Wednesday, October 27, 2004

rules of entitlement

I love our University’s student newspaper. I feel slightly embarrassed about it because, on the surface, reading it seems like a waste of time. Is it possible to take it seriously?

But sometimes students express popular ideas in such a candid manner that it becomes really revealing. It takes a considerable amount of skill (and time!) to siphon through Chomsky’s convoluted verbiage to get to the bottom of his argument. But undergrads are still incapable of wrapping up their ideas in the fancy jargon of modern academia.

Which brings me to the letter written by an undergrad student in Native studies and published in the local student newspaper. The subject of the controversy is the Canadian government’s recent decision to tax aboriginal students’ tuition money, which in turn, is itself provided by the government. The news story published earlier about it referred to this money as ‘free’ that provoked the reader’s ire and prompted him/her to write a stern rebuke.

This tuition is not free… Free is something that your receive without paying for it. Aboriginal peoples have paid for their tuition and other funding that they may be eligible to receive [emphasis added]. It was paid for on the backs of Aboriginal ancestors. It was paid for with the signing of a document.

Anything that Aboriginal peoples may be eligible to receive has been bought and paid for. [emphasis added] It was not and has ever been free. Aboriginal peoples allowed others to live on their land and in their country. This was the transaction. Non-Aboriginal peoples were welcomed into this land and Aboriginal peoples were given certain privileges. That’s what happened. That’s what makes it not free.

I just loved that! In other words, Aboriginal peoples are entitled to any kind of handout the government might wish to provide them with. My only question is why stop here? Why is it only about tuition? Why not give any Canadian of Aboriginal descent a free car, a TV, a stereo system, or better yet – a personal jetfighter (no, that would be un-Canadian, too militaristic).

One may dismiss this person’s views as outlandish and accuse me of trying to make much ado about… well not much. It might as well be but this student was not a neophyte – she/he hails from the Native Studies program, fifth year! I am may be terribly wrong but I would not be surprise that this person merely conveyed to the public what’s being taught in that Department.
Don’t get me wrong – I am all for Native Studies as an interdisciplinary field in social sciences. But it is my strong suspicion that Native Studies and other such 'special departments' have evolved from being another research body in the temple of knowledge, which University is supposed to be, into the academic wing of a political party that serves to give the latter a certain degree of respectability and to help it to spread propaganda and indoctrination.
Any thoughts?


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