Successful students in Western schools are expected to be critical, competitive, assertive and individualistic. Our teaching style is direct, face-to-face, and rewards personal initiative and performance directly.
In many native communities, by contrast, respect for authority, especially of elders, modesty, humility, reserve and co-operation are dominant virtues. Western pedagogical styles therefore often do not fit native student populations; consequently, the establishment of native schools and school boards should be welcomed (A Place To Thrive, Or To Be 'Ghettoized'? Leaders Push For Native School Boards - Dec. 11). Native schools should accommodate teaching native languages and culture.
To compare such schools to residential schools, where Western social and religious values and practices were crammed down the students' throats, shows a profound lack of understanding. One of my native university students once told me her father still felt a pain in his tongue whenever he spoke his native language, but he did not understand why. His friend explained that in residential school, the nuns would put a needle in his tongue, as punishment, whenever he strayed from English.
At Laurentian University, I assisted in a small way in setting up a Native Human Services program, because mainstream social agencies dramatically failed their native clients. Native school boards are long overdue.
Follow us on Twitter: