Field-Based Education for Alaskan Native
Cross-cultural Education Development Program
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Barnhardt, R. (1977). Field-Based Education
for Alaskan Native Teachers. Cross-Cultural Issues in Alaskan Education.
R. Barnhardt. Fairbanks, AK, Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, UAF:
In the following paper I will attempt to reconstruct the conceptual
and operational evolution of a program for the training of Alaskan
I will describe the first six years of the programęs development,
focusing on those aspects that reflect consideration of the unique
cultural environment in which the program operates. I address these
issues from the perspective of an academic coordinator for the program
since its inception. My formal training is in anthropology and education.
To the extent that a native point of view is expressed in this paper,
it is a product of my interpretation of that view as a non-native,
and should be judged accordingly.
The program, known originally as the Alaska Rural Teacher Training
Corps (or ARTTC), was established in 1970 as a four-year experimental
with the primary purpose of training native elementary school
teachers. The original proposal specified that the training would be
and that it would meet the usual requirements for a Bachelor
degree and an elementary teaching certificate. Under a somewhat
ambiguous administrative arrangement involving two universities and
school system, three staff persons (one representing each of
the above) were hired and charged with implementing the program. Eleven
training sites were established in rural native communities around
the State, each with a team of four to eight underqraduate students
(primarily native) and a full-time, certificated –team leader.”
Under these conditions, we (the three program staff and eleven team
leaders) set out to produce teachers. We began planning for a six week
that was to prepare everyone for the years ahead. As we proceeded, however,
we gradually realized that our task was not going to be simply a matter
the latest teacher training techniques to this particular group of students,
thus producing a new and improved breed of teacher for rural Alaska. With
this realization, we found it necessary to step back and ask ourselves
a few basic
- Why train natives to be teachers?
- What is a –native” teacher?
- How do you train –native” teachers?
Why Train Natives To Be Teachers?
Our initial response to the question, –Why train native teachers?” was to point
out that nearly every recent study and report on native education in the country
recommended such action. In addition, there was the political pressure from
the natives themselves to become a part of the action. But that didnęt answer
the basic question, –Why?” It soon became obvious that we were moving into
relatively uncharted territory and the only landmarks we could see were a few
untested assumptions, such as:
- A native teacher will be better able to assess and respond
to the learning needs of a native child. This assumption presumes
similarities in cultural
background between teacher and child will improve communication
and thus foster greater mutual understanding and learning.
native teacher will provide
a model with which native students can identify, thus motivating
them to achieve greater educational success. This assumption
presumes that a native teacher
will acquire status in the eyes of the native community.
- A native teacher will remain within the State and acquire
greater cumulative teaching experience which will result in a
broader and deeper understanding
of local educational processes. This assumption is sometimes
viewed as –parochialism,” but
it addresses the very real problem of transciency.
We proceeded with these as untested assumptions, because the State
had too few practicing native teachers to provide any basis for determining
We, then, had to explore another question, –Why have so few natives become
teachers in the past?” On the basis of our own training and experience, we
were confident that the native students possessed the necessary capabilities
to become teachers, so the easiest response to the question was to blame –the
system. Only a few Native students were coming to the universities for an education,
fewer were enrolling in teacher training, fewer yet were completing a four-year
degree program, and of those who did complete a teacher training program,
only a small number returned to a native community to teach. But blaming the
system did not satisfactorily resolve the question either. So again, we had
to postulate some ideas through which we could determine how best to proceed
with a program that was supposed to address this particular problem. Our assumptions
- The university campus, as a detached and somewhat impersonal
learning environment, contributed to the low academic achievement
rate of native students. Coming to
the university was a one-way street for many native students.
A successful campus experience required familiarity with and adherence
to a wide range of socio-cultural
patterns, many of which were not compatible with the attitudinal
and behavioral skills required for survival in the village. Thus,
native person who learned
to survive on campus often was no longer satisfied with, or
acceptable to, his home community.
- The teacher training curriculum
address the needs
of students desiring to teach in a physical and cultural
environment different from the unidemensional, ethnocentric model
most teacher training
programs were designed. Contemporary teacher training curricula
placed a great deal of emphasis on preparing the teacher to assess
and provide for –individual
differences.” Students were saturated with a psychological
perspective of learning and teaching, derived largely from
the study of individuals and small groups
within Western society. While such training may have been useful,
and even necessary, it did not provide an adequate perspective
for assessing and responding to the
needs of children in rural native communities. Their individual
needs had to be assessed within the context of the broader
social and cultural environment
within which they existed.
