American Indian/First Nations Schooling: From the Colonial Period to the Present Citation: Charley, E. (2013). Review of the book American Indian/First Nations schooling: From the colonial period to the present, by C.L. Glenn. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 28(1), 1-5.
American Indian/First Nations Schooling: From the Colonial Period to the Present is Charles L. Glenn's analysis of the schooling of the North American Indian through an educational policy and administration perspective. While the title implies a chronological outline of Indian education, each chapter title presents a particular subject within Indian education, while the chapter explores the historical background with regard to the subject.
Within the preface of the book, Glenn identifies himself as an educational policy and administration specialist, a participant in the 1960s social justice movement, and a former government official, all of which inform his historical perspective on American Indian education. While I appreciated this professional introduction to Glenn, I found the author's perspective to be highly controversial, and will likely astound American Indian scholars sensitive to the historical and ongoing miseducation of American Indians. In particular, I raise issue with a number of problematic assertions in the book regarding Indian identity, the social, cultural and educational outcomes of residential, missionary, and boarding schools, and finally Glenn's "ideal world" regarding Indian education. I address each of these points in the review that follows.
My contention with the book has nothing to do with the research that Glenn conducted. The book effectively presents the various, often-opposing perspectives of the purpose of Indian education, from government agents, tribal leaders, and general educators (including missionary, residential, and boarding school educators), giving appropriate space to each view. I also appreciated the identification of several different problems within Indian education, including inner group divisiveness, differing opinions on the appropriateness of tribal culture and language in the curriculum, and funding issues. However, Glenn's analysis and conclusions offer superficial solutions, in the process criticizing American Indians, while rationalizing the motives of educators. Largely this is due to a misunderstanding of identity, an issue with which I believe rural educators and researchers will empathize.
In order to understand my critique of Glenn's analysis, an understanding of Native identity is important. Faircloth and Tippeconnic III (2011) explain that Native identity is tied to the place one comes from. This place is not so much geographical in nature, but rather is epistemological, in which language, culture, and place of origin, within the context of historical experiences, shape one's identity (Faircloth & Tippeconnic III, 2011). Within the book, Glenn never explores this definition of identity, but instead challenges the notions of those who insist on its importance and significance in understanding Indian education.
Within the concluding chapter, Glenn argues that over time a pan-Indian identity has emerged, an identity borne of a shared historical experience of persecution and marginalization at the hands of the (White) majority society, transcending specific tribal identities and cultures. Glenn argues however that it is the professionals working directly with ethnic minority students, including teachers, social workers, community organizers, ethnic elected and appointed officials, and professors and researchers specializing in minority language and culture, who are complicit in producing and promoting a continued separation from the "host" society (p. 197). In particular, he argues that these individuals become "experts in the 'manipulation of the symbolic, the instrumental, and the affective" and, in so doing, "may themselves achieve a high level of participation in the host society while depending on the continued existence of a group of followers who are precisely not integrated" (p. …