children during the gathering, and how the preparation and experience of this core group of staff made it possible for the whole staff to risk an authentic engagement with the topic of educating Aboriginal students. The experience created a new foundation for Beta to improve educational processes for Okanagan students in particular, and Aboriginal students in general. This foundation was composed of an improved capacity for Okanagan and Beta educators to connect with each other. I refer to that historic process as the "Beta Dialogue." In the years that followed, I have sought out the words and theories that could help make sense of it, and that might make the process meaningful to a larger audience. Early on my thinking found a theoretical home in the research about dialogue. We had talked about this as a possibility early on, but Mr. Mitchell had insisted that we "wait and see" if it was appropriate. - 14-A Call for Dialogue from Four Directions When I turned from my own experience to face the research winds of our times, it was difficult not to be swept up by the theoretical excitement around dialogue. Several Western philosophical trends seemed to have reached an impasse regarding the relativism of truth claims (Bernstein, 1983; Vokey, 2001). Claims to universal truth made by the grand narratives of European tradition—Christianity, Marxism, Capitalism, Western Imperialism, Enlightenment philosophy, Science—have been deconstructed and disrobed within the global intercultural, "post-colonial" (Fanon, 1977; Smith, 1999) and "post-modernist" (Foucault, 1995, 2000; McHoul and Grace, 1993; Robinson and Garratt, 1999) frame of the moment. Knowledge within this "post" paradigm is perceived as a social construction, mutable with history, frequently structured by power relationships serving particular interests (Burbules, 1993; Sidorkin, 1999). Apparently incommensurable pluralities have resulted. A significant outcome of this critical effort has been the validation of historically marginalized cultural epistemologies and traditions. Consequently, there is a need for engaging the distinct knowledge and ethical traditions that have emerged out of the shadows of the dominant European narratives. Dialogue presents itself as the vessel for this process, enabling engagement across potentially incommensurable differences (Burbules, 1993). Thus, for example, the Canadian Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) called for dialogue between First Nations Peoples and non-Aboriginal Canadians as a means to both recognize the distinctness of First Nations Peoples and to enable Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to begin connecting across their substantive differences. Levinas (1999) described the challenge of meeting the other in her/his difference as follows: - 15-The presence of persons in full force of their irreplaceable identity, in the full force of their inevitable responsibility. To recognize and name those insoluble substances and keep them from exploding in violence, guile or politics, to keep watch where conflicts tend to break out, a new religiosity and solidarity—is loving one's neighbour anything other than this? Not the facile, spontaneous elan, but the difficult working on oneself: to go toward the Other where he [she] is truly other, in the radical contradiction of their alterity. (pp. 87-88) Levinas' context is dialogue between religious communities that have truth claims not recognized by each other, and which therefore, stand incommensurably, if not antagonistically, apart on significant, "insoluble" issues. David Lockhead (1988), who also shares this inter-religion context, maintains that it becomes possible to engage the authentic differences between divergent religious traditions within dialogue because of its commitment for understanding the other authentically, within the other's own terms.10 Thus, sociological researchers such as Roman (1993) and Fine (1994) identify the necessity of processes that enable participants to have voice and speak their truths. Dialogue, from this direction, is a process for encountering truth claims, and in this encounter, also a furnace for the forging of new positions relative to these truth claims. From another direction, dialogue was being called upon by organizational and educational leadership theorists to improve the effectiveness of organizational performance. In particular, the widely influential work of Peter Senge (1990) promoted the discovery, and consequent theorizing, that organizations that develop internal dialogical processes become more creative and learn more effectively than typical scalar chain organizations, giving them a strong competitive advantage. Senge, working from empirical and theoretical work in dialogue by Bohm (1996), identified that in the process of dialogue participants let go of I consider the religious context as bearing some significant parallels to a cross-cultural/history of oppression context. These parallels include incommensurable truth claims, strongly held values and ethical norms, and histories of antagonism including attempts to dominate each other. Lochhead notes that religious traditions tend to manifest relations that at best tolerate, but at worst attempt to diminish or destroy other traditions. As a side note, this inter-religion dynamic would seem to be present, in varying degrees, in Aboriginal communities as Christianity and traditional spiritualities uncomfortably co-exist. -16-assumptions and were open to knowledge from other sources that otherwise would have been ignored. For Senge the dialogic working relation was a powerful corrective to the historic, stultifying limitations to communication imposed by the bureaucratic structuring of organizations. The further efforts of Senge (2000) and of Dufour (1998) and others advanced Senge's notion of dialogue within the K-l2 educational leadership context via their work on learning communities. Carolyn Shields (2003) advanced dialogue as a necessary response to the remarkable diversity inherent in schools. From a third direction, educational theorists were positing the significance of dialogue for learning. Burbules (1993), Palmer (1998), and Sidorkin (1999, 2002) all explored and established the powerful significance of dialogue for the teacher-student learning relation. In the dialogic classroom students bring their unique identities (culture, gender, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability) and their genuine questions to the learning moment and teachers respond to these questions authentically, openly, building knowledge together with the student from their particularity.11 As empirically demonstrated by Bishop et al. (2003), the learning