Assuming then, that native teachers would provide a unique and desirable
service to rural native communities, and that the detachment of the
and the inadequacy of the teacher training curriculum were partially
responsible for the limited number of such persons, we now had a rationale
and some points
of departure from which to proceed on our evolutionary journey.
What Is A –Native” Teacher?
We did not proceed far, however before we realized that in order to
develop and operate a teacher training program we had to have some
idea of what we were
trying to produce, or at least a direction in which to move. We
had an alternative to the campus setting, in that the program would
be largely field-centered, but
we could not develop an alternative curriculum until we had some
idea of the kind of teacher we wanted. We could have taken the traditional
curriculum and delivered it to the students in the field, on the
assumption that such an approach would at least succeed in placing
some natives in the teaching
profession. But this approach would not capitalize on the unique
strengths the students might possess as natives. Worse yet, it might
even destroy some of those
On the other hand, we could deviate from the traditional curriculum
by defining the teachersę role in the form of –competencies” and judge the studentsę teaching
ability on the basis of –performance criteria” assessed in terms of –measurable
behavior.” In this way we would at least have some flexibility in developing
the program. But defining the competencies required for a –native” teacher, proved
to be an elusive endeavor, for no prototype existed. The handful of teachers
of native descent in the state had all gone through a traditional teacher training
program and were barely distinguishable from other teachers. In addition, no
one prototype of a teacher, native or otherwise, could possibly satisfy the diverse
cultural and educational needs of the rural native communities. We were also
concerned about becoming too bound up in the mechanics of a strict –competency-based” approach
and losing sight of the original purpose of the program. The competency approach,
therefore, seemed more inhibiting than helpful for our purposes.
We knew, from the limited literature on the subject at the time (primarily
Collier), that subtle differences between native and non-native –teachers” in their relationships
with native children appeared to have a significant impact on the response of
those children to formal learning, even though the materials presented and the
learning environments were otherwise similar. The differences seemed to be related,
in part, to more compatible communication and interaction styles between native
teachers and students, derived from prior associations and common cultural experiences.
One of our major concerns then, was to avoid destroying those characteristics
inherent in the native personęs attitude and behavior that might allow them
to relate more effectively to native children. Although we still could not define
the ultimate end product, we could at least now state that the program would
attempt to protect and nurture the intrinsic qualities that the students brought
with them. But we were no further along in explicating those qualities.
We were also aware that the institution of –schooling” and thus, the role of –teacher” as
we know ii today, were once alien notions in the rural native communities, introduced
to the native people within this century by well-intentioned outsiders who only
vaguely understood or anticipated the consequences of their action. While –education” was
viewed primarily as an informal and life-long process prior to the arrival of
schools in rural Alaska, it had since become synonymous with those activities
that occurred within the large, luminated building on the hill, and had been
further confined to six hours a day, five days a week, 180 days a year. Consequently,
the parents and children in the remotest community in Alaska had developed expectations
regarding the role of –teacher” similar to those held in any other community
where a school, a classroom full of children, and a teacher existed.
Any effort to define the native teacheręs role in the context of a specific cultural
background was further constrained by the desire on the part of the students
themselves to be prepared to teach not only in a rural Alaskan native community,
but in any school in the country where an Alaskan teaching certificate could
be parlayed as an acceptable license to teach. They did not want a second rate
education. We resolved, therefore, that the best judges of what constitutes a
native teacher would be the students we were about to train, so the most logical
course of action was to obtain their assistance in the development of the program.
In that way, we could help the students define their role as we went along. Maybe
in the end then we would have some basis for determining whether a native could
be a native and a teacher too. Consequently, what follows is as much the product
of student thought and effort as it is that of the program staff.
How Do You Train –Native” Teachers?
With a few assumptions in hand to serve as guidelines, a limited conceptual
framework within which to work, a vague direction in which
to move, and a group of enthusiastic students to lead us, we ventured
forth on our journey. Following
a brief getting-acquainted and settling-in period in the field
sites, all the students and staff came together for an intensive six-week
work session. It was during this session that the essence of
the program evolved.
The individuals from each field site, including the team leader, began
to work together, gradually forming a closely knit working team in
which the whole became more than the sum of its parts. Team members
assisted each other in
their work and openly exchanged ideas and opinions to their
mutual benefit. Native and non-native students viewed each other as
equals and began to explore
their similarities and differences. Natives from different
ethnic backgrounds within the State discovered they could learn much
from each other. They learned
how to communicate and understand each otheręs views through direct experience.
