The article by Paul Berg, The Future of Alaska Native Education, makes some very valid points. In my graduate studies I learned quite a bit about multicultural educational issues, including those faced in our local Alaskan Native communities. I am in favor of indigenous people building their own educational programs that implement their culture and customs. Alaska has come a long way over the years in regards to the westernized world’s view of Alaska Native communities. Westernized society has tried to implement their perceived better ways through religion, education, and other societal norms. What should have been a chance for westerners to learn from the indigenous way of life, and an opportunity for the indigenous to take what they want from the western society, actually turned into a force feeding situation that was controlled by the majority. The western lack of ability to compromise and have consideration, in many ways ruined a relationship for generations to come.
Westernized educational systems and practices in bush communities have had a rough beginning to say the least. The creation of boarding schools and sending parents’ children to far off places to live and learn in communities that were unalike to the student’s home life was the western solution that would solve everything. Alaskan indigenous peoples did not have a say in how their children were educated, which in the long-run turned out to be a terrible mistake in the westerners method of operation and outright attempt to rule the world of all who are different.
Fortunately we have had people who have viewed what has happened in Alaskan and other indigenous communities around the world and identified not only what went wrong, but also what could and should be done. Education is such a beautiful thing, but only when it is administered in a fashion where the lessons are tailored to the students and their culture. Students need to be able to put into context with their own real-world the lessons that they are learning in the classroom.
Having Alaska Native educators that have be trained in a place-based setting, but have received a distant delivered form of higher education is a way to grow the number of teachers in the bush. This practice is already in action at the University of Alaska through the Department of Native Studies & Rural Development. Students in the program have the option to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree through their distance “Applied Field-Based Program” program, or on the Fairbanks Campus. The goal according to the DANSRD website is to “educate a new generation of community leaders for rural Alaska. “