Monday, April 10, 2006

The origins of evaluation

"If the problem of fitting the New World into the scheme of history as outlined in the scriptures was the most intractable of matters, explorers and missionaries alike found that, if evangelisation were to proceed, some understanding of the customs and traditions of the native people was required. Thus began their often-elaborate inquiries into Indian history, land tenure and inheritance laws, in a sense the beginning of applied anthropology. The early missionaries, fortified by a naive belief in the natural goodness of man, assumed that native minds were "simple, meek, vulnerable and virtuous" or, in the words of Bartolome de las Casas, tablas rasas, blank slates "on which the true faith could easily be inscribed". The missionaries were to be disappointed. In his History of the Indies of the New Spain (1581), the Dominican fray Diego Duran argued that the Indian mind could not be changed or corrected "unless we are informed about all the kinds of religion which they practiced ... And therefore a great mistake was made by those who, with much zeal but little prudence, burnt and destroyed at the beginning all their ancient pictures. This left us so much in the dark that they can practice idolatry before our very eyes". Such a view became a justification for the detailed surveys of pre-conquest history, religion and society undertaken by clerics in the later sixteenth century. The Spanish Crown was intimately involved and in the process introduced the questionnaire, bombarding their officials in the Indies with this new tool of government. (my emphasis)

Ideas: A history from fire to Freud, Watson p444 (half a paragraph)

So evaluation was invented as a means to be able to persecute the American Indians better! And so often it has barely moved from there, and evaluation is used to control rather than to liberate,

This has to do with power relationships. Where evaluation is imposed from the outside then there is resistance to cooperation and to the conclusions. But worst of all it can be seen as an imperialistic activity about imposing enforced conversion to a new religion, or at least new working practices.

And how often does an evaluation have the luxury of the time to fully explore what the alternatives are, what the users want, and what the implications of any proposed action (or lack of action) really are?

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