outcomes of students, and in his research Indigenous students in particular, are improved. These theorists argue that the dialogic medium is also the message; that learning to be dialogical is an important educational outcome. The fourth direction called for dialogue in contexts of racism and oppression. The work of Paolo Freire (2000) remains the strongest and most influential statement of the importance of dialogue for situations of oppression. He argued that those who have been part of the oppressor community must meet the oppressed in genuine dialogue if they would be teachers with such communities, families, and students. African-American education scholars 1 1 There is a strong substantive connection between dialogic learning theory and constructivist learning theory, vis a vis, engaging the student's unique learning identity/location and the "zone of proximal dissonance" as described by Vygotsky (1978). - 17-such as Delpit (1993) and Ladson-Billings (1995) called for dialogue as a response to the failure of White educators to understand and engage the learning needs of African-American students. Lisa Delpit elaborated the potential of such a dialogic encounter for children in cross-cultural and oppressive situations when she said, And finally, we must learn to be vulnerable enough to allow our world to turn upside down in order to allow the realities of others to edge themselves into our consciousness... .Teachers are in an ideal position to play this role, to attempt to get all of the issues on the table in order to initiate true dialogue. This can only be done, however, by seeking out those whose perspectives may differ most, by learning to give their words complete attention, by understanding one's own power, even if that power stems merely from being in the majority, by being unafraid to raise questions about discrimination and voicelessness with people of color, and to listen, no, to hear what they say. I suggest that the results of such interactions may be the most powerful and empowering coalescence yet seen in the educational realm—for all teachers and for all the students they teach, (p. 101) Delpit dives down to the depths of what is meant by dialogue to surface that extraordinary human experience where through hearing and giving voice participants gain a profound new understanding of themselves and each other. This understanding is so powerful that participants are changed, and consequently the world they act in will also be changed. Her description is congruent with what I observed in the Beta Dialogue. Given my location as a non-Aboriginal educator, administrator, and graduate student concerned to bridge the distance between Aboriginal students, families, community and a non-Aboriginal school, one can see how strong winds from these four directions in the research literature would quickly snatch up my bundle of experiences and give them theoretical flight. From their work, dialogue emerged as an important concept for understanding the Beta experience. But What Is Dialogue? Theorizing from within My Tradition If the claims we are making here for dialogue are a cause for surprise to the reader, the reason may be that dialogue has been equated too exclusively with the conversational parts of a play. We think of it differently—as the serious address and response between two or more persons, in which the being and truth of each is - 18-confronted by the being and truth of the other. Dialogue, therefore, is not easy and comfortable to achieve, a fact which may explain why it occurs so rarely. And its rare occurrence accounts for the frequent absence of its benefits in our communication with one another. (Howe, 1963, p. 5) The Oxford dictionary (Sykes, 1986) defines dialogue as "conversation." However, as Howe states, the "dialogue" of interest to theoreticians, and to me, refers to conversation that distinguishes itself from chit chat by the depth of engagement it permits participants—"the being and truth of each is confronted by the being and truth of the other." Delpit (1993) observes that in this conversation the voiceless speak and are heard. Levinas (1999) notes how the absolute alterity of the other is encountered. Dialogue, or a species of dialogue, represents a profound experience. The Greek etymology of the word reveals a significant constellation of meanings. Dia is a preposition that meant "between," "across" or "through." Logos meant "word" or "speech" and also "thought," "reason," and "judgment" (Burbules, 1993, p. 15). Thus dialogue refers to a process where word, speech, reason, thought, judgment pass between, across, or through participants.12 The Socratic dialogues written by Plato exemplify the essence of this rich basket of definitions and connotations—through dialogue Plato examined the essential meanings of life. Across 2400 years of Western history, dialogue has carried forward the remarkable experience of engaging the essence of our human existence in conversation. There is no question that the Beta "dialogue" touched the core of my life, and moved others to reflect on their own. When I reflected on what occurred for me, three general 1 2 To this collection I would add the philosophical connotations attached to Logos by the philosophers of the Hellenistic period who used the term to refer to the fundamental order or Reason of the universe. This meaning was then taken up by the writer of John's Gospel who combined this philosophical connotation with the person of Jesus, equating Christ with the Logos. In both of these cases, the process of engaging the nature of reality, or the meaning of life, surfaces and gives basis for the theoretical appropriation of "dialogue" to describe "the serious address and response" that goes to the very heart of one's Logos or truth claims. - 19-themes caught my attention: understanding; relationship; and the communication structures (events) that had enabled them. My own understanding had increased. My relationships with Okanagan students, families, and leaders improved. This had happened through presentations about Okanagan history and experience (particularly during the past 150 years of colonization), deep listening, carefully planned interactions, and through structured conversations. I theorized that a successful dialogue of the sort I experienced would be signified by an increase in understanding among participants, and an improvement in their capacity to be in relationship with one another. And I speculated that if this was an effective means for improving understanding and relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada, then this was an important process worthy of further study. Understanding: Fusion of Horizons Don't judge another