ASAY: Indigenous Education Models

My abstract to the Aboriginal Students Association at York was accepted and on Thursday I presented my paper called Creating Sustainable Indigenous Education Models to a handful of people.

My paper started with research into Standardized Testing. I’ve been working towards a 33Q on the Medical College Admissions Tests and it got me thinking about mental measurement. Last semester I spent a good chunk learning about Francis Galton, the father of mental measurement, and what he really wanted to achieve with these tests and how they have been firmly established in today’s educational framework. I researched where they have helped, where they have not, and how people have responded to them. My studies, which for a while seemed circular, finally took root when I was visited Oliver Smith Elementary School, on 6-Nations Reserve. Terry-Lynn, Vice-Principle, stated that low marks on these tests really have a negative emotional impact on the students. I am very familiar with the emotional investment I put into my grades and the effects a good and a bad grade can have on my self-esteem. Her comment helped me to develop the question whether these standardized tests had a place in first nations’ culture. In the course of my research I met sure-footed supporters of the model but also flexible thinkers who thought about my emerging hypothesis; that a locally-crafted education model will encourage local agents to participate in their community and develop accountability for their actions leading to a healthier academic atmosphere. I researched decentralized education occurring in Africa and Social Studies work on Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Maslow’s Hierarchy. My argument is that a combination of the historical events, current support (and lack there of) from the government, and local initiatives are creating an opportunity for indigenous reform in the education sector. I got a lot of positive feedback from the audience, many of whom knew of separate initiatives that are taking place in schools that encourage indigenous teaching. It appears that education is somewhat flexible and with local pushes can adapt to more indigenous education. I think this reflects an interesting relationships between government-made curricula and rising to the occasion of locally-crafted needs. The York Professor in attendance could not stress more how the Indian Act was an attempt to colonize, but was unsuccessful. I paused at this because for 10 years I had no urge nor pressure from my surroundings to participate in my indigenous culture. But, I stood on Thursday in front of a group of people and attested to my indigenous ancestry. Such openness proved useful because I met the first person who went to Residential School with my mother! Have you ever felt the transparent wires that control your actions as if you were a marionette? I think I am starting to be aware of them and it’s making me what to grab those strings and use them as a harness for acrobatic moves.