In considering the potential contribution of linguistic anthropology to the ongoing reform of Native American education it is evident that there are various sources of information that demonstrate the need for major reform in specific categories of education. This can be applied in order to develop better practices for educating not only Native American students but students of various differing ethnicities. In developing these pedagogical reforms there are particular categories of education that should be focused on. In consulting on a tribes in a generic sense, the differing types of educational reforms that can be recommended on the basis of a small sample of linguistic and linguistic anthropological research can help to shed light on how education can be made more accessible.
Through consideration of specific articles that have been reviewed, the most useful of them in regards to either possible content in a curriculum reform or as sources of suggestions for alternative pedagogies can be considered.
Areas to make appropriate recommendations for reform:
In considering the most essential areas that could use significant reforms, a better idea of how the existing policies can be applied in order to promote the necessary changes can be established. Better understanding of linguistic structure, developing an ethnography of communication, and interethnic communication are the primary focus in this sense. Furthermore, the language, communication and educational elements that require reform will also be considered.
Using at least one example from the readings for three of the first four areas:
Obtaining a better understanding of Native American linguistic structures is one important area for reform. The need for understanding the specific linguistic structures of native groups presents an important element in regards to establishing a dialogue that can promote the learning of those in an educational environment. “The language structures of these varieties are patterned and complex varieties of English [and] are acquired grammatical systems” (Meek, 2006, p. 111). This demonstrates the need to understand the level of complexity and variety that is present in these linguistic structures. There can be significant influences on how these languages are developed according to the specific context in which it is learned or being used. “They conform to linguistic universal structures and also display influences from each particular community’s ancestral language” (Meek, 2006, p. 111). These factors can have a profound influence on not only how those within the community identity with themselves and outsiders, but also in how they are identified by others. This is important due to the effect that it can have on the capacity of the student to learn in a particular language environment. One outcome of this development is the negative bias that can be associated with the particular groups whose general language structures are co-opted without proper consideration for the variation and nuance that is evident in the languages that these groups use. This can have drastic consequences in both educational and social settings. “This covert conceptual subordination is the factor that maintains racism” (Meek, 2006, p. 120). In developing educational models that account for the needs of native groups a more coherent framework for providing education to these groups can be achieved. In this sense it is evident that “representing the speech of Native Americans as substandard and foreign portrays Native American speakers as foreign, as not native” (Meek, 2006, p. 120). For this reason, developing educational models that are able to provide insight into the linguistic patterns of native groups is essential for providing better standards for learning.
Another area for reform to consider is the ethnography of communication. Accounting for the specific customs of individuals, groups, and cultures is an essential element in developing learning models that can help students to succeed. One example of this is the importance of storytelling in native cultures. Research suggests that “the importance of maintaining the integrity of storytelling in school settings and the research process that led to the discovery of significant concepts regarding storytelling” (Eder, 2007, p. 278). This demonstrates the importance of accounting for minority cultures in the educational system. It is evident that there is a profound Western influence on the American educational system. “Most education in U.S. schools currently reflects the practices of European American culture” (Eder, 2007, p. 279). This creates an underlying bias in how these schools carry out their educational agendas. These agendas are fundamentally based in the specific considerations of the culture that created them. For this reason, native groups can have difficulty achieving significant gains in these educational settings. For this reason it is important to consider the fact that “education in Indigenous cultures is based on different practices such as a focus on storytelling, oral tradition, collaboration, reflection, and conveying knowledge implicitly” (Eder, 2007, p. 279). In Navajo culture in particular it is evident that there is a primary significance given to the use of storytelling in order to teach, learn, and educate. This is an essential aspect of their society. “The context of storytelling, such as who is telling the story, the season in which it is told, and the manner in which it is told, is critical in maintaining the integrity of Navajo culture” (Eder, 2007, p. 280). This presents a major contrast to those ideas present in modern public educational systems. This can have a profound impact on the ability of those students who come from differing ethnic backgrounds to succeed in the established learning environments that they are exposed to. For this reason, it is essential to understand “the importance of having Western assumptions challenged through dialogues with American Indians” (Eder, 2007, p. 281). Through these dialogues a more purposeful application of insight into the unique aspects of native cultures can help to develop more accessible methods for the creation of educational models. For this reason it is important to consider the relationships that students have with their particular ethnic backgrounds. It is therefore evident that it is “asking questions and giving answers that reveal the wide gap of understanding between cultures” (Eder, 2007, p. 281). For this reason, reforms focusing on developing better models of communication should focus on bridging this divide.