man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. (Ascribed to North American Aboriginal tradition. Source unknown) I have taken this traditional adage for most of my conscious life as expressing an important virtue—seek to understand before judging or acting. Here it symbolizes ironically our challenge, Aboriginal tradition expressing in English to an English speaking audience the necessity of putting on the life-world of an Aboriginal person in order to understand. I take it also as a time worn signifier of what understanding means: to understand is to experience or know life as another knows it. But if we do take this metaphor seriously, how do we then 'put on' another's moccasins? What are the conditions that enable understanding to occur within the human mind and heart, and between each other? What is the nature of understanding? For this study, I have drawn heavily from the work of Hans Georg Gadamer (2002) and his work on philosophical hermeneutics to develop a conceptual basis for making sense of 'understanding.' Although his primary goal in his work Truth and Method was to establish -20-the conditions which enable the understanding of traditionary texts, he developed a series of arguments and concepts that profoundly illuminate the process of understanding. He helps us begin the process of 'putting on' another's shoes by observing that we are an unremovable part of the process, For what do we mean by "transposing ourselves?" Certainly not just disregarding ourselves. This is necessary, of course, insofar as we must imagine the other situation. But into this other situation we must bring, precisely, ourselves. Only this is the full meaning of "transposing ourselves." If we put ourselves in someone else's shoes, for example, then we will understand him—i.e., become aware of the otherness, the indissoluble individuality of the other person—by putting ourselves in his position, (p. 305) In order to understand an other, we must first become aware of ourselves. Seeing One's Horizon Our prejudices "constitute the horizon of a particular present, for they represent that beyond which it is impossible to see" (Gadamer, 2002, p. 307). Gadamer (2002) makes the case that when we understand, we understand from our point of view. And, Gadamer says, in the process of understanding, the fact that we have a viewpoint is frequently invisible to us. In our understanding, which we imagine is so innocent because its results seem so self-evident, the other presents itself so much in terms of our own selves that there is no question of self and other, (p. 300) He argues that if we are truly to understand another we must become aware of our point of view and how it is influencing our engagement. To exemplify this reality, he restates the metaphor of the "horizon," which he notes was used by Nietzsche and others to "characterize the way in which thought is tied to its finite determinacy, and the way one's range of vision is gradually expanded" (p. 302). The metaphor aptly portrays that my knowledge of a particular subject is always limited, but that by gaining new knowledge—by moving—my horizon will extend. So, when I think back to my horizon regarding the Okanagan People during the first -21 -session of the Beta Dialogue, its small scope is breathtaking, and the process of the Dialogue extended this scope significantly. Gadamer (2002) makes the case that before I even engaged in understanding the topics of the Beta Dialogue, I approached them with a horizon, or consciousness. He argues that my consciousness was "fore-structured" by tradition and by history. Tradition and history instill prejudices that determine my understanding. These terms are essential to Gadamer's work and for our study, and merit some explanation here. Gadamer understands tradition as that which is "handed down" and has some influence on the present. It is a broadly inclusive term. For example, he speaks of "linguistic traditions," "cultural traditions," and tradition as the "real force of morals"—"this is precisely what we call tradition: the ground of their [morals'] validity" (p. 280). Gadamer wrests tradition from the Enlightenment's prejudice against tradition and custom by arguing that tradition is an omnipresent, and frequently positive (because tested by history), force in every human society. He writes, That which has been sanctioned by tradition and custom has an authority that is nameless, and our finite historical being is marked by the fact that the authority of what has been handed down to us—and not just what is clearly grounded—always has power over our attitudes and behavior, (p. 280) He goes on to say that tradition, "in large measure determines our institutions and attitudes" (p. 281). Gadamer notices that we are always situated within traditions and they consequently become part of us. We are always situated within traditions, and this is no objectifying process—i.e., we do not conceive of what tradition says as something other, something alien. It is always part of us, a model, or exemplar, a kind of cognizance, (p. 282) 1 3 From the Latin traditionem which means "delivery, surrender or handed down" (Harper, 2001) - 2 2 -His recognition of the significance of tradition for institutions and attitudes helpfully illuminates a fundamental aspect of the Beta Dialogue; namely, that very different traditions were present and having significant influence on our interactions. The Beta Dialogue introduced the non-Aboriginal people to this awareness; for Mr. Mitchell it was a lived reality. Gadamer (2002) argues that tradition shapes the consciousness of every individual through language. He establishes that language is present in the very act of thinking, and thus consciousness itself is profoundly shaped by language, even before it becomes conscious of itself. The consequence of this is that "language is not just one of man's [humanity's] possessions in the world; rather, on it depends the fact that man [human consciousness] has a world at all" (p. 443). Gadamer also establishes that language itself is produced by tradition. "Verbal form and traditionary content cannot be separated in the hermeneutic experience. If every language is a view of the world, it is not primarily because it is a particular type of language (in the way that linguists view language) but because of what is said or handed down in this language" (p. 441). And he posits that, "the essential relation between language and understanding is seen primarily in the fact that the essence of tradition is to exist in the medium of language" (p. 388). As language is both the product of tradition and its medium, and as consciousness is essentially shaped by language, consciousness itself (no matter how independent