American Indian Identity and No Child Left Behind. Jon Reyhner http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~jar/. No Child Left Behind Act 2001 Title VII, Sec. 7101. Statement of Policy
Title VII, Sec. 7101. Statement of Policy
“It is the policy of the United States to fulfill the Federal Government’s unique and continuing trust relationship with and responsibility to the Indian people for the education of Indian children. The Federal Government will continue to work with local educational agencies, ensuring that programs that serve Indian children are of the highest quality and provide for not only the basic elementary and secondary educational needs, but also the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of these children.”
Alan Peshkin in Places of Memory: Whiteman\'s Schools and Native American Communities observed that students at Santa Fe Indian School would participate with sustained effort and enthusiasm in basketball, but “regrettably...saw no academic counterpart to this stellar athletic performance…. In class, students generally were well-behaved and respectful. They were not rude, loud, or disruptive. More often they were indifferent.... Teachers could not get students to work hard consistently, to turn in assignments, to participate in class, or to take seriously...their classroom performance.”
Peshkin writes, “imbued with the ideal of harmony in their community life, Pueblo parents send their child-ren to schools that promote cultural jangle.” The sounds in the school aren’t discordant. The discord-ance is between what Pueblo communities teach their young and what schools teach, and this discordance goes far beyond just the matter of teaching Pueblo languages in the home and English in schools. School-ing is necessary to become competent in the very world that the Pueblos perceive as rejecting them”—school is a place of “becoming white.”
When he started teaching in 1899 on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Albert Kneale found the U.S. Government’s Indian Office “always went on the assumption that any Indian custom was, per se, objection-able, whereas the customs of whites were the ways of civilization.” Indian students “were taught to despise every custom of their fore-fathers, including religion, language, songs, dress, ideas, methods of living.”
An Indian Agent wrote in 1845 that, “It is not a subject of astonishment that the education, the civilization, and especially the glorious religion of the white man, are held by [Indians] in so little estimation. Our education appears to consist in knowing how most effectually to cheat them; our civilization in knowing how to pander to the worst propensities of nature, and then beholding the criminal and inhuman results with a cold indif-ference—a worse than heathen apathy; while our religion is readily summed up in the consideration of dollars and cents.”
The Superintendent of the Ponca Agency in Oklahoma reported in 1917 the story of, “an old Ponca Indian, now dead, once said that it takes Chilocco [Boarding School] three years to make a White man out of an Indian boy, but that when the boy comes home and the tribe has a feast, it takes but three days for the tribe to make the boy an Indian again.”
Hopi Edmund Nequatewa’s grandfather told him to learn the secrets of the white man\'s “black book.” He went to Phoenix Indian School in 1899 where daily bible classes were held. Back home in 1904, he told a missionary, “The only thing you have done for these people whom you have supposedly converted is to take them out of one superstition and get them into another.... You have been telling these people that if they miss on Sunday and do not come to church, they are condemned. Now is that not superstition?” He concluded that no one “really knows what is going to happen hereafter, but this has never been brought out in any publication of any one church or denomination.”
Deborah House who both took Navajo Studies classes and taught at Diné College in the 1990s found that “non-Navajo students (Anglo, Hispanic, and others) were encouraged to disparage their own upbringing and cultural experiences. Furthermore, their language, literature, religion, family life, and ethnic identities are routinely, and at times painfully, denigrated and devalued by Navajo and non-Navajo instructors, administrators, and other students.”
that an Ethnic Minority Individual or Group Can
Experience as They
Adjust to Living
Alongside an Ethno-centric Dominant
Success in school and in life is related to people\'s identity, how as a group and individually people are viewed by others and how they see themselves. Identity is not just a positive self-concept. It is learning your place in the world with both humility and strength. It is, in the words of Vine Deloria (Standing Rock Sioux), “accepting the responsibility to be a contributing member of a society.” It is children as they grow up finding a “home in the landscapes and ecologies they inhabit.”
Amy Bergstrom, Linda Cleary and Thomas Peacock in their 2003 study of Indian youth titled The Seventh Generation found that “Identity development from an Indigenous perspective has less to do with striving for individualism and more to do with establish-ing connections and understanding ourselves in relation to all the things around us.”
