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Countering Bias through an Inclusive Curriculum

Countering Bias through an Inclusive Curriculum for Native American Students Attending APS

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The Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) through the Indian Education Department (IED) offers a guide for classroom educators to develop culturally relevant and appropriate instructional lessons that are sensitive and inclusive of Native American learning styles values by Cajete, (2000) and culture.  Currently APS provides educational services to approximately 6,000 Native American students belonging to over 115 tribes.

Throughout the 1990s, educators have called for change in U.S. schools, including changes that celebrate the diversity in American culture and language usage (Macedo, 1994). One result of this important reform movement has been the development of an anti-bias perspective in curriculum and instruction. The Native American child has a need to have their history, heritage, language, and culture valued and appreciated at all levels of education as discussed by Bendtro, Brokenleg, & Bockern, (1990).

Instructional Strategies

The following is a list of strategies the IED is recommending to educators as a means to counter bias in classroom instruction:

  1. Effective educators’ help students learn by sharing the mistakes of the past as well as by sharing contemporary understandings (Pewewardy, 1993) because unlearning Native American stereotypes is a lifelong struggle.
  2. Find resources about Native Americans that are not superficial and stereotypical.
  3. Instructors are influenced by their values, norms, and socialization practices of their cultures (Swisher & Deyhle, 1992). It is important, therefore, that before educators begin developing an anti-bias curriculum they examine their own underlying beliefs and ideologies about Native Americans. This usually involves an initial period of critically questioning and analyzing most of what they have learned about Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Reading books and articles written by Native scholars will help in this process. Some resources for beginning this process are listed at the end of this guide.
  4. Educators can integrate anti-bias learning into the entire curriculum at any educational level. One practical technique, called webbing, helps educators and students identify an array of possible topics for interdisciplinary learning (Derman-Sparks, 1993-94). Webbing involves several steps:
  • Determine the center of the web, or the theme to be studied. An example is the agricultural techniques of Native American of New England.
  • Brainstorm possible issues that stem from the theme at the center of the web. Examples could include indigenous dietary practices, the role of Native women in New England and food production, or the connection between the cultivation of land, Native American resistance to colonization and methods to decolonize as discussed by Smith, (1999).
  • Determine the level of awareness held by each member of the class pertaining to Native Americans and the specific anti-bias issues of study. Depending on the grade level, develop an exercise or set of questions that requires students to draw from their individual knowledge (including stereotypes) of Native American in the region. Stories or role-playing can be used to stimulate discussions.
    • Students list possible activities that can be pursued to fill in the gaps in student knowledge. Incorporating the theme into all subject areas strengthens the anti-bias aspects of the curriculum. In language arts, students could read a legend about how corn came to a local tribe. In science, students could research the varieties of corn grown in the past and today by Native peoples. In Mathematics, students could calculate the yield produced by indigenous agricultural techniques.
  • Once a teacher begins developing skills in detecting the cultural influences that guide perceptions and beliefs, countering bias becomes increasingly obvious, especially in instructional materials. There are several types of materials to avoid using with students:
    • Materials that make sweeping generalizations about Native Americans. Such materials fail to portray the tremendous diversity among Native American cultures today and historically. More trustworthy materials identify Native Americans and Alaska Natives by their specific nations, tribes, villages or languages.
  • Educators should integrate materials that present a realistic portrayal of Native American culture and spiritual traditions and avoid use of materials that present only the colonizers' perspectives.
  • A list of some resources and distributors you may want to consider when reviewing materials for classroom use appears in “Suggested Resources”.

    Conclusion

    It is important for educators to raise their awareness of the influences affecting themselves, their students, and the school culture in general when it comes to beliefs and attitudes regarding Native Americans and Alaska Natives. As educators become more knowledgeable about bias in the curriculum, they will be willing to share their knowledge, instructional approaches, and materials with others. In this way they become a resource for others to learn about anti-bias approaches to curriculum and instruction. The development of an anti-bias perspective in curriculum and instruction about Native Americans and Alaska Natives will be an ongoing process.

    Suggested Resources

    Journals

    • Akwesasne Notes. Kahniakehaka Nation Territory, P.O. Box 196, Roosevelttown, NY 13683-0196.
    • Native Americas. Akwe:kon Press, 300 Caldwell Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.
    • Native Peoples Magazine. 5333 N. 7th Street, Suite C224, Phoenix, AZ 85014-9943.

    Video

    • Native American Public Telecommunications, P.O. Box 83111, Lincoln, NE 68501-3111.

    Books

    • Champagne, D. (Ed.) (1994). Native America: Portrait of the Peoples. Detroit: Visible Ink Press.
    • Churchill, W. (1994). Indians are us? Culture and genocide in Native North America. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
    • Jaimes, M. A. (1992). The state of Native America: Genocide, colonization, and resistance. Boston: South End Press.
    • North American Native Authors Catalog. The Greenfield Review Press, P.O. Box 308, Middle Grove Road, Greenfield Center, NY 12833.

    References

    Derman-Sparks, L., & The A.B.C. Task Force. (1989). Anti-bias curriculum: Tools for empowering young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    Derman-Sparks, L. (1993-94, Winter). Empowering children to create a caring culture in a world of differences. Childhood Education, 70 (2), 66-71.

    Dorris, M. (1992). Why I'm not thankful for Thanksgiving. In B. Slapin & D. Seale (Eds.), Through Indian eyes: The Native experience in books for children (pp. 19-22). Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.

    LeeKeenan, D. (1993). Strategies for implementing an anti-bias perspective across the curriculum. Training manual, University of Massachusetts, School of Education, Early Childhood Education Program, Amherst, MA.

    Macedo, D. (1994). Literacies of power: What Americans are not allowed to know. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Pewewardy, C. (1993). The red road: Culture and education of Native Americans. Milwaukee: Honor Inc.

    Swisher, K., & Deyhle, D. (1992). Adapting instruction to culture. In J. Reyhner (Ed.), Teaching American Indian students (pp. 81-95). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

    Bendtro, L. K., Brokenleg, M., & Bockern, S. V. (1990). Reclaiming Youth at risk: Our Hope for the Future (Revised 2002 ed.). Bloomington, IN: National Education Service.

    Cajete, G. (2000). Native Science (1 ed.). Santa Fe: Clear Light Publishers.

    Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books Ltd.

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