Interethnic communication is another important area that should see reform. There are various challenges associated with attempting to develop producing methods for communication among different groups. This is mainly evident in the disorder that results from these attempts. “Communication between members of different ethnic groups frequently results in confusion, misunderstanding, and conflict” (Scollan, 2006, p. 11). This can produce not only poor results in the educational system but can also be the source of major discontent among those groups or populations that are marginalized due to these problems. This can result in these groups feeling isolated or ignored. It is evident that “a source of frustration for native people who feel that their legitimate and urgent needs are being ignored or misunderstood” (Scollan, 2006, p. 11). This can cause further challenges for communication and result in a loss of connection between these groups. This can effectively reduce the capacity of the educational systems in place to adequately address the needs of these groups. “As miscommunication increases, racial and ethnic stereotyping begin to develop and impede further communication” (Scollan, 2006, p. 11). There are various situations in which problems such as this can occur. This includes conversational styles, speaking patterns, and particular aspects of an ethnic group's discourse. Conversational style presents a challenge to those attempting to engage students that hail from native populations. “One of the main areas in which inter ethnic communication runs into problems is when people have different ways of beginning and ending a conversation or getting the floor” (Scollan, 2006, p. 13). This can result in the development of unintended insults or other negative consequences. Who speaks first, control of topic, taking turns speaking, and even formulas for departing the conversation are all a fundamental aspect of communication within cultures. Furthermore, understanding the implications of attempting to change these patterns in students and educational systems alike should be a priority. There is a fundamental connection between how a person communicates and their personal or cultural identity. “If we suggest change we are not only suggesting change in discourse patterns [but also] change in a person's identity” (Scollan, 2006, p. 37). This presents a major consideration for developing future educational frameworks for native groups and other ethnic or minority populations. Not only is it important to challenge the perspectives that institutions have regarding the content of educational values but it is also “very important for anyone engaged in language work whether teaching or research to fully understand what it means to propose changes in people's use of language” (Scollan, 2006, p. 37). This presents the major concerns that should be regarded in association with interethnic communication and reforms that should be considered in the educational system.
A total of at least three from the fifth:
There are three primary examples that demonstrate the various concerns in regards to language, communication, and education that should be considered. These three ideas suggest a fundamental connection between language and identity that is essential to understand for the development of a more considerate and effective curriculum for native groups. In regards to language, it is evident that there is a need to establish values that account for the diversity of languages among these groups. For this reason, it is essential to consider “the need for bilingual education” (Mohatt, 2014, p. 105). It is evident that in the modern world priorities are not given to providing students with an education in their native languages. It is generally assumed that they will learn the language of the institution that they are taking part in. For this reason, while there have been developments in the educational system that could account for difference in language, it is evident that “these remedies are not used in many native communities because the majority of children no longer speak the native language” (Mohatt, 2014, p. 106). This presents a major challenge to the development of educational models that can help those of native backgrounds.
In regards to communication it is evident that there are various challenges associated with the capacity of the educational systems to provide the necessary environment for these students to learn in a more effective way. These issues emerge due to the inability for those who have developed these educational models to account for the needs of these diverse populations. Even among those of the same native groups there can be various complex differences among how they communicate with one another. “If one compares the social conditions for verbal participation in the classroom with the conditions underlying many Indian, events in which children participate, a number of differences emerge” (Phillips, 2014, p. 390). This demonstrates the need to account for communication patterns and the capacity of the individuals to participate in specific classroom activities. This can be understood when looking at how these groups view participation within their own society. Research indicates that “all who attend may participate in at least some of the various forms participation takes for the given activity” (Phillips, 2014, p. 390). These activities have no centralized control over them and people are free to either participate in all or none of the activities that are present. This presents a major contrast to those communication models that are present in modern systems, in which the teachers primarily dictate information to the students.
