I am in Hawaii, and time and time again I have seen and heard evidence of the different ways of knowing and the multiplicity of knowledges.

 

I’m on my way to Sydney, Australia, for the ISSOTL conference. I stopped here, because the journey from my home in Vancouver to Sydney is way longer than I want to spend in the air. As it happens, there is no penalty for stopping the airline journey mid-point, and I have never been to Hawaii, so it’s a good idea all round.

 

Having never been to Hawaii before, I had a lot to learn.  The Polynesian culture is deeply rooted in traditions that I will never understand. I was embarrassingly ignorant of the different knowledges of the triangle of islands that makes up Polynesia, which include Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, the place westerners call Easter Island, and New Zealand. NZ was the biggest surprise to me, because I”m embarrassed to say that I thought that it shared its cultural heritage with Australia. Now I know better, and I will investigate further when I’m there on my way back from Sydney.

 

In addition to these discoveries about the people of Polynesia, I have discovered more about Americans, since I’ve talked to visitors from just about every state in the Union. After encountering a range of opinions on just about everything under the sun, I’m left wondering about whether one nation can be described as having particular knowledge.

 

This isn’t a new question of course, but, for example, sitting here at the gates of the Pearl Harbour Memorial, there is some evidence that Americans all feel the same way about the sinking of the Arizona, the lives lost that day, and the need to remember it. I sat under a palm tree and talked to an 80 year old veteran who was visiting the site with his son and grandson. There seems to be a collective American point of view on the importance of this.

 

But is that knowledge exactly? Do high school classes in American history provide knowledge? Do the history classes of other countries provide knowledge?

 

Is that one of the problems in the world? By teaching what I’ll call a knowledge set with an inevitable bias, and suggesting to the young (and old) that what they are hearing is knowledge, which they will be rewarded for memorizing, are we denying other knowledges, other versions of the so-called truth. Wouldn’t it be better to change the school system so that learners are explosed to various knowledge sets, and grow up recognizing that what we are taught is not the one and only truth, and respecting the knowledges of others?

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