Landing : Athabascau University

Leaning on people for information

Life has been pretty busy for the last several months. Sometimes stressful, but mostly pretty good. Teaching, marking (I've discovered that creating tests/exams is my least favorite part of teaching. Worse, even than marking), and coming up with final grades. But the term is done, now, and I'm busy with occupying my time and earning some income until the end of August, when teaching starts again.


One of the things I'm doing this summer is working with Statistics Canada on the 2011 census. The way it's structured, I'm part of a crew of enumerators with a crew boss, which my daughter says makes it sound like I'm in the Mafia (she refers to my crew boss as The Don...) and really, the characterization is not that far off...I'm part of a hierarchical organization doing mysterious things for purposes that seem quite nefarious to many people. And my job can be quite accurately described as going around and leaning on people for information.


Much of the work for the census is fairly boring and tedious. Yesterday was one of the exceptions; I pulled into a farmyard (I'm working in a rural area about twenty minutes away from my house) and did my prescribed introduction lines, asking them to fill out a census form with me. That's when the man there started on a fairly lengthy conversation with me about individualism versus collectivism, why the government needs information, the nature of confidentiality, whether self-sufficiency is possible and/or desireable, and whether or not taking a census was the first step to a totalitarian government.


The man I was talking to (he never did tell me his name) was mostly self-educated and had the fairly typical combination of passion, defensiveness, intricate knowledge of some details and major gaps in knowledge found in autodidacts. He had a hard time seeing the larger picture for the details, and hadn't seen or acknowledged a number of his assumptions (and I didn't have the time to find a way for him to understand these things) but he was intelligent and thoughtful, and it was an interesting conversation. I appreciated that about him, but I'm also glad that most people don't think quite so hard about these topics, or I'd never get the job done.


So now I have to go back to my crew boss and tell her that this guy refused to do the census, and she'll pass it to her boss, and it will go up the hierarchy until someone decides whether to get the Mounties involved, or whether they'll just leave him alone to be distrustful on his own time.


It's probably a good thing that Statistics Canada doesn't go for concrete shoes or baseball bats to the kneecaps.


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