it may believe itself) is shaped by tradition. Reflecting on the Beta Dialogue, I wonder what it means for Okanagan tradition to be accessible to the non-Aboriginal participants only through conversion into English? We shall return to this question in the section below. -23 -As an individual is always situated within a tradition, Gadamer (2002) also makes evident that individuals are also always situated within history. He writes, We are always already affected by history. It determines in advance both what seems to us worth inquiring about and what will appear as an object of investigation, (p. 300) Consequently, he says "we should learn to understand ourselves better and to recognize that in all understanding, whether we are expressly aware of it or not, the efficacy of history is at work" (p. 301). In Gadamer's writing the term history frequently refers to the collective history of a society or civilization, and he sometimes has in mind the grand sweep of all civilizations that taken together constitute human history. He also has in mind the particular history of an individual, which he will identify as an individual's "situatedness" or "situation." Gadamer notes that it is essential to be aware of our historical nature, and of how our history influences our understanding. Yet even historical consciousness does not give one an outside view of one's historical moment: To acquire an awareness of a situation is, however, always a task of peculiar difficulty. The very idea of a situation means that we are not standing outside it and hence are unable to have any objective knowledge of it. (p. 301) Simply put, Gadamer's (2002) argument is that tradition and history are powerful influences in the formation of the consciousness of every individual. So, if I return to the opening moments of the Beta Dialogue with these terms in mind, non-Aboriginal educators were coming to this situation with traditions and histories that were very different than the Aboriginal participants. Thus, though we shared some of the same topics, such as Okanagan student learning, the horizons that constituted our perspectives on these topics were remarkably different. Just how different was the basis of why the Beta Dialogue was so deeply experienced. Mr. Mitchell intentionally engaged participants in Okanagan tradition and history. He provoked our prejudices. -24-It should be apparent by now that Gadamer (2002) believes that consciousness is much more an actor in the play of tradition and history than the playwright. In fact history does not belong to us; we belong to it... .The self-awareness of the individual is only a flickering in the closed circuits of historical life. That is why the prejudices of the individual, far more than his [her] judgments, constitute the historical reality of his being, (p. 277) Tradition and history fore-structure our consciousness. Gadamer (2002) called the resulting fore-structures prejudices. Conscious of the negative connotation prejudice has held since the Enlightenment, Gadamer counters that understanding is always a consequence of prejudices making sense of situations and meaning. "All understanding," he writes, "inevitably involves some prejudice" (p. 270). Prejudices are necessary to enable understanding but they also may hinder understanding. Furthermore, Gadamer observes, our prejudices are not easily identified. Like the process of understanding, we are innocent to their existence because they shape what we understand before we are even aware of them in action. In his words, The prejudices and fore-meanings that occupy the interpreter's consciousness are not at his [her] free disposal. He [She] cannot separate in advance the productive prejudices that enable understanding from the prejudices that hinder it and lead to misunderstanding, (p. 295) If we recognize that prejudices are always operative in our understanding, Gadamer says this helps us recognize that we must always be working "toward escaping their thrall" (p. 490). As he writes with regard to a text, we must endeavour to be aware of our biases so that another person can present himself or herself in his or her otherness and assert his or her truth against our fore-conceptions. The important thing is to be aware of one's own bias, so that the text [other] can present itself [himself, herself] in all its [his, her] otherness and thus assert its [his, her] own truth against one's own fore-meanings, (p. 269) -25-Awareness of one's prejudices so that the other may assert its/her/his truth is the first, last, and constant requirement of one who will understand. But this is no easy task! Often our prejudices must be "provoked" if we are to become aware of them (p. 299). Thus to every topic I would understand I bring a horizon, constituted of prejudices, themselves a product of the traditions and history in which I am immersed. But this is not all that constitutes our consciousness. Gadamer (2002) argues that whenever we understand we always apply what we understand to our situation. "Application," he writes, "is neither a subsequent nor merely an occasional part of the phenomenon of understanding, but codetermines it as a whole from the beginning" (p. 324). When I consider my situation as non-Aboriginal vice principal during the Beta Dialogue, I was constantly filtering what Mr. Mitchell was saying according to the priorities of my identity and my work. For example, I recall thinking 'This knowledge suggests a different avenue of responses next time there is a land claims protest. No wonder our students get wound up.' Gadamer recognizes that the situations from which we understand influence what we can understand, because our situations place demands upon our understanding. Our situations determine relevance and significance. Furthermore, Gadamer maintains that one has not understood something until one has taken seriously the truth claims of the other's perspective and applied them to—i.e., let them challenge—one's own truth claims. Thus, the situatedness of application also defines our horizon. Every time I seek to understand, Gadamer (2002) reminds me that I must remember that it is "Mark Edwards" who is understanding. I bring to every topic a horizon of meanings that is fore-structured by tradition, by history, by language, by prejudices, and by my situation. The challenge, he observes, is that though I 'see' everything within my horizon its -26-finitude and its structuring are largely invisible and therefore require that I constantly make conscious its influence on my understanding. This involves suspending biases when they are known, and being open to the possibility that my prejudices are resulting in misunderstanding. Most importantly it means allowing