This week, I had the opportunity to speak with Education Minister RJ Simpson about graduation levels and ways to improve the graduation rate for Indigenous students, as highlighted as a major failure of the current system by a recent Auditor General report.
Simpson mentioned in our chat the idea not just Indigenous-lead but also Indigenous-driven education and highlighted the other big feature of the week: The Northern and Dene Games Summit as an example of that concept in motion.
Here we have entire schools making trips to Inuvik to compete in their traditional games, make new friends and see old ones and have a great time — in school. They might not be trading notes on academics, but they’re helping each other learn and grow.
Activities like these help liven up the humdrum of academic study, but the fact remains for kids to finish school they have to want to do so. So I figured it would be a good idea to look back inside myself to my headspace when I was a teenager trying to decide if I was going to finish school or not and how I decided to tough it out.
So, take note students of the Beaufort Delta — this is why you want a high school diploma.
Knowledge and experience is the one thing you can acquire that cannot be taken away.
Across the continent there are hundreds of examples of things people took as eternal — traditional lands, pensions, contracts, even whole families, are being pulled apart — through no fault of their own, but simply because they inconvenience the more equal ones.
Stripped of everything else, a person still has his or her skills and memories. Every elder I have met up since arriving here can attest to the power traditional knowledge has given them over their lives. I could default on my student loans and my mortgage and lose my house and everything, but I would still know how to do my job and rebuild my life.
Knowledge is the toolbox for everything you do. Without a strong foundation of good information, it is impossible to think critically, to make predictions or to empathize, and then you can’t really even be certain you are actually thinking for yourself or if you’re thinking what someone else wants you to. There is an entire industry devoted to convincing adults what to think.
You only need to scroll through the comments section of any big news story to see there is a serious deficit of knowledge in the English speaking world, be it in reading comprehension, historical facts, geography or science. Master these skills and you will be smarter than most adults alive today.
But good luck convincing them their facts are incorrect. So sure of their ignorance, they are easily swayed by charismatic figures who confirm their biases and follow them into cults, pyramid schemes or, even worse, populist political movements. And in the end they usually wind up with nothing, having giving everything they have to the scam.
Prioritize your education and you will not only have the tools to avoid falling into these traps, but you’ll be able to deal with anything this world throws at you.
Stay in school.