“The Elders tell us that it is alright to feel angry about stuff like this [e.g., the Sand Creek massacre] and it is good.
However, in the end you must go down to the river, offer a gift of tobacco to the Creator and simply let the anger go ....
Otherwise the anger will poison your spirit…”
“Every Iñupiaq is responsible to all other Iñupiat for the survival of our cultural spirit, and the values and traditions through which it survives. Through our extended family, we retain, teach, and live our Iñupiaq way.
With guidance and support from Elders, we must teach our children Iñupiaq values:”
In 1920 John Collier observed the Taos Red Deer Dance in which he found a power for living that, “If our modern world should be able to recapture... the earth’s natural resources and web of life would not be irrevocably wasted within the twentieth century which is the prospect now. True democracy, founded in neighborhoods and reaching over the world, would become the realized heaven on earth.... [Modern society has] lost that passion and reverence for human personality and for the web of life and the earth which the American Indians have tended as a central sacred fire.”
Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1933-1945, concluded that, “Assimilation, not into our culture but into modern life, and preservation and intensification of heritage are not hostile choices, excluding one another, but are interdependent through and through.... It is the ancient tribal, village, communal organization which must conquer the modern world.”
Powdered Eggs and Spam
Students who are not embedded in their traditional values are only too likely in modern America to pick up a culture of consumerism, consumption, competition, comparison, and conformity
Dr. Richard Littlebear writes that, “Even in our rural areas, we are encountering gangs. Our youth are apparently looking to urban gangs for those things that will give them a sense of identity, importance, and belongingness. It would be so nice if they would but look to our own tribal characteristics because we already have all the things that our youth are apparently looking for and finding in socially destructive gangs.”
“We have all the characteristics in our tribal structures that will reaffirm the identities of our youth. Gangs have distinctive colors, clothes, music, heroes, symbols, rituals, and “turf”.... We American Indian tribes have these too. We have distinctive colors, clothes, music, heroes, symbols, and rituals, and we need to teach our children about the positive aspects of American Indian life at an early age so they know who they are. Perhaps in this way we can inoculate them against the disease of gangs.”
“Another characteristic that really makes a gang distinctive is the language they speak. If we could transfer the young people’s loyalty back to our own tribes and families, we could restore the frayed social fabric of our reservations. We need to make our children see our languages and cultures as viable and just as valuable as anything they see on television, movies, or videos.”
One of the problems with transferring one-size-fits-all curriculums designed for main-stream schools promoted by the No Child Left Behind Act to Indian schools is that incentives they use may not work with Indian students and/or may be culturally inappropriate. For example, Lipka et al. in a study of Yup’ik teachers rejected the profuse “bubbly” praise promoted by outside teachers because traditional Yup’iks believed “overly praising will ruin a person.”
Yup\'ik teachers also wanted to provide their students with greater comprehensible input, both in terms of language and content, based on Yup\'ik culture rather than to continue to use the decontexualized curriculum from the dominant culture that pervaded Alaskan village schools. Yup\'ik “children in the village were raised to be self-reliant and have a great deal of responsibility;” however, “in school, they learned to look upon the teacher as an authority figure who tells them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.”
Yup\'ik teachers emphasized “establishing a strong personal relationship with students,” in contrast to the outsiders’ ideas that “good teachers” were teachers who had the “ability to impart content knowledge,” content designed to replace the Yup\'ik language and traditional cultural knowledge and values. Thus both Yup\'ik teachers and students were faced with cultural conflicts. Ethnographic studies, such as this one by Jerry Lipka, are being ignored by the Department of Education in looking at educational programs that are supported by “scientific research.”
Navajo LearnersAnglo Learners
- Observe - Act
- Think [Reflect] - Question
- Act - Think [Reflect]
“In contrast with Anglo learners who typically want to try something new, then question, and then think about a learning, the preferred learning styles of Navajo children is to observe first, think about the learning, and then take action to try or practice a new learning. This process is one that many new teachers of Navajo students do not fully integrate into their teaching.” —Dr. Joseph Martin
A Navajo elder told Dr. Parsons Yazzie, “You are asking questions about the reasons that we are moving out of our language, I know the reason. The television is robbing our children of language. It is not only at school that there are teachings, teachings are around us and from us there are also teachings. Our children should not sit around the television. Those who are mothers and fathers should have held their children close to themselves and taught them well, then our grandchildren would have picked up our language.”