the truth claims of the other to challenge my horizon, so that my understanding is determined as much as possible by the meanings of the other. Acknowledging Another's Horizon: Putting on Another's Shoes If I have an horizon that determines my understanding, so too does any other person whom I may meet. Thus, given that this person's horizon regarding a topic is equally shaped by tradition, history, language, prejudices and situation, it follows that making sense of another's point of view on a topic will require gaining knowledge and developing an understanding of these.14 Gadamer (2002) outlines what is required with these words, If we fail to transpose ourselves into the historical [and traditional] horizon from which the traditionary text [the other] speaks, we will misunderstand the significance of what it [he or she] has to say to us. (p. 303) In other words, "we try to transpose ourselves into the perspective within which he [she] has formed his [her] views. But this simply means that we try to understand how what he [she] is saying could be right" (p. 292).15 It follows from this that in order to understand what is said by another, we must endeavour to gain knowledge and understanding of the tradition, history, and situation from which what is said has emerged and makes sense. It is in this way 141 am joining 'gaining knowledge' and 'understanding' here in order to distinguish two different processes that are sometimes both implied by the word 'understanding'. One may gain knowledge about history, tradition, and another's situation from sources outside the person. However, one may understand what a certain history means for another person only through interaction with him or her. When I understand I share meaning. When I gain knowledge (e.g., the statistics regarding Aboriginal student graduation rates, or a description of traditional Okanagan family structures), I have background information that may help in understanding an extended family's concern for their child's education. Gaining background knowledge is important for understanding; understanding what this background knowledge means for a person is also important. . 1 5 See also Gadamer's discussion of Aristotle's notion of sympathetic understanding (sunesis) pp. 322-323. -27-that another may be understood in her or his "own terms" (p. 291, 303) and thus be "taken seriously in [his or her] claim to truth" (p. 297). It seems to me this is where we put on another's shoes and walk through their world. There is an onus on dialogue participants to prepare themselves in this way. "Why do we constantly have to explain ourselves to White people? When can we expect you to do some of this learning for yourselves?"16 Dialogue with participants who are largely ignorant of a topic or of other participants' horizon can trap participants at a level of engagement that is trivializing and disrespectful. Gaining knowledge and understanding of another's horizon is necessary preparation for meeting. Just as I can anticipate that my prejudices will influence my understanding, so too can I anticipate that another's prejudices will equally be influencing his or her understanding. In both cases, there is a need for the opportunity to allow our prejudices to be provoked, surfaced, suspended, and reconsidered in light of each others' truth claims. When Horizons Meet: A Process of Understanding Understanding is always the fusion of these horizons. (Gadamer, 2002, p. 306) The task of hermeneutics is to clarify this miracle of understanding, which is not a mysterious communion of souls, but sharing in a common meaning. (Gadamer, 2002, p. 292) Understanding means to share in a common meaning with another. This is what I take Gadamer (2002) to mean when he speaks of a "fusion of horizons." The fusion of horizons metaphor illustrates that when participants' different horizons of meaning regarding a topic are mutually understood their preliminary horizons do not remain the same. These different horizons do not lose their distinctness in Gadamer's notion of fusion, but rather they determine the breadth of the horizon that supersedes them. Even when these preliminary 1 6 Voiced by an African-American academic during the presentation of a White academic's study of African-American school leaders at UCEA, 2002. -28-perspectives are incommensurable, "alien" or "antagonistic," participants' new, shared horizon is expanded in a way that includes them (p. 387). Fusion means neither submission, nor loss of integrity of the distinct truth claims of different horizons. Nor does fusion mean agreement with the truth claims of a different horizon. The fusion of horizons metaphor illustrates the expansion of comprehension that is necessary to, and results from, sharing in common meanings. How do we move beyond the finitude of our fore-structured horizons and achieve understanding? Coming to an understanding is an active back and forth process that provokes our prejudices, tests our developing conceptions of meaning, and confirms that we share a common meaning. Gadamer provides several concepts which help delineate this process. Openness When you and I meet and begin a conversation about a particular topic, we have begun the process of understanding. The first condition of understanding, Gadamer (2002) writes, is to be addressed by another. But being addressed requires of us a particular openness that recognizes the validity of the other's truth claims. Gadamer notes that this is, in effect, to recognize the other as "Thou." In human relations the important thing is, as we have seen, to experience the Thou as a Thou—i.e., not to overlook his [her] claim but to let him [her] really say something to us. Here is where openness belongs....Without such openness to one another there is no genuine human bond. (p. 361) By referencing Martin Buber's (1970) Thou, Gadamer signals the importance of relationship to the process of understanding. Thus, at one level, being open to another is to be in a moral relation with another that acknowledges his or her inherent right to assert his or her own truth claims. -29-We have already gone to some length to establish the nature and significance of our structured horizons for understanding. At another level, being open means being self-aware of one's own horizon. Gadamer (2002) says that the process of understanding requires "the fundamental suspension of our own prejudices" (p. 299). He also says that our prejudices must be "provoked," and that it is only when our prejudices are placed at "risk" that understanding becomes possible. This "testing" of our fore-meanings and prejudices is an indispensable part of coming to an understanding. At a third level, being open means being prepared