#3 Kyndall’s response to Paul Berg’s arcticle “The Future of Alaska Native Education”

The article by Paul Berg in the Juneau Empire touches on educational issues that face not only Alaska Natives but also the entire education system. Our current system insists that everyone be taught the exact same material. It doesn’t take in the fact that we are not all equal. I feel as people fear pointing out our differences but diversity of skill sets and minds is what makes our society flourish. By trying to force students into one education mold, we are not only loosing culture diversity but creativity and a love of learning. I fully support the idea of moving more toward a place-based education were you explore and learn from the place around you. This helps students find the relevance in their education. However while I think we can learn a lot from our immediate surroundings, we cannot isolate ourselves from the larger world around us. As Alaska Natives must take part in the dominant society, the dominant society also needs to teach their students in Alaska Native practices. Integrating all cultures into our school system is the best way to bridge the divide and learn to appreciate other cultures. Students need to learn about how others live in other parts of the world to realize there is more than one right way.
Another issue that I feel that the article brings up is that students are brought up from kindergarten with the expectation of college. While there is basic knowledge that is needed to help students be an informed member of society at large, the idea of schooling and education is to prepare them for a job after graduation. Not everyone will go to college and it shouldn’t be the only option presented. Students should also have skill training relevant to jobs that are available in their area.
Language is another divide not only in Alaska but in the Unites States. Many Americans feel that if you are in America, you should speak English. This I believe is fueled by our fear of the unknown, by not understanding and fearing other cultures. Many Americans tend to feel that there is only one right way and it is our way. I love the notion of immersion schools and feel that Americans need to be learning languages other than English. I do think it would be great if Alaska Natives could be taught in their native language. The only concern that I have is that this would create a larger divide between the different cultural groups.
I guess my general philosophy or ideas on education and the future of Alaska Native education is a bridge between the different cultural worlds. I support the independence and diversity but I fear complete isolation. I would like to see more Alaska Native culture filter into all schools in Alaska. I think all students would benefit from learning from Alaska Native elders. Alaska Native students should have the option to be taught by Alaska Natives and in their native tongue. The dominant culture though needs to learn about other cultures early and often.