Once established, this interaction process carried over on their return to
the field sites. The native students learned how to cope with –the system” from
the non-native students, who in turn learned how to cope with village life
from the native students.
Following the return of the students to the field, we discovered that
one of our earlier assumptions needed a broader interpretation: The
as a remote but intensely personalized learning environment,
was contributing to the low academic achievement rate of non-native
students. The non-native
students, who comprised one-fourth of the student population,
were responsible for nearly one-half of the drop-outs during the first
year. They were experiencing
the same problems of adjustment to the native community that
native students experienced coming on campus. But while this approach
created some adjustment
problems for the non-native students, it provided numerous
advantages for the native students, and for the program as a whole.
The delivery of the training
to the rural native communities permitted the native students
to control the effect of the learning experience by allowing them to
encounter it on their
own ground and on their own terms. With the help of fellow
team members, including the team leader, the students approached their
coursework as a cooperative
enterprise. When a student had difficulties with a particular
assignment, someone was close at hand to help him out. Also, the students
did not feel threatened
by the instructors (who were sometimes 1500 miles away) or
a large classroom environment, so they did not hesitate to provide
feedback to the instructors
regarding the courses they were receiving. Instructors working
with the program frequently commented on the high quality of work and
degree of interest shown
by the students in the coursework.
The most significant consequence of the field-centered approach was
that it permitted the native students to maintain contact with their
own community. Their relationships
in the community were often strengthened and several students
moved into leadership positions as they developed their abilities to
understand and deal with community
and school problems. Although the native students were developing
many skills and ideas of non-native origin, they were learning and
changing within the
context of the community, so that no major discontinuity was
experienced. Changes within the students and within the communities
were continually blended through
cohabitation, thus allowing for compatibility of interests
and roles as the new life styles evolved.
The same process applied to the native studentsę experiences in the schools.
They gradually worked their way into the classrooms and assumed a variety of
roles, sometimes adapting to the situation, other times adapting the situation
to themselves. In this way, each student was able to define and carve out his
own role as a native teacher in the school and community.
So far I have focused my discussion on two particular structural
elements of the training program, namely the team concept and the
What about the –curriculum?” What were the students doing, and what were they
supposed to be learning during their stay in the program? In the development
of the training design for the program, our concern was focused on the totality
of the studentsę experience-not just the particular courses they would take.
Thus, curriculum was viewed in its broadest sense, as encompassing context,
process and content. In that sense, the team concept and field-centered approach
were integral parts of the curriculum.
The context was the community, within which the school was viewed
as one element in the total educational experience of each child. The
students spent nearly
all of the first year living, working and studying out in
the community. The training program attempted to capitalize on the
resources available to the
students through activities that brought the students in
direct contact with the realities they would face as teachers.
Within this context, the students learned through an experiential
process-that is, they came to understand the world around them and
their role in it through
direct experience. They learned how a community operates
by living in and studying their own community. They learned how a
child grows by interacting with and
observing real children. They learned how to teach by teaching.
They learned how to learn, from each other as a team. Most importantly
though, through this –confrontation
with reality” process, they learned about themselves and how their lives are
affected by and affect those around them, which sometimes necessitated a considerable
reconstruction of the individualęs view of –reality” and his role in it.
On top of all this, we had the curriculum content. This could be partially
summarized by running down the course list on a studentęs transcript. But the course titles
cannot adequately portray the learning experiences associated with each course,
particularly those offered in the field. The field courses were drawn primarily
from the social sciences, the humanities, and education, since these could be
most easily adapted to, and capitalize on the field setting. So a course that
appeared on the transcript as –Anthropological Field Methods” included, inherent
within the course activities, a variety of concomitant learning experiences
not necessarily represented in the course outline. For example:
- The students prepared a detailed map and household directory
showing all the buildings in their respective communities and listing
the residents by age
and level of schooling. This brought them in contact
with everyone in the community through a purposeful activity, and
in a document that was useful to
many people in the school and community,, not to mention
the specific field method skills the students acquired in the process.
This activity placed emphasis on
the participant-observeręs role, with the native and
non-native students sharing their observations from an –insider” and –outsider” perspective.
Each activity was preceded by background reading and
discussion, and followed by analysis and
- The students prepared and conducted open-ended
and structured interviews, focusing the questions on
an education-related issue that was of immediate concern
to themselves or to some element of the school or community.