to repeatedly revise and refine one's conceptions of what the other means. In the process of understanding, Gadamer (2002) observes that we move from our fore-conceptions, to new conceptions regarding a topic, by first construing what we think is meant, and then by testing this understanding with the other. We are open in this third sense, when we are willing to continually refine our conceptions of what is meant in this back and forth process with the other. Thus, being open to another is an active process of recognition, self-reflection, and commitment to refine one's thinking based on feedback from the other. Being open calls for each participant to be authentically present to the other. Gadamer (2002) makes clear that "true" conversations that generate understanding are genuine, mutual events where participants are not disguising their truths. He writes, Conversation is a process of coming to an understanding. Thus it belongs to every true conversation that each person opens himself [herself] to the other, truly accepts his [her] point of view as valid and transposes himself [herself] into the other to such an extent that he [she] understands not the particular individual but what he [she] says. (p. 385) Gadamer does not problematize the nature of being open insofar as it requires a degree of vulnerability for individuals to disclose themselves to one another. Given Gadamer's primary interest in the hermeneutical task of understanding texts, exploring the conditions which -30-permit individuals to be open to one another in conversation was not of primary significance to him. However, these conditions are of critical importance for this study, and I shall consider them with reference to Martin Buber (1970) and Paolo Freire (2000) below. Dialogue as a Process of Coming to an Understanding Our first point is that the language in which something comes to speak is not a possession at the disposal of one or the other of the interlocutors. Every conversation presupposes a common language, or better, creates a common language. Something is placed at the center, as the Greeks say, which the partners in dialogue both share, and concerning which they can exchange ideas with one another. Hence reaching an understanding on the subject matter of a conversation necessarily means that a common language must first be worked out in the conversation. This is not an external matter of simply adjusting our tools; nor is it even right to say that the partners adapt themselves to one another but, rather, in a successful conversation they both come under the influence of the truth of the object and are thus bound to one another in a new community. To reach an understanding in a dialogue is not merely a matter of putting oneself forward and successfully asserting one's own point of view, but being transformed into a communion in which we do not remain what we were. (Gadamer, 2002, p. 378-379) Conversation, or dialogue, is a process that generates understanding. Gadamer (2002) observes that in this process there are several things going on that deserve attention. First, is the to andfro dialogic movement by which participants are able to refine their conceptions of what the other person means. It takes time for participants in conversation to move from their fore-conceptions through various trial conceptions that are continually refined through back and forth confirmation. Gadamer observes that for some topics, the back and forth process necessary for full understanding may never end. Second, Gadamer makes note of the hermeneutical circle that consciousness travels while developing a new conception of what the other means. Consciousness experiences a part of what is meant, and based on this part conjectures what the whole of another's meaning is likely to be. The longer the conversation goes on, the more parts will be fit into the conjectured whole (remember that this conjectured whole is influenced by one's horizon, particularly in early stages). The conjectured whole will act to order the parts so that they fit -31 -coherently together. However, frequently the parts won't fit the conjectured whole, and the whole will have to be re-conceptualized in a manner that allows all of the parts to be coherent with one another and with the whole. Gadamer maintains that "the harmony of all the details with the whole is the criterion of correct understanding" (p. 291). It is in this way that one moves beyond the finitude of one's horizon, constituted by the prejudices of one's tradition and history, and understands the other's meaning as the other does, in his or her own terms. Third, Gadamer (2002) emphasizes that understanding occurs through language. We noted above how language shapes consciousness and is constitutive of our "world". But he observes that it is the very verbal nature of our worlds that makes it possible for us to expand our horizons to understand them. This essential capacity of language to enable the sharing of meaning is the basis for understanding. It is true that those who are brought up in a particular linguistic and cultural tradition see the world in a different way from those who belong to other traditions. It is true that the historical "worlds" that succeed one another in the course of history are different from one another and from the world of today; but in whatever tradition we consider it, it is always a human—i.e., verbally constituted—world that presents itself to us. As verbally constituted, every such world is of itself always open to every possible insight and hence to every expansion of its own world picture, and is accordingly available to others, (p. 447) Gadamer's optimistic claim here is based on his observation that when a subject is considered by participants in a conversation, their linguistic communion generates new language—a shared language—to represent their shared meanings regarding the subject. This is what is meant when, in summarizing a conversation between two participants, he identifies that their conversation generates a common diction (language) and a common dictum (content). Reaching an understanding in conversation presupposes that both partners are ready for it and are trying to recognize the full value of what is alien and opposed to them. If this happens mutually, and each of the partners, while simultaneously holding on to -32-his [her] own arguments, weighs the counter arguments, it is finally possible to achieve—in an imperceptible but not arbitrary reciprocal translation of the other's position (we call this an exchange of views)—a common diction and a common dictum, (p. 387) Reflecting back to the Beta Dialogue, I don't believe that we generated any new words (perhaps the names of Okanagan