Analysis of the
of analysing a particular review of "Learning from one another" is not only
restricted to the cognitive structures presented in the text, it extends to
the wider scope of Australian and/or Western society and how it views its
interactions with Islam.
A major part
of that interaction is the war conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither
country has settled into a state envisioned by the US and its allies, but
in Afghanistan the situation is far more confronting. In tandem with its destructive
nature we have an increasing reluctance by Western constituents to engage
and even arguments among the military are beginning to emerge.
demographic conditions in Afghanistan can be compared to those in Iraq - see
the extent to which the assessment by the US
and by the British
regarding the latter compares with Otoom's.
In addition Afghanistan
presents a problem in other aspects. The West's moralistic attitude towards
illegal drugs enables the Taliban to reap huge profits for its own war machinery
which the West has to spend billions combating; political correctness in the
West prevents a realistic assessment of the dangers of Islamic influence on
its own turf but allows transferring its response to what it terms "Islamist
terrorism" far away from its borders; rather than removing the influence of
Islam from its home ground the perception is cultivated that waging a war
in Afghanistan would somehow prevent terrorists from acting locally in the
US, Europe and Australia, without consideration given to the fact that most
of the attacks come from within those countries and significant terrorist
training camps exist not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. If terrorist acts
are resourced from Afghanistan the profits from the drug trade makes
their financing possible. Furthermore, prolonging the war beyond the immediate
aims of a military exercise without achieving a conclusive result merely allows
the Taliban to learn from their enemy. Imagine what kind of local security
those billions of dollars spent in Asia could buy in our countries!
situation over there in terms of its functionalities reveals the issues from
the very beginning (which is the reason why they have been already discussed
in "On the origin of Mind", written between 2000 and 2003). Relying on content
only means having to wait until it happens, and so after nine years chasing
an elusive peace there are now an increasing number of commentators who are
able to refer to the wider aspects of the war; one example being Terry Sweetman's
article (Courier Mail, 26 Jun 2010, "Time to exit the war").
The review discussed
below represents an example of the Western mindset having been modified to
comply with its general attitude of appeasement towards outsiders and the
accompanying tendency to belittle its own strengths. The mindset exhibits
the characteristics of a system in decay - loss of one's own identity and
substituting it with another, the diminishing of vigour and the reinterpretation
of language making it increasingly difficult to communicate essential information.
That culture of decay has created a set of local demographics which feed on
each other; that is to say, satisfying themselves at the expense of the rest
of society. Unfortunately, the realm of academia has become part of it.
analysis of a review of "Learning from one another"
Dr Michael Kindler,
Manager for Curriculum Support at the Department of Education & Training in
Canberra, has offered a review
of the teachers manual "Learning from one another" (LFOA). What follows is
an analysis of his review.
Words are important.
At the risk of sounding trivial, words are used by the mind to evoke an imagery
built through their structures and the links they establish with already existing
knowledge we have acquired along the way. First and foremost they give meaning
to what we hear or read because of their power to create a landscape in our
minds. Often they span a number of inflections, sometimes subtly differentiated
branch-offs from the stem, much like a meadow unfolds into various patches
as we get closer.
can be more important than we realise. The subtlety of a tone may not be expressed
openly but could nevertheless be the reason a certain expression has been
chosen due to its embeddedness within the semantic structure held by the writer.
We may read about a meadow, but we learn about this particular meadow because
the author found something special among one of its patches without referring
to the latter as such.
The title of
the review, "Is Australia a harmonious knowledge economy?", evokes curiosity
prompted by the question. But 'economy' covers more than a
system of production and distribution and consumption. Immediately following
the most common interpretation we find references to 'efficiency', 'frugality',
'careful use' and even 'thrift'.
Does Dr Kindler
ask us to consider whether Australia uses information frugally in order to
be harmonious, should we question whether Australians are orderly in their
thrift and therefore still - or no longer - harmonious?
