I celebrate the Wurundjeri, people as enduring custodians of the land where this paper was written. I extend my gratitude to the Boon Wurrung, Anangu, Bunuba and Gunnai -Kernai peoples who have shown unmeasurable generosity in sharing their knowledge and stories with me. I intend for this work to contribute towards bridging between our cultures. Acknowledging past injustice and to walk together into a shared and mutually acceptable future. No matter the length of our journey, I hope coalescing will heal wounds and reconstruct what it means to be Australian.
Full steam ahead (Pickering, 2020)
Wominjeka. I come with intent for you. To share through storytelling my transitioning colonial perspective as I learn about an ancient culture and its precious lessons for our modern world. For us, by sharing stories we will transform our understanding of being. We might choose to learn toward sustainability. By investing in this research, we seek to gain insight, connecting cultures, our environment, spirituality and healthy future.
A Research problem Yarn
Whilst researching for this paper on epistemology and ontology, I was presented with multiple paradigms in relation to academic writing. I have decided to move away from the dominant toward an indigenous model. This paper will meander in an attempt to embrace the indigenous knowledge systems through the 8 ways framework (Yunkaporta, 2009). How does this style empower the reader to journey with an idea? How does it affect your relationship with the knowledge presented? As a white Australian, I am trained to work in straight lines. Full steam ahead! By meandering through nonlinear storytelling (Yunkaporta, 2009) and the inevitable deconstruction (Yunkaporta, 2009) of my own prejudice, I have found a different relationship with knowledge, much like turning off the light, one that resonates with some very western concepts advocating the rethinking of our ontology as we work toward a healthy future. (Postman and Weingartner, 1971; Dewey, 1986; Delors, 1998; Zhao, 2005; Wals, 2011; Abram, 2017; Morton, 2018; Braidotti, 2019). We’ll get to that later.
Figure 1: 8 ways pedagogy (Yunkaporta, 2009)
We begin this paper with the concept of Yarning (Yunkaporta, 2019, 2019). This yarn involves nonlinear storytelling demonstrating a cultural gap. Through some western thesis connects to a problem that our institutions are branding on those who emerge. Namely a relationship with knowledge causing debilitating effects when students are faced with the inevitable uncertainty and doubt.
The torch is on I expect to see more. As I follow my torchlight the mysteries of the surrounding darkness weigh on my conscious. I continue. I feel on edge, uncomfortable. I am in Gippsland Australia; I am white male and in my 40’s. There is nothing to fear… Yet somehow, I feel surrounded by uncomfortable thoughts. I walk down the steep sand dune, onto the long stretch of ocean beach, I am surrounded by darkness. My torch frames my perspective I think I can see. Yet….
Now I am lying on the beach. My torch is off. The new moon gives little light. I am surrounded by cosmos. The Milky Way. Strangely, without the torchlight I see more. Profoundly more. And those feelings of anxiety have gone, replaced by awe and wonder. Turn off the torch I expect to see less. In reality I see more, and feel much more at ease. I am looking up at history, at ancient light. I feel alive and curious.
I orient myself using the Sothern cross. A box in the sky. An European consolation that works in straight lines. Using the pointers and the cross itself allow me to generate a firm fix of my Barings. I am feeling more connected to this place.
Aboriginal cosmology looks very different to my familiar European consolations. Like turning out the light and seeing profoundly more, Indigenous constellations use the gaps in the cosmos. Utilizing nonlinear and darkness. The emu stretches across the Sothern nights sky like an artistic masterpiece. Its head is situated amid the square Sothern Cross. Its neck and body trail out across the sky filling the darkness around the Scorpio consolation. Its legs continue off toward the other horizon. It is massive, majestic, and wonderful. From where I lie, there appears a significantly deeper and mysterious energy in the emu. It makes me think.
The uneasy feeling the darkness beyond the torch light creates might represent the lived experience of high school graduates. The anxiety offered by neoliberal dualist thinking is at odds with predictions of chaotic climatic factors predicted as we continue to cook the atmosphere. Lucy Perso, a year 11 student shines light on this anxiety articulately.
