I loved Manu’s approach to and beliefs about learning. I feel like I need to fully disclose that I wrote notes throughout her presentation! She has a great point about listening and responding being the indigenous ways of knowing; more and more, our oral traditions are disappearing and being replaced with pen and paper (and even THAT is being replaced with technological advances). Listening matters and it is a lost art. The other night I was looking through testimonies on SB1312 regarding midwifery licensure. An overwhelming number of people were opposed to mandatory licensure because it would not protect traditional pale keiki (midwives). These traditional midwives gained their education, well, through traditional ways. Knowledge was passed down to them through their elders and through apprenticeships (I guess this would be manaʻoʻiʻo). If mandatory licensure were to be required, this type of learning would be replaced with textbooks. I am all for more stringent midwifery requirements but after watching Manu talk and re-reading the testimonies, I had a greater understanding and appreciation for traditional learning and its importance in preserving knowledge that cannot be taught in other ways.
Most of my learning has come from traditional schooling, traveling the world, and from my family. St. Augustine said, “the world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page”. I feel lucky enough to be able to travel and broaden knowledge base. A lot of it has been picked up by observing and spending time with lots of different people. My family has also taught me a bunch. Listening to my grandma talk about working in the cane fields and doing odd side jobs to support her family of nine has increased my humility and appreciation for her sacrifices. Tagging along with my dad to his office has allowed me to observe the fine art of business transactions and the importance of a good work ethic. Hanging onto my mom’s every word in the kitchen growing up is how I have been able to pass down family recipes and make them for my own son now. Getting out in the water while my husband takes our toddler surfing has given me the confidence to try it out too.
I would be remiss to say that my schooling has not played a big part in my knowledge. After all, if it weren’t important I wouldn’t be spending so much time, effort, and money to obtain a master’s degree. I acknowledge and understand the importance of what that piece of paper means, especially here in the states. It would allow me more opportunities and better pay, which would hopefully open up the door to more flexibility in my work and some play money to take my family traveling. Schooling has changed the way I learn tremendously. Everything from how I obtain my knowledge (taking notes) to what I believe (evidence based practice over anecdotes) is a direct influence from going to school. I do see the downside to this.
Manu was right when she said that literacy is the downfall of civilization. Taking notes can take away from the actual learning process and how we digest the knowledge. I always like to use the example of phone numbers: everyone can remember their childhood phone number or the number we had to call to check the time but nobody can remember phone numbers nowadays because we have replaced how we take in this knowledge by logging it into our cell phones and not our memory. I have heard the same thing about writing notes versus typing them; writing them out activates a part of the brain that allows you to transfer the information into your long term-memory while typing lets it just pass through. The way we remember things has changed along with our way of knowing. I read a great article the other day about the sadness of not being able to wonder about things anymore. Not so long ago, if we didn’t know something, we would guess and wonder. If we were really serious, we might even consult an encyclopedia. Now, there is none of that. Our questions are immediately answered by Siri or google.
Place-based knowledge is important not only in social work, but I think in all aspects of life. To go back to traveling, this is why I think being able to be exposed to so many different people and cultures is great: it allows you to see that not everyone operates in the same way. Specifically, place-based knowledge is important in social work in order for our practice to be sustainable and effective. Bringing in western ideals into other cultures could not only be ineffective, but quite damaging (hello, colonization!).