leaders were new to participants), but we began to use words differently, more conscious, I would say of wider implications that the words now carried. From Gadamer's view, genuine dialogue generates language specific to the shared meanings of the community of participants. However, it is apparent from the Beta Dialogue that lifetimes would be necessary if we were to enact seriously Gadamer's optimistic belief that Okanagan tradition could be translated through English to impart to non-Okanagan people its manifold meanings. We just opened a door sufficiently to glimpse the world beyond. Fourth, for Gadamer understanding is always about a shared topic. Understanding in conversation is based on what the other says and means. It is not about empathetically joining with another so that one "mystically" enters into the life of the other. "To understand what a person says is.. .to come to an understanding about the subject matter, not to get inside another person and relive his [her] experiences" (p. 383). Finally, in the process of coming to an understanding in conversation we are changed and something new emerges. "We do not remain what we were" (p. 379). Dialogue Is Understanding Improved understanding was an outcome of the Beta Dialogue. In retrospect, the process of developing an understanding appeared to me an essential part of the experience. Gadamer (2002) has delineated a set of concepts which illuminate this process in a valuable way, and which provide a powerful framework for this study. He brought attention to the -33-significance of tradition, history, our situatedness, and the prejudices these engender, in determining the horizon of meaning that we have for every topic we might venture in dialogue. These concepts have particular salience to the cross-cultural and colonized situation that we are interested in. Gadamer noted that we must be constantly aware of our horizons, suspending their biases and assumptions when we are conscious of them, so that the meanings of the other may be understood in the other's terms rather than our own. Not an easy task when our prejudices are invisible to us, often until they are provoked. Gadamer also introduced the importance of "transposing" ourselves into the horizon of the other. Through this process of acknowledgement, we gain background knowledge and understanding that helps us make sense of what the other says. Gadamer also identified critical aspects of the process of coming to an understanding through conversation: a to and fro process of checking meaning and confirming understanding; the hermeneutical circle that consciousness traces as it seeks coherence for experienced parts and conjectured wholes; the necessity of openness; the importance of language and the creation of new language; the final emergence of shared meaning as a fusion of horizons. These concepts give us a way of illuminating the potential for communication events to generate shared meanings—to be dialogic. Relation: Telos of and Condition for Dialogue In human relations the important thing is, as we have seen, to experience the Thou as a Thou—i.e., not to overlook his [her] claim but to let him [her] really say something to us. Here is where openness belongs....Without such openness to one another there is no genuine human bond. (Gadamer, 2002, p. 361) Above we noted that Gadamer (2002) identifies the significance of a Thou relation to being open in conversation but doesn't develop the nature of this "Thou" relation upon which openness depends. During the Beta Dialogue, I became very conscious of the relational dimension of the interactions. There was discomfort for Mr. Mitchell and for Beta - 3 4 -participants as prejudices were provoked and participants' consciences tried to make sense of being the beneficiaries of a colonizing history that had plainly harmed the Okanagan People. However, the defensiveness that often blocks further engagement with such troubling knowledge was not invoked. Regard for Mr. Mitchell grew; trust between all participants grew; the group reached a stage of openness in which Mr. Mitchell was willing to invite Elders and families to come to the school to meet with Beta participants. In effect I believe Beta participants extended to Mr. Mitchell the recognition and regard called for by a "Thou" relation. Buber's (1970) concept of the I-Thou relation matches the ideal condition of openness between dialogic participants. The I-Thou relation is predicated upon a profound respect and regard, even reverence, for the other.17 Gadamer (2002), as we have seen, interprets this respect as recognizing "the truth claims" of the other. As Buber described the relation, it calls one to be authentically present to the other—giving one's absolute attention. Indeed, Buber says, the other "is Thou and fills the firmament. Not as if there were nothing but [the other]; but everything else lives in [the other's] light" (p. 59). Starratt (1991) uses the phrase "absolute regard" to represent the meaning implied. To be open to another in this way, Gadamer says, is the basis of every "genuine human bond" (p. 361). For Buber, as also expressed here by Gadamer, such a relation is an end-in-itself—a way of being that is inherently good. Thus, as conversation is a process for coming to an understanding, conversation is also a process for coming to a relation. As the pursuit of understanding is a reason or telos for entering dialogue, so too is the pursuit of an I-Thou relation. 1 7 Buber frequently moves between the I-Thou as spoken between humans, and the I-Thou spoken between a person and God. By doing so he suffuses the I-Thou relation with qualities of, and anticipations of, the sacred. It calls forth the best that we are. -35 -My experience of the Beta Dialogue was that a spirit of respect was present from the start and as the Dialogue proceeded this respect deepened and participants were increasingly authentic and present in their engagement. The possibility of the Thou relation was nascent within our group, and the process of the Dialogue both built on this and helped a Thou relation grow. Openness in a Context of Oppression I credit Mr. Mitchell's leadership in the Beta Dialogue, because I have come to believe that the openness Gadamer (2002) calls for is far from easy in contexts of colonization and oppression. Under what conditions would a person, whose family has been ravaged by the oppression of a dominating society for generations, become open to the very people (teachers and administrators) who have been the instruments of this harm? Given what Gadamer reveals about unconscious prejudices, it would seem that an Okanagan person would just be opening themselves to further instantiation of colonizing ways of