Professional Journal : LUSENET : MEd Cohort III : One Thread

Countering Prejudice against American Indians and Alaska Natives through Antibias Curriculum and Instruction by Deirdre Almeida, October 1996

Almeida discusses the current inadequencies of teaching about American Indians and Alaska Natives, even though teachers are making a good effort to portray these groups respectfully. She also includes in her discussion on how teachers can avoid these pitfalls.

Almeida sees three obstacles in providing better instruction about American Indians and Alaska Natives. These obstacles are lack of training provided by teacher training programs, ongoing racist portrayals of Native Americans in the larger society, and difficulties in locating sources of trustworthy materials.

Almeida also categorizes two approaches favored by teachers when discussing these two groups of people. The first approach she called "the dead-and-buried culture approach" and the second approach she called the "tourist" approach. In the first approach, these groups of people are treated as extinct while in the second approach teachers experience only the unusual or exotic components of these cultures. Almeida also suggests one strategy on how to integrate antibias learning into the entire curriculum. The strategy she recommends is called webbing. A simplified version of her approach is first choosing a topic, then brainstorming issues that stem from the topic. The third step discusses the level of awareness held by members of the class, and then students can list activites that they can do to fill in the gaps of student knowledge and to expose them to antibias information on the topic.

As an American Indian educator I can agree to the obstacles that teachers face when studying the American Indians and the Alaska Natives. The lack of teacher training being number one on the list. Teachers simply didn't get this information while they were students themselves. If they did get information it was also from the dominate societies point of view and never, ever were contemporary issues discussed in class. When speaking with college instructors who have American Indian history in their lessons the instructors share how their students ask "why weren't we taught this in school?" or " how do we know what you are teaching is true?". So we do know this change needs to happen soon.

The ongoing racist portrayals of these cultures also has an impact. Movies portray American Indians as being mystical, or having supernatural powers, or being extremely active in the environment movement. I cannot think of one movie where American Indians are just like everyone else and work as doctors, lawyers, or police officers which seems to be the going job description of you are in a movie. I have seen one children's show where there is an American Indian, "the Puzzle Place". He is an American Indian from one of the southern tribes, though he does wear a bandana around his forehead.

I thought the strategy Almeida gave to reduce antibias material in the classroom was too simplistic. This issue is too complex for one activity to have an effect. I can only see it as a good introduction piece for a classroom lesson. I believe teachers need more of an incentive to learn about different cultures and find out what is and isn't biased material. One incentive is of course, time. Teachers need time to learn about their subject matter no matter what it is. Thank goodness we have some teachers out there who aren't afraid to tackle different cultures and teach about them in their classroom. They have overcome the fear of teaching something new.

-- Anonymous, February 01, 1999

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