Just Had to Share This

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Mon May 21 15:35:45 MDT 2001


The following is from the essay (not the book) "A Little Matter of Genocide"
in "Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema and the Colonization of
American Indians" (Revised Ed) by Ward Churchill, City Lights Books, San
Francisco, 1998 pp 106-107

The interlock and continuity between the expropriation of the physical
resources of Native America on the one hand, and the expropriation of its
spiritual/conceptual traditions on the other, could not be more clearly
revealed.

Comes now Sam D. Gill, a non-Indian professor of Religious Studies at the
University of Colorado/Boulder, and alleged specialist in Native American
spirituality. In all fairness, it should be noted that Gill has heretofore
been known primarily not so much on the grounds of his thesis on Indian
religion as for his advocacy of a rather novel approach to teaching. In
essence, this seems to be that the critical qualification for achieving
university-level faculty status is to admittedly know nothing of the subject
matter one is supposed to teach. As he himself put it in an essay contained
in "On Teaching", a 1987 anthology of 'teaching excellence':

              'In my classes on Native American religions I found I could
not adequately
             describe the roles of women in Native American cultures and
religions...To
            begin to resolve my 'ignorance' about Native American women and
to pursue
            research...I finally offered a senior-level course on Native
American women and
            religions...This course formally "initiated' my long-term
research on Mother Earth.'

One might have been under the impression that filling a seat as a professor
at a major institution of higher learning would imply not 'ignorance', but
rather having some pre-existing body of knowledge about or from which one is
prepared to profess. Similarly, it might be thought that the offering of an
advanced course in a particular content area might imply some sort of
relationship to the 'results' of research rather than the initiation of it.
At the very least, one might expect that if a course needs to be taught for
canonical reasons, and the instructor of record finds himself/herself
lacking in the knowledge required to teach it, s/he might retain the
services of someone who does have the knowledge. Not so within the preferred
pedagogy of Dr. Gill. Instead, he posits that 'student questions and
concerns' are the most important in 'shaping' what he does. Another way to
say this might be: 'pitch your performance to the crowd.' "  (pp 106-107)

Jim C




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