thinking, whether or not it was intended by a non-Aboriginal Canadian educator. Given what Gadamer reveals about the influence of situatedness on how we understand, it would seem inevitable that the values of Western schools (the situation of application for teachers and principals) would just overwhelm an Okanagan person's openness. Given the past history of oppression, it would make more sense to assume that being open in dialogue would just provide more knowledge for those with power to maintain their status quo. Instead of openness, these situations call for resistance! Paolo Freire (2000) applies Buber's I-Thou dialogic theory to situations of conquest and oppression and helps clarify the conditions in which dialogue becomes a basis for emancipation rather than further colonization. Freire argues that particular relational virtues - 3 6 -combined with a clear and shared emancipatory purpose develop the trust necessary to openness and dialogue. Freire (2000) recognizes that in situations of domination, oppression and invasion , the Thou of those invaded—their humanness—is stripped away. They are reduced to objects of the oppressors' perception—mere "its." His foundational assertion is that for liberation ("humanization") to occur collectively and personally, the oppressed must regain their capacity to be the "Subjects" of their own destiny, that is, their capacity to be self-determining agents. Thus, as a first condition of openness, genuine dialogue will enable participants' agency as "Subjects". Dialogue, when it enables both participants to speak their truths, undermines the top down, monologic communication pattern that proclaims the truth claims of the oppressor and denies the perspective of the oppressed. Mikhail Bakhtin's (1986b) explication of monologic versus dialogic thinking19 states the case clearly: Any object of knowledge (including people) can be perceived and cognized as a thing [monologically]. But a subject as such cannot be perceived and studied as a thing, for as a subject it cannot, while remaining a subject, become voiceless, and, consequently, cognition of it can only be dialogic, (p. 161) In dialogue, the voiceless speak their truth claims. In Gadamer's (2002) terms, their history, traditions, and situatedness become a defining part of the interaction. Freire (2000) 1 8 That Freire does not have a naive notion of the conditions and challenges of such situations is made evident by his clear understanding of the dynamics existent in cultural invasion. "All domination involves invasion—at times physical and overt, at times camouflaged, with the invader assuming the role of a helping friend....Cultural conquest leads to the cultural inauthenticity of those who are invaded; they begin to respond to the values, the standards, and the goals of the invaders. In their passion to dominate, to mould others to their patterns and their way of life, the invaders desire to know how those they have invaded apprehend reality—but only so they can dominate the latter more effectively. In cultural invasion it is essential that those who are invaded come to see their reality with the outlook of the invaders rather than their own; for the more they mimic the invaders, the more stable the position of the latter becomes. For cultural invasion to succeed, it is essential that those invaded become convinced of their intrinsic inferiority... .Homes and schools (from nurseries to universities) exist not in the abstract, but in time and space. Within the structures of domination they function largely as agencies which prepare the invaders of the future" (pp. 153-154). 1 9 See also Swingewood, 1998, Shields, 2003, and Shields and Edwards, 2005. - 3 7 -emphasizes the significance of the "situationality" of the powerless, and becoming critically aware (Conscientizacdo) of this situatedness. He also emphasizes that it is in the traditions of the oppressed that "their own generative themes are found" (p. 109). Thus, a second condition of openness is the authentic engagement of the situatedness of the oppressed. A third condition of openness is anticipating and engaging the generative capacity of an oppressed person's own traditions and history. Freire (2000) establishes a clear set of relations or relational virtues that he posits are necessary for dialogue. They have particular salience for an individual's willingness to be open with another in dialogue and provide a valuable elaboration on the I-Thou relation. He writes, "founding itself upon love, humility, and faith, dialogue becomes a horizontal relationship of which mutual trust21 [italics added] between the dialoguers is the logical consequence" (p. 91). I believe that love, humility, and faith in the other, indicate to individuals that they may trust one another, and openness follows trust. Freire's (2000) work recognizes the potential for dialogue to harm the vulnerable and further instantiate colonization.22 He clarifies important conditions that are necessary for dialogic openness in contexts of colonization. Participants' must be able to actualize their agency as "Subjects". The situatedness of colonized participants' lives must be critically , considered and addressed. The generative capacity of colonized participants' own traditions and history must be engaged. Relational connection through love, humility, and faith in the other is necessary to build mutual trust. Freire identifies one final condition of significance to z u See also Bishop & Glynn (1999). 2 1 Freire's definition of trust is worth noting: "Trust is contingent on the evidence which one party provides the others of his [her] true, concrete intentions; it cannot exist if that party's words do not coincide with their actions. To say one thing and do another—to take one's own word lightly—cannot inspire trust" (p. 91). 2 2 See also Jones (1999), and Foucault's (2000) analysis of "pastoral power." - 3 8 -our study, namely that shared purposes aimed to transform colonizing relations and humanize the life situation of the colonized are required. Dialogue Is Relation We have used Gadamer's (2002) recognition of the importance of openness for understanding between individuals as a basis for introducing the significance of the relationship between participants for dialogue. Genuine dialogue depends upon the presence of relational conditions that enable respect and trust. In this discussion I have also introduced at several points the observation that dialogue itself facilitates the development of positive
UBC Theses and Dissertations
Improving education through dialogue and oral tradition : bridging colonization and cultural difference… Edwards, Mark Macdougall 2007
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