Dr. S. Pete
November 22, 2012
Aboriginal Response Paper
The article I chose to read and analyze which discusses Aboriginal education was written by Rita Bouvier and Bruce Karlenzig. Their article is called “Accountability and Aboriginal Education: Dilemmas, Promises and Challenges.” It was written in 2006 and was featured in a journal called Our Schools, Our Selves. I chose this article because the title caught my attention. It implies that someone is held accountable for the educational system, and I was curious to know whom it was. The title also indicates that the system is faulty. I wanted to know what the problems were, and what was being done to find a solution.
The article discusses about how education is becoming more and more focused on who is accountable for education. Bouvier and Karlenzig reply that teachers are being found accountable more often, and less accountable are others such as “students, parents,… administrators, … and entire communities” (22). Higher testing scores are desired and it is seen as a failure on the part of the teacher when students do not place well. The article also states that Aboriginal people define success in school differently from white people, and there should be more focus on their definition. It also says that learning about Aboriginal people should be incorporated into every class, not simply as “an additive approach… in which distinct subjects or courses about Aboriginal issues… have been inserted into an already established and basically Eurocentric curriculum” (16). Simply adding a small unit into a class or having the option to take a Native Studies class will not help the situation. This article also argues that Indigenous ways of knowing can be beneficial to all students, and that this is one of the reasons they want the curriculum changed to include Aboriginal concerns into all classes.
While this article addresses many issues, the main concern from the article is accountability, and what it means for Aboriginal education. As I mentioned earlier the focus of accountability has to do with how well or poorly a student scores in his or her classes. This is problematic for Aboriginal people because they have a more holistic view of the world, which is sometimes difficult for students and teachers to incorporate into assignments and assessment. In addition, it is challenging because sometime teachers “need to improve their understanding about Aboriginal education generally, as well as to acquire a greater range of pedagogical skills that would affirm Aboriginal ways of knowing, teaching, and learning” (Bouvier & Karlenzig, 2006, p. 20). If the teacher does not understand Aboriginal ways of knowing it creates divisions socially and racially, and therefore must rely on set curriculum guidelines that use accountability.
This idea resonated with me because I feel that many teachers do not know enough about Aboriginal ways of knowing and teaching methods. Since teachers do not feel comfortable with the lack of knowledge concerning these areas, they choose to ignore alternative ways to use Aboriginal education in their teaching. I feel that if teachers understood more about the different methods of teaching and Aboriginal ways of knowing they would feel confident in teaching about this subject, and asking for outside assistance. This would benefit their students, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. Learning more would help teachers “to meet highly diverse educational responsibilities[,]… respect and affirm students’ cultures, respond to the unique qualities and needs of individual students, and nurture each student’s growth as a whole person” (Bouvier & Karlenzig, 2006, p. 22). This also operates a more holistic approach to include Aboriginal ways of knowing.
In the future, I would like to be able to incorporate Aboriginal ways of knowing in my teaching. I would like to learn more about Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching methods that work well to reflect these teachings. I also think a better understanding of Aboriginal people would be extremely helpful in teaching Social Studies and History classes. I think it is beneficial for teachers to incorporate Aboriginal concerns in all classes because: “when fully realized, Aboriginal education can offer insights into alternative values and norms” (Bouvier & Karlenzig, 2006, p. 28). If Aboriginal education can show the importance of other cultures values, it is important to teach students about them, and use it in everyday life. I can ask an Elder to join my class and talk to us about identity, traditions, or ceremonies that can relate to what I am teaching. I feel that learning about this can be another step to solving issues relating to racism, as well.
One thing that Bouvier and Karlenzig’s article has made me want to explore is the amount of freedom teachers have in regards to curriculum, and how to change the system of accountability. I would like to know if it is possible for teachers to choose more inclusive works that teach about Aboriginal people for all subjects. Once I know the limitations I have, I would like to utilize the resources available to learn more about Aboriginal people and their ways of knowing. I can start this while I am in university by choosing more Indigenous Studies classes for my electives and Social Studies minor program. This will give me more learning experience and a better understanding to help me teach my students. I can also attend workshops and seminars that discuss Aboriginal people, and use program support systems like an Aboriginal Elder/Outreach program, and having other guest speakers visit my classroom. It is important for people to learn about Aboriginal people because they are important to our history, and well as our future.
Bouvier, R., & Karlenzig, B. (2006). Accountability and aboriginal education: Dilemmas, promises and challenges. Our Schools, our Selves, 15(3), 15-33.