Other language issues arise when we consider the pervasive use of written
language and print-based media. These practices favor Western notions of knowledge and
are often difficult for students from oral dominated cultures. Moreover, print-based
knowledge is abstract and contributes to the erosion of intergenerational sharing, oral
history and forms of knowledge that constitute the cultural commons. Print-based
knowledge also favors Western philosophy and ethnocentric thinking. The root metaphor
of progress, as well as others such as individualism, mechanism, and market liberalism
gives the appearance of scientific legitimacy to their social policies. All of these play a
role in making it difficult for people to recognize the many ways they participate daily in
the cultural commons of their family and community. These root metaphors also serve as
powerful obstacles to introducing students to the alternative vocabulary necessary for
making explicit the ecological and community importance of the cultural commons.
The Difference that makes a Difference
This phrase also stems from Bateson’s work and its concern for what occurs in
relationships. “A ‘bit’ of information”, he writes, “is definable as a difference which
makes a difference. Such a difference, as it travels and undergoes successive
transformations in a circuit, is an elementary idea” (1972, p. 315) Bateson follows this
brief statement with the example of an axe and cutting down of a tree. The axe makes a
difference in the cut-face of the tree which leads to a change in the angle of the axe in the
next cut of the tree. This dynamic can be observed in every relationship in speaking
with others, playing a game, walking in the woods, driving a car, cooking a meal, and so
forth.
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