Creative career planning 101

I was interested in Filzah Nasir&rsquo;s critique of my Oct. 3 column. In that column, &ldquo;Reflection on <em>A Fair Country,</em>&rdquo; I proposed ideas for increasing cultural, methodological, and disciplinary pluralism in the university system.

My argument for enacting these initiatives hinged on the ideal that deep down in the cultural psyche of the people of Canada is the capacity for pluralism. The design of our education systems should better reflect that. We can demand more than the current state of affairs in our thinking.&nbsp; This was all inspired by John Ralston Saul and his 2009 book <em>A Fair Country</em>. Saul makes a compelling case that Canada is at its core a M&eacute;tis civilization, an idea supressed by the elite and standard narratives.

If you seek to be offended, you will be. Last week, Nasir made a counter-argument to the article, stating that, &ldquo;The state of Canada is not, and indeed has never been either fair or just.&rdquo; This is a very important argument that challenges dangerous tacit assumptions &mdash; but a counter argument against something not posited in my article. Wait, who is making the outlandish claim that Canada is a utopian just society? Weren&rsquo;t we talking about motivating change for pluralism in education?

Nasir&rsquo;s interpretation reminds me of the reasons I occasionally find it difficult to participate in activist campaigns for causes I care about: they can be pedantic, exclusive, and cynical. Ends are predetermined. The whole is ignored. Meaning is read literally and uncharitably. One has to always say the right things. Thinking spaces are narrowly defined. Surprise about gaps of knowledge is feigned. The desire is to find adversaries rather than create common ground. It&rsquo;s not always this way, and it doesn&rsquo;t have to be. The causes are too important to let this be the case.

We won&rsquo;t reach a terminus of &ldquo;a just society.&rdquo; I&rsquo;m deeply suspicious of people who imply we will or should or can. Framed as an end, it implies a final state of social equilibrium, knowledge of what the end looks like, and nothing about the nature of the means to get there. This lends itself to perpetuating the cyclical pattern of injustice. Fighting the pattern can prevent the particular. Fighting the particular doesn&rsquo;t necessarily address the pattern.

Instead, we can think of justice as a process that we should strive towards in our actions and beliefs every day. We need inspired learners and teachers to navigate the ideals. It is the responsibility of each of us to sew together a collective future.

Social justice and recognition of injustice are topics that need to be at the forefront of our dialogue. Nasir rightly outlined important events that we all need to talk about and take seriously in the decisions we make. We need to be thorough and identify bias in the narratives we construct. My original article could have used a more explicit assemblage of the scope of Canadian history instead of assuming knowledge on the reader.&nbsp; It seems that one side of the coin is taking account for past injustices. However, there are debts that can never be paid off; justice must also be forward looking.

We must find ways to all work toward futures and institutions that are more inclusive and fair. We must elicit the failures of the past and use principles of justice as a means towards better futures. Our thinking must be critical, thorough, charitable and optimistic so that together we can navigate the pluralist process of justice.