I’ll Get Better at This, I SWEAR!

While reading this article I kept thinking about the concept of inclusion, but not in the context of a disability, but culturally. Does it not apply to that too? It should go without saying that all students are equal inside of the classroom, and that equality must be maintained regardless of cultural factors. The horror stories you hear about old teachers are the ones where they singled out a student, and made them the victim of education instead of a participant. That is never okay.

Kleinfeld’s first paragraph is a harsh one, and in my opinion is severely narrowing down her audience. To me this is a shame, because I feel that she has an overall good message, though it could withstand some amount of revision.

“There is a prominent villain in Indian education-the ethnocentric
teacher who strives to destroy his students’ cultural
identity in order to propel them into the American mainstream.
Confronted with silent, resistive Indian students, he
then quotes chapter and verse of cultural deprivation texts to
rationalize his own teaching failure.”

I feel this is a wrong diagnosis, in that a teacher who is ineffective is striving to destroy their culture. Perhaps they are insensitive to it, or completely uninformed. If they are trying to destroy a culture, then get them out of there.

As for classroom management in the bush, I believe that the teacher must understand they are the minority in such a situation. In that instance I feel that a teacher must figure out a way to alter their course content to be applicable to their students lives. The same applies to any school though, if the students are not interested then alter your lesson.

It also made me think of our discussion on bullies, which Kleinfeld touches on. How the native students are often the subject of mockery, which I can understand. But again, this makes me think of inclusion, and the teacher MUST make the classroom as equal as possible on the surface. If special alterations must be met, do NOT single out the students. There are a variety of ways to meet each student where they are at. I especially loved the assignment she talked about, where they had to write about survival in the wilderness. Play to everyone strengths.

PS: I am relieved to see that I am not the only one who found Kleinfeld’s use of language and situations rather abrasive. Someone below noted her inconsistency in her reference to “Eskimo” and “Indian” students. From an Alaska Studies course I took this summer, the use of “Indian,” “Eskimo” and “Native Alaskan” vs. “Alaskan Native” is very important when it comes to addressing the various native cultures, and that was just in Alaska. Perhaps this is also another factor contributing the the gap between teacher and student, we are calling them the wrong name…

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