“The kind of learning, where you’re given questions and there’s right and wrong, it sets you up for failure. There are so many ways to get it wrong and only one right answer.” Lucy Perso Maffra secondary college (Cook, 2018)
With leading western thinkers such as Einstein, advocating for a complex and interrelated world, the possibility of neo-liberal narratives being a problematic human construct is provided. Contrast this with interpretations of the night sky. Two cultures, two interpretations of the same sky yielding very different emotional reactions. (Braidotti, 2019) posits that being at ease with multi-dimensional complexity is essential for feeling at home in the 21st century.
Figure 2: The emu and southern cross in the nights sky (Pascoe, 2018)
Similar philosophies are echoed in the educational Literature. An increasingly interconnected world demands of educators a dynamic and future focused education (Dewey, 1986; Delors, 1998; Zhao, 2005; Wals, 2011; Abram, 2017; Morton, 2018). Vast amounts of ever evolving knowledge are accessible at the click of a button or swipe of a finger. Timothy Morton’s work on ecological thinking shows another western perspective on the complexities and interconnectedness of the world. Perhaps the emu fig 1. might provide a symbol of another way to know, one that can help us overcome the complex challenges the Anthropocene creates.
Influencing change and increasing complexity are the focus of many educational philosophers. For the purpose of this narrative I will use a broad definition of education outside of the walls of formal institutions (Postman and Weingartner, 1971; Dewey, 1986; Gilman et al., 1989; Delors, 1998; Zhao, 2005; Wals, 2011; Morton, 2018; Braidotti, 2019; Yunkaporta, 2019) describe complexity as a reality of life. Moreover realities inflicted by the Anthropocene on the more than human world are not being adequately considered by the status quo (Abram, 2017; Morton, 2018; Braidotti, 2019). These accepted theses reflect in their argument striking similarity to indigenous pedagogy. In his book Sand Talk, (Yunkaporta, 2019) posits a key difference Indigenous thinking offers is its communication and curation of complexity. This position encourages empathy and connection to the nonhuman and more than human world (Abram, 2017; Morton, 2018; Yunkaporta, 2019).
(Braidotti, 2019) defined posthuman knowledge as the convergence of the two conflicting forces of neoliberal capitalist and post- anthropocentric forces. World changing effects, such as our changing climate system, as a result of human activity defined as the Anthropocene have given urgent currency to the posthuman thesis (Braidotti, no date). Through osmosis posthuman relevance has strong implications for educators as we are mandated to prepare our youth for their future. For the Boon -Wurrung, knowledge held by the elders transcends through culture a capability of the emerging citizens (Steel, 2020). (Malone, 2016; Abram, 2017) Connect similar philosophy to Posthumanism, advocating for bridging the nature-culture divide and rejecting universalisms in favour of place consisting of multiple ecologies both human and non-human.
Education is rooted in the present with a view to the future. The present as both what we are ceasing to be and what we are in the process of becoming. (Gilman et al., 1989; Braidotti, 2018) form a prism through which posthuman knowledge becomes explicitly relevant in modern education. Posthuman knowledge provides an ethical praxis that seeks to construct relative collaborative meaning that understands difference as a benefit to community (Santos, 2020). Posthuman knowledge therefore provides a case for learning past the dualism of the neoliberal. Linkage from posthuman to aboriginal pedagogy and deep ecology is provided by Rosi Bradotti. “Unless one is at ease with multi-dimensional complexity, one cannot feel at home in the 21st century”(Braidotti, 2019).
Post anthropocentrism has realized a disconnect between current capitalist habits and needs and the environment we inhabit on Earth. Our current relationship with knowledge, fueled by capitalist forces, educational systems have created a culture advocating for dualistic thinking. This reality places graduates, faced with uncertainties such as climate change, COVID-19 pandemic and jostling global political powers, feeling lost and powerless. Posthuman knowledge aims to turn pain and anxiety into action for all human and non-human. (Abram, 2017; Morton, 2018; Santos, 2020) Echoing this aspiration, UNESCO calls for education to accept the constant and expected change and prepare students accordingly. Aboriginal Pedagogy appears well tested and well placed to provide the vehicle to bridge the gap developing students’ relationship with knowledge to both suit their present challenges whilst providing an ontology favorable to a healthy and thriving world into the future.
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