The focus of the educational models that have been developed should also be considered. There are important considerations in regards to the establishment of the programs that are directed at these individuals and the evidence that they are built upon. Another major concern in regards to the need to establish educational models that account for the specific cultures of the students involved. Instead, they are built upon the fundamentally flawed conception that all students will learn in similar ways. “All such programs rest on the universal child model and ignore culture as the critical factor in native children's learning” (Mohatt, 2014, p. 106). This presents the idea that all students in fact have different learning styles that should be approached in their own way. In looking at education in this manner, it is evident that major reforms are needed in regards to how the priorities of those who develop these models should be established. For this reason it is essential to include educators, students, and the community at large in the planning process. “If educational projects are to make a contribution to native communities, they must involve those to whom education is entrusted” (Mohatt, 2014, p. 118). Educational models built upon the understanding of the needs of the community are essential in creating effective learning environments for students of all cultures.
Why these are good choices:
These ideas can be effectively incorporated into an "additive" approach to educational reform in Native American communities seeking to control and improve their own educational institutions. These are good choices because they provide Native American communities with the capacity to attain more culturally relevant curricula and teaching styles that are, at the same time, more culturally compatible with their particular experiences. For this reason, it is important to consider the fact that all educators need to consider the perspectives of these groups and maintain dialog with Native controlled research review panels. These ideas all demonstrate a strong connection the languages of these groups and their identities, which is essential in developing new and better educational systems for Native Americans. These groups, despite major conflict and hardship have “sustained their unique world-views and associated knowledge systems for millennia” (Barnhardt, 2005, p. 9). For this reason it is important to account for their particular perspectives in regards to how best to learn. This demonstrates the need for educational models to account for the particular experiences of the native groups that they are built for. “Indigenous people have their own ways of looking at and relating to the world, the universe, and each other” (Barnhardt, 2005, p. 10). The specific learning methods of native peoples were primarily bound up in learning through observation or participation rather than the Western style of education through dictation of lessons or ideas. “Their traditional education processes were carefully constructed around observing natural processes, adapting modes of survival, obtaining sustenance from the plant and animal world, and using natural materials to make their tools and implements” (Barnhardt, 2005, p. 10). This presents a fundamental challenge for modern educational systems to tackle. The educational models that are developed should therefore be primarily concerned with understanding how these groups learn the best. Their view of the world was primarily expressed through various interactions and traditions. “All of this was made understandable through demonstration and observation accompanied by thoughtful stories in which the lessons were embedded” (Barnhardt, 2005, p. 10). This is why these choices for educational reform are considered to be so effective.
Barnhardt, R. (2005). Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Alaska Native Ways of Knowing. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Vol. 36, Issue 1, pp. 8–23.
Basso, Keith H. 1990.Western Apache Language and Culture.Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Eder, D.J. (2007). Bringing Navajo Storytelling Practices into Schools: The Importance of Maintaining Cultural Integrity. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Vol. 38, Issue 3, pp. 278–296.
Foster, M.K. (2005). When Words Become Deeds: An Analysis of Three Iroquois Longhouse Speech Events. Shaping Artistic Structures in Performance. 354-357.
House, D. (2002). Language Shift Among the Navajos: Identity Politics and Cultural Continuity. Navajoization of Navajo Schools.University of Arizona Press. 56-83.
Meek, B.A. (2006). And the Injun goes “How!”:Representations of American Indian English in white public space. Language in Society 35, 93–128.
Mohatt, G.V. (2014). Cultural Differences in Teaching Styles in an Odawa School: A Sociolinguistic Approach. Teaching Styles. 104-119.
Phillips. S.U. (2014). Participant Structures and Communicative Competence. Varieties of Communicative Strategies. 370-393.
Scollan, R. (2006).Athabaskan-English Interethnic Communication. Discrimination in Interethnic Communication. 10-37.