In this way they
provided a useful service while gaining experience in
- The students constructed
and administered a questionnaire to a sampling
of students, teachers, and parents, obtaining information
regarding their attitudes on certain school-related issues.
They compiled and analyzed the data, and
made comparisons to determine the similarities and
differences in the three sets of responses. In addition
to learning about sampling, and the strengths
and weaknesses of questionnaires as a data-gathering
technique, they stimulated a lot of discussion in the
community regarding the issues and were able to
better understand some of the problems they would face
- Each student selected an informant from
the community and prepared a –life history,” focusing
attention on the educational development of the individual.
This activity stimulated dialogue between the students
and other members of the community, and gave
the students some perspective on the processes of cultural
transmission, culture change, and acculturation, all
of which are highly significant processes for
teachers to understand in contemporary Alaska.
students at each site were provided with film, cameras,
and a complete set of darkroom equipment,
and trained in the use of photography as a research
technique. Each team prepared a photo essay of their
community, including a photographic overview, incidents
of social interaction, a survey of the technology
evident in the community,
and a pictorial summary of their own activities as
a team. These albums were then brought to the campus
during the summer and shared with their fellow
students from other teams. This enlarged their perspective
on the diversity of cultures and environments existent
within their own State.
- Finally, all
of the above information, along with a variety
of additional data, was compiled and reported in the form of a community
study. The information contained in
these reports was of subsequent use to the students,
and in several cases, accomplished useful purposes
for others. For example, the household directory
compiled by the students in one community was instrumental
in convincing the U.S. Census Bureau that they
made a 40% error in the official 1970 census
conducted the same year. In a community of 500
actual population, an error of this magnitude can result
a drastic misappropriation of critical funds
and services that are allocated on a per capita
basis. Such results can stimulate a great deal of motivation
and interest on the part of the community as well
as the students.
I do not wish to imply that all courses were as able to capitalize
on the resources of the field setting as the one I have described.
Indeed, many courses were
simply re-runs of the same courses as taught on campus.
To the extent, however, that the instructors were familiar with the
field setting and able to adapt
their course to that setting, they usually did so.
The conceptual and methodological framework embodied in the
curriculum and program
design drew heavily on the social sciences, in particular, anthropology. While
this may be, in part, a reflection of the educational background of those of
us responsible for the academic component of the program, it did not occur without
purpose or reasoning. If the students were to eventually overcome the ethnocentric
confines of the existing educational system, and see beyond the usual narrow
definition of concepts such as –schooling” and –teaching,” they would have to
develop a perspective that transcends cultural boundaries and provides a holistic
and adaptive framework for assessing needs and resolving problems. For that perspective
we looked to the content and methods of the social sciences. We employed the
concept of culture in its many and varied manifestations, as a means to help
the students better understand and assess the needs of the children they were
preparing to teach. We used the methods of anthropology to guide us in the development
and implementation of the program design. As the program evolved, we gradually
developed a separate undergraduate curriculum with an interdisciplinary focus
on cross-cultural education, which has since been incorporated into the universityęs
What Have We Learned?
Since the program was intended to be experimental in
nature, we have taken advantage of the rare opportunity to do a lot
of experimenting. The whole program
has, in effect, been an experiment in the techniques
of survival in a bureaucratic society. We have experimented with alternative
models in teacher education. We
have experimented with different approaches to the delivery
of academic coursework. We have experimented with a variety of conceptual
frameworks for viewing the
process of education. And we have experimented with peopleęs lives, to the extent
that we have ventured forth with them into the unknown.
By 1974 we had completed a four-year cycle of the program and forty-two
of the original sixty students had graduated, so we took stock of our
revised the program to expand on its strengths and reduce
its weaknesses. We changed the team leader role from a certificated
teacher to that of a university
faculty member who remained in the field, but whose responsibilities
were expanded to encompass a region rather than a single community.
In this way the instructors
could become more familiar with student needs, and more
students could have access to the program.
We also expanded the curriculum beyond the elementary teaching
emphasis to include the preparation of bilingual teachers and teachers
for small rural high schools,
and the development of a non-teaching degree emphasis
in –human resource development” to
prepare persons for the educational development roles in the new regional and
village corporations (see Gaffney, this publication). Since the programęs efforts
were expanded beyond the preservice training of teachers, the program name was
changed from ARTTC to the Cross-cultural Education Development Program (or X-CED),
reflecting the broader application and focus of concern. In addition, a Masters
program in cross-cultural education has been developed and is now available through
the same field delivery system established for the undergraduate program.