Or could it be
that LFOA is in fact rather frugal with its information which subsequently
segued into Dr Kindler's overall perception of the text?
He writes, "Recent
waves of migration are adding new and different cultural values to Australia
which, if we are open to learning about them, will indelibly enrich all our
lives and bring as yet unimagined creativity and prosperity". These new and
different cultural values will, so he tells us, enhance our creativity and
prosperity provided we import them - the latter being the stated consequence
of the former. What he does not mention is the possibility of one particular
value being contrary to another; surely so many events around the world are
testimony to just that. Given such clashes the ingestion of all values regardless
would not necessarily result in richness and prosperity but could create the
Perhaps he sees
differences as something positive per se and commonality as a negative. Why
else would he say, "Gone are the days of English as the mono-imperial and
economically dominant global language. Chinese, Arabic and Spanish have replaced
the number of English internet sites, and gone is the tyranny of distance,
thanks to vastly faster and improved Information and Communication Technology."
To examine languages
in terms of their inherent sustainability goes beyond the present scope. Suffice
to say that the more flexible and adaptive a language is, the more will it
be capable of holding its own against others. English may have been spread
across the globe during the age of colonialism, but since then its propensity
for importing expressions from anywhere else made it the lingua franca of
today. For that reason it also enables people from different backgrounds to
understand each other, which, by the way, is one factor that does promote
richness and creativity - especially since technology makes the real-time
connection among them all so easy.
resource is a well researched, well prepared and well thought-through set
of lessons and workshops aimed to promote intercultural understanding in a
contemporary world." By that sentence the reader would expect great detail
contributing to the assumed understanding. Alas, LFOA falls short on all counts
as a perusal would quickly demonstrate; the reader of this review has been
assertion, "The activities are geared to increase knowledge of what is still
relatively unknown in most Australian classrooms", is similarly off the mark.
Reading LFOA shows a clear lack of explanation of all those unknowns beyond
a cursory listing of these items and no more.
Once again we
are warned against commonality: "These classrooms have been historically characterised
by an Anglo-Saxon and Christian-centric cultural approach dominated by English
as the language of instruction". Wouldn't pupils in New South Wales learn
about their state first and the rest later, wouldn't classes in Shanghai focus
on their city first, and so on, and would they not learn about their history
under the auspices of China rather than France or India or Australia for that
Given that LFOA
steers well away from providing a direct translation of Arabic terms the lauded
linguistic diversity doesn't exist anyway, even assuming Australian children
would find being spoken to in Arabic helpful.
choice of words in "The Diaspora of Muslims..." could be due to a negligent
use of the word 'Diaspora'
or represents an intended deflection of what the spreading of Islamic actually
meant. The word is understood to mean a 'dispersion' (especially one suffered
by the Jews - note the submersed element of victimhood smuggled in here),
in other words an act committed by someone upon someone else. Muslims were
not dispersed, they actively invaded others and dispersed those.
literacy..." uses a metaphor to circumscribe a more than superficial understanding
of Asia, just as 'English literacy' goes beyond the mere vocabulary. If this
is what is meant LFOA does not, as mentioned already, provide a deeper knowledge
about Asia, it simply uses a collection of keywords without any attempt to
allow their intended users to place them in a productive context.
"Did you know that Australian secondary schools currently spend the least
amount of time learning languages other than English of all advanced industrial
OECD member nations?", firstly uses a negative as representative of ourselves
in order to elevate the other, i.e. LFOA, by default. Secondly, the metaphor
meant to link to a paucity in teaching other languages to the manual is misplaced
in this case because LFOA explicitly states that accurate translations from
Arabic are not its aim.
expression has a sufficient semantic distance to be meaningful to more than
one stem (a case of linguistic homology). "Remaining ignorant of Islam is
a threat to Australia..." is one such example. In Dr Kindler's view not being
informed about Islam represents a threat to the assumed value of indiscriminate
cultural absorption. Since that view can be challenged (see above) the alternative
is to see 'threat' as something related to a lack of understanding about a
danger. Since Islam does contain problematic aspects Dr Kindler's wording
is still correct, albeit under different circumstances.