Dr. Parsons Yazzie found in her doctoral research that, “Elder Navajos want to pass on their knowledge and wisdom to the younger generation. Originally, this was the older people\'s responsibility. Today the younger generation does not know the language and is unable to accept the words of wisdom.” She continues, “The use of the native tongue is like therapy, specific native words express love and caring. Knowing the language presents one with a strong self-identity, a culture with which to identify, and a sense of wellness.”
Dr. Richard Littlebear quotes an elder “Cheyennes who are coming toward us are being denied by us the right to acquire that central aspect of what it means to be Cheyenne because we are not teaching them to talk Cheyenne. When they reach us, when they are born, they are going to be relegated to being mere husks, empty shells. They are going to look Cheyenne, have Cheyenne parents but they won\'t have the language which is going to make them truly Cheyenne.”
Reading expert Richard Allington found in a study that, “Exemplary teachers evaluated student work based more on effort and improve-ment than simply on achievement status. This focus meant that all students had a chance at earning good grades, regardless of their achievement levels. This creates an instructional environment quite different from one where grades are awarded based primarily on achieve-ment status. In those cases, the high-achieving students do not typically have to work very hard to earn good grades.”
“Lower-achieving students often have no real chance to earn a good grade regardless of their effort or improvement. Achievement-based grading–where the best performances get the best grades–operates to foster classrooms where no one works very hard. The higher-achieving students don\'t have to put forth much effort to rank well and the lower-achieving students soon realize that even working hard doesn\'t produce performances that compare well to those of higher-achieving students. Hard work gets you a C, if you are a lucky low-achiever, in an achieve-ment-based grading scheme.”
Teachers responsive to their Indian students’ needs are more successful than those who slavishly teach from textbooks, curriculums, and state standards that almost never reflect the tribal heritage of their students. It is long past time to remember what Luther Standing Bear declared in 1933 about young Indians needing to be “doubly educated” so that they learned “to appreciate both their traditional life and modern life.”
Angela Willeto’s (1999) study of 451 Navajo high school students from 11 different Navajo schools confirms that students’ orientation towards traditional culture, as measured by participation in ritual activities and cultural conventions as well as Navajo language use, does not negatively effect these students’ academic performance. Thus “a difference between the cultural values of the school and child per se is not the essential reason for Navajo children doing poorly at school.”
Beware of the Dark Side
In practice, high self-esteem usually amounts to a person thinking that he or she is better than other people. If you think you\'re better than others, why should you listen to them, be considerate, or keep still when you want to do or say something?
…a whopping 25 percent claimed to be in the top 1 percent! Similarly when asked about ability to get along with others, no students at all said they were below average.
Donna Deyhle (1995) found that students with a strong sense of identity could overcome the structural inequalities in American society and the discrimination they faced as American Indians.
A 2003 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report noted that BIA schools spend half the amount that public schools spend per student and that “the proposed 2004 budget…does not provide the necessary funding to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 throughout the United States, but especially in Indian Country.” The Commission noted that only 66% of Native students graduated from high school as compared to 75% of the general population and found that “dropout rates among Native American students are high because, among other reasons, their civil rights and cultural identities are often at risk in the educational environment. Research shows that Native American students experience difficulty maintaining rapport with teachers and establishing relationships with other students; feeling of isolation; racist threats; and frequent suspension.”
The Commission noted that “community respon-sibility for and ownership of schools are crucial for creating a positive learning environment that respects students’ civil and educational rights. It concluded that , “as a group, Native American students are not afforded educational opportunities equal to other American students. They routinely face deteriorating school facilities, underpaid teachers, weak curricula, discriminatory treatment, and outdated learning tools. In addition, the cultural histories and practices of Native students are rarely incorporated in the learning environment. As a result, achievement gaps persist with Native American students scoring lower than any other racial/ethnic group in basic levels of reading, math, and history. Native American students are also less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to drop out in earlier grades.”