Cultural Content Adds Conscience to Education, Boosts Indian Students Self-Image and Learning

When they weren’t using GEAR UP as a money laundry, Stacy Phelps and his American Indian Institute for Innovation focused their educational efforts for American Indian kids on STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There’s no word yet on whether the Regents’ moving GEAR UP from the School of Mines to the Black Hills State campus signals a shift from STEM to humanities in the GEAR UP summer program focus.

However, an eager reader points me toward a middle school teacher in Rapid City who focuses more on the merits of rich cultural content and what she calls “education with a conscience”:

…JAG – Jobs for Americas Graduates, which is a national program that began in 1979, with a combination of dropout prevention and life/employability skills. Now this program is very unique, as it allows for tailored curriculum to be brought in specific to the needs of the students it serves. As local specialists we can rely on JAG developed curriculum, but also are able to reach out into our own collection of on-hand resources and materials to supplement needs of our students.

In doing so, this year we have utilized sources such as: American Indian Life Skills Development Curriculum, Teresa Laframboise, Turtle Mountain Chippewa (with guidance from Hayes Lewis, Zuni), which was a collective effort of several educators and “community members concerned about saving lives of students” (Laframboise). We also utilize classroom resources from CAIRNS – Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies, which is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center based out of Martin, South Dakota headed by Dr. Craig Howe.

In some lessons, we have turned to contemporary native writers such as Gyasi Ross, Momaday, and Deloria (both Vine and Ella) to support and uplift our Native Identity. Traditional stories handed down from Mesteth, White Hat, Black Bear, Crow Dog, Around Him, White Buffalo, and Yellow Boy (contemporary Lakota Elders) shared in oral narratives in class; referencing virtues and morals, while continually demanding that our students realize the importance of academics and education with a conscience.

[Lindsey Crazy Bull Compton, “Tailored Educational Program Geared to Specific Needs,” Native Sun News, 2016.04.20].

What results does Compton see in her classroom?

Within the use of each of these cultural and researched-based material, as an Educator I have seen our students go from zero enthusiasm, low academic standards and poor self-image toward a place of intrigue, participation, and creative self-inspiration through which they engage in shared leadership, understand and value cultural legacy (Gladwell) while internalizing the complex ancestral knowledge through ideas of virtues and kinship in both contemporary social and academic contexts [Compton, 2016.04.20].

Science is important, but so is humanity.


6 Responses to Cultural Content Adds Conscience to Education, Boosts Indian Students Self-Image and Learning

  1. mike from iowa

    Humanity is the H-chromosome so many DNAs of the wingnut persuasion are missing from birth.

  2. Porter Lansing

    Outstanding, program. ✯✯✯✯✯ This is an application addressing the essence of problematic Indian education. South Dakota, having the highest population per capita of German descendants is guilty of judging and placing expectations on Native kids by what Germans (and Caucasians in general) do well. JAG judges Native kids by what Native kids do well. Everyone does something great and ignoring that certainty should be mitigated and tailoring education to the student should be emphasized. IMO

  3. Sounds like a potentially great program, but without a rigorous assessment (something that apparently never happened with GEAR Up) all one can do is speculate about its potential benefits.

  4. dude it looks good and all helps.

  5. Dude. GEAR Up looked good too. It helped a few guys get rich and led to the death of a family. Oversight and assessment are necessary components for successful programs.

  6. Day to day in school jr high classroom activity increasing confidence, exposing kids to outside community organizations and promoting their potential continued education is the kind of experience needed by some students.

    This is about a caring in classroom teacher impacting lives in a positive way. The article says the program has been in existence since 1979. Assessment of a program like this in a situation like north middle school in RC probably begins with the students and teachers.