If the superficial
approach in LFOA is necessary in order to gloss over so much that would be
unpalatable otherwise, "...without relentless promotion of intercultural understanding
and knowledge of other cultures..." attains a rather sinister aspect. The
promotion would indeed have to be "relentless" for it to be effective.
future will remain imperilled..." falls into the same category as "Remaining
ignorant of Islam is a threat to Australia...", discussed previously. As it
is a repetition of type it can be assumed Dr Kindler has more than a passing
interest in obfuscating what does and does not present a threat to us.
"Instead of relying
on sensationalist and terrorist focussed media perceptions of what is often
loosely, even erroneously, described as Muslim in character..." are weasel
words that hide the action they are meant to stand for. If one out of
ten terrorist attacks is perpetrated by a Muslim it could be called a coincidence,
but if nine out of ten are committed by Muslims describing them as "Muslim
in character" is not erroneous - it is to the point.
internalisation of LOFA's nature and now dressed in the tendentious appeasement
practised throughout the review shows itself in the statement, "[LFOA] goes
a very long way to develop a more variegated...understanding of Islam...".
Given that 'variegate' means 'to make varied in appearance or colour', what
Dr Kindler really means is that LFOA has varied the concept of Islam to make
it suitable for inexperienced children. Hence such things as halal food, dogmatic
habits, etc. have been changed in terms of their appearance to be embraced
more easily by the rest of us.
in the interest of multicultural diversity, it would be an advantage to consider
"how to get students to think outside the envelope of their immediate experiences"
then one would equally have to assume the same for Muslims and their pervasive
codes, particularly when it is them who are the newcomers.
When the review
tells us, "With rich illustrations of Islamic contributions to science and
mathematics..." and "there are activities to learn about such things as Afghan
camels in Australia, or the historical significance of the Crusades as seen
through Muslim eyes", one has to wonder what, in the absence of any illustrations
regarding science and mathematics, let alone rich ones, and in the face of
hardly any history surrounding the introduction of the camels the reader is
meant to expect from that kind of description.
Nor is the reference
to finding Mecca intended as a geographic exercise ("The geographic significance
of Mecca"). In the context of a sugar-coated introduction to Islam it becomes
a politico-religious manipulation under the surface; as such it would achieve
the same result no matter which way little Johnny points his finger.
Once again Dr
Kindler's choice of words reveals the real motive behind this manual: "This
resource is not a value-add to Australian classrooms: it is an essential tool
with which to address the requirements of a 21st century curriculum...". So
LFOA is not meant as an additional text alongside so many others, but one
that should replace current material in favour of its own brand of representation.
"Even the Islamic
approach to sex and physical education and Sharia finance are explained" -
another mellifluous wave of the hand to shoo in a subject matter without needing
to disclose its sheer complexity.
as "What I liked best about this part was the cross-curricular perspectives"
and "This explores central questions of identity, citizenship, role models,
peer pressure and the role of parents and communities" are yet more weasel
words so beloved by top-heavy academics who are intent upon dressing up emptiness
as substance; there is nothing in LFOA that has been "explored" beyond a simplistic
touch here and there.
If the Federation
of Australasian Philosophy in Schools Association (of which Dr Kindler
is a member) really promotes teaching how to think in schools, then using
"Learning from one another" as a desirable example represents an unsettling
attempt at reconstructing the meaning of 'thinking', quite apart from the
message the Department of Education & Training in Canberra must get from its
Curriculum Support division.
review shows how a person's thought structures not only determine their perception
of the world but also make them choose their material to cultivate their own
cognitive affinities. The review is the product of a mutual admiration society
willing to admit anyone who knows how to play the game of smiling nods.
26 Jun 2010