So what have we learned from it all? In effect, we have learned most
of what I have presented above. Although we had some vague notions
about what we wanted
to do in the beginning, we had no detailed, premeditated
plan or preconceived model from which to work. Since we were unable
to obtain an acceptable training
model elsewhere, and we did not want to force the students
into a potentially inappropriate model of our own making, we decided
to use a process approach and
let the program evolve. What I have described above as
the program is what we have learned and accomplished through a process
We also have learned that the single most important characteristic
that program personnel must possess, if such an approach is to succeed,
is a high tolerance
for ambiguity. Many persons find it difficult to cope
with uncertainty and to proceed with little more than intuition and
instinct as guides. They seek structure
or closure on a matter prematurely, thus reducing the
opportunity for flexibility and adaptability. Under contemporary
pressures for accountability and related
demands for the delineation of specific objectives
and the development of flow charts in pursuit of explicit end products,
it is indeed difficult to survive
on a creed that declares, –We will know where we are going when we get there.” So
far, we have learned enough about what we are doing and where we are going in
time to satisfy our own needs for direction and to meet the challenges of each
step along the way. If we had tried to anticipate in the beginning all that we
know now, we would have been overwhelmed and given up long ago.
We have learned many other things since we started our journey that
have implications for what we are trying to do. Since some of these
are still vague and undocumented
notions, and others are fundamental questions that
may not be resolvable, I will present a few of them in brief, summary
form here, as points of departure for
We have learned that it is difficult to be a native
and a teacher too. Many aspects of the two positions are incompatible
and the demands of the role are enormous.
On the one hand, as a native, the native teacher is
expected to represent the communityęs interest in the school. On the other hand, as a teacher, he is expected
to represent the schoolęs interest in the community. Until the function and
format of the school is compatible with the needs and cultural milieu of the
community, however, compromise is inevitable for the native teacher. In addition,
the adaptation is usually in the direction of the school, for it is difficult
to significantly change the role of the teacher in the context of a conventional
school environment. So the native teacher faces a Catch 22-the more effective
he is as a teacher, the less effective he may become as a native, and vice versa.
Our concern then, is that placing native teachers in the schools may not significantly
improve the education of native children, if the design of the institution itself
does not change. But who is to change it, and in what direction? (See Barnhardt,
We have learned that our program may not really be training –teachers” after
all. Six months into their first year of teaching, we brought the first group
of graduates back together at a meeting to find out how they were doing in their
hard-won profession. They related a variety of concerns, particularly in reference
to the day-to-day routine of teaching. They did not feel satisfied with such
everyday teaching responsibilities as lesson planning and classroom management.
The concensus of the group was that they were frustrated as teachers in the schools,
because they had been prepared as –educators.” They felt more like general practitioners
than specialists. Consequently, many of them left the schools and took up practice
in other types of educational programs. Our tendency, at this point, is to view
this outcome more as a success than as a failure.
We have learned that the literature in education, as well as anthropology, is
often of limited use in our program. Almost all of the literature normally used
to help prepare teachers for work with cultural minorities assumes that the teacher
will be from outside the culture. From the native studentsę point of view, the
literature is –culturally deprived.” While such issues as –familiarity with the
cultural background of the children,” or –ability to communicate effectively,” are
major issues in the –outsider” context, they become secondary to the native teacher.
In most of the literature, the natives usually find themselves as the objects
of study. In an effort to break down some of the stereotypes embodied in the
anthropological literature, we have focused our studies on groups and institutions
in Western society. So now the native students are taking on the role of anthropologist
and studying the primitive society of the school. They compensate for the lack
of appropriate literature by generating their own.
We have also learned that the training of educators, native or non-native,
requires more than the inclusion of a few anthropology courses in the
curriculum. Such a limited focus runs the risk of putting
just enough information in teachersę hands to make them dangerous, even when well-intentioned (see Kleinfeld,
this publication). The development of a cross-cultural perspective in education
requires that the person being trained have extensive guided field experience
in which the methods and concepts provided in the training are blended with actual
working experience. Only after having coped with the uncertainty and confusion
engendered in a cross-cultural experience, can a person fully internalize a perspective
which transcends cultural boundaries, and only when such a perspective is fully
internalized can the person use it productively.
For most native students, cross-cultural experience is implicit in
the daily life of the individual. Engaging in academic training, itself,
that cross-cultural experience. The problem, then,
is one of identifying and understanding the forces shaping that experience,
and developing the capability
to deal with it more objectively. By examining and
analyzing the confluence of external and locally derived experiences
through close and sometimes intense
personal interaction with non-native team members within
the community context, the native student is able to inductively build
and gradually internalize a –transcultural
perspective,” while at the same time retaining his own cultural integrity.
For the non-native (or native) student without previous cross-cultural
experience, the process of internalizing a –transcultural perspective” appears to be more
difficult, consisting of three identifiable stages, and of at least one year
duration. The three stages may be generally classified as (1) enamorment, (2)
antipathy, and (3) transcendence. In the first stage the new experiences are
all exciting and different. New insights are spawned, the causes of problems
are easily identified, and hope for the future abounds. Then reality sets in,
and we are in stage two. The problems are not as simply formulated as they first
appeared, and the solutions become even more evasive. Human relationships become
increasingly complex and difficult to manage. Basic value orientations are called
into question. Disenchantment reaches the point of anger and frustration. Careful
guidance is necessary at this point to prevent the onset of avoidance behavior,
or complete rejection of the experience. Failure to go beyond stage two will
result in bitterness and an aversion to cross-cultural issues which is often
manifested in a regressive attitude implying –I have been there and it didnęt
work.” Careful planning and support must be provided to insure that the persons
being trained are given the opportunity to reconstruct their view of reality
and basic value system within the context of a transcending conceptual framework.
Once they have achieved such a reorientation, they have begun to internalize
the cross-cultural experience.
Finally, we have learned that the processes by which education takes
place are often more important than the content that is being transmitted.
nature of the program appears to be more influential
in the studentsę development
than the material being presented in the courses. The graduates are frustrated
as teachers, in part, because their field experiences, while progressing through
the conventional teacher training curriculum, exposed them to educational processes
beyond the school. Those experiences are reflected in the behavior of graduates
who are striving to develop comparable field experiences and approaches in their
work as –educators.” If the adage, –You teach as you are taught” is correct (and
we believe it is), then our task as a program staff is to provide a model whereby
the processes through which we train teachers will also be applicable to the
education of children in the communities. Though we continue to strive for more
appropriate and useful content in the academic coursework, the process through
which the content is presented remains our primary focus of concern.
Another dimension of the field-delivery process that has been critical
to the implementation of this approach is the nature of staff/student
The closer the personal relationship between staff
and student, the more effective and productive the learning experiences
have been, and there is a big difference
between –personalizing” and –individualizing” those experiences. Using course
completion as an indicator, we have had very little success with canned correspondence
and strict competency-based courses. Although such courses were usually mechanically
efficient and flexible in terms of alternative routes and timelines for completion,
if the instructor did not provide personalized attention to each studentęs needs,
the courses were generally neglected and ineffective. Education is not an efficient
process, and attempts to make it so can often undermine the purpose for which
it is intended-the medium becomes the message.
The most successful courses have been those in which the instructor
has been aware of the studentsę needs and has devoted considerable time and effort to
take interest in, and personally address issues, problems, and concerns raised
by each individual student. Though this may seem obvious, it is often difficult
to achieve because instructors rarely meet students face-to-face and are not
able to convey ideas, feelings, and impressions in the usual manner to which
they are accustomed. A personal note on an assignment becomes much more significant
under these conditions than in a campus context, so instructors must reorient
their perception of students. Since effective teaching under these conditions
can be extremely demanding and time consuming, we have sought to limit the size
of the program and the number of students, and thus provide an opportunity for
strong staff/student relationships to develop. Without such relationships, though
some students might be coaxed through a limited number of courses, few will complete
a four-year degree program. And while, for some purposes a few courses may be
sufficient, the long range educational needs of rural Alaska call for fully degreed
and credentialed native persons who can begin to assume professional responsibility
for, and control of, the programs serving their people. We, therefore, have attempted
to develop a program oriented to the needs of students working toward a four-year
degree. To offer less would only perpetuate the second class status to which
native people are often relegated in schools today.
These are only highlights
of what we have done and have learned over the past
few years. We intend to continue learning, from our successes as well
as our failures, because only through continued
exploration of alternatives can we build upon our
experiences and push back the frontiers of our understanding. Hopefully,
then, the education of the children
of tomorrow will benefit from our experiences today.
Barnhardt, Raymond J. –Educating Across Cultures: The Alaskan Scene,” in Cultural
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