Magazine article Social Studies Review

Not Found in a Book: A Quiet Tiger Engagement

Magazine article Social Studies Review

Not Found in a Book: A Quiet Tiger Engagement

Article excerpt

It was the late summer of 2002 and Jessica Hutchison was excited about her first year teaching high school social studies at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Tribal School in northern Wisconsin. "I really wanted to prove myself," said the popular, award winning educator. "I wasn't nervous to teach, but I was insecure in the fact that I felt I had to prove myself."

During the spring of 2009, we observed the dynamic educator teach over the course of a week and we found that one of her strengths is her ability to explain and elaborate on some of the complexities of history, government, and civics. During her first year in the high school, Hutchison told us how eager she was to teach her first course ever on Tribal History - a freshman level class. However, like most teachers in these United States, much of Hutchison's pedagogy and assessment strategies centered around verbal and analytical approaches with less of an emphasis on the holistic, social/emotional, and relationship building paradigm (Ariza, 2006). Daniel Pink (2005) states that schools in the United States has always rewarded those learners who have a strong ability in logic and analysis, and therefore score high on tests and other assessments in which details are scrutinized and categorized. American students are tested on their information gathering skills through such standardized tests as the PSAT, the SAT, the GMAT, the LSAT, and the MCAT. "These instruments all measure what is essentially undiluted [thinking]," said Pink. "They require logic and analysis - and reward testtakers for zeroing-in, computerlike, on a single correct answer." (p. 29)

Consequently, the young Jessica Hutchison was simply following a paradigm that had been ingrained throughout her own schooling; as a result, this pedagogical model included her teacher education preparation as well (see also Kramsch and Sullivan, 1996; Cooks, 2003). After all, Beverly Daniel Tatum (2000) states that, "Dominant groups, by definition, set the parameters within which the subordinates operate." Tatum goes on to proclaim that, "The truth is that the dominants do not really know what the experiences of the subordinates [are]." (pp. 11-12) And like many North American tribes, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe's approach to learning is very much opposite of the logical/analytical standard set by the dominant American culture. In the Native American world a much more holistic and affect-based style is seen. Teacher Diane Y. Talley-Strike, a full-blooded Ojibwe from the Sault Saint Marie Chippewa Indian nation writes that, "The [Ojibwe] students are part of the community and are taught very early that they are responsible for the world around them . . . school is like a community with all eyes watching all the community members." (Ariza, 2006, p. 36) Talley-Strike 's comments reflect the collectivist culture of Native American life, where all things are seen as connected; this archetype is quite the opposite of the dominant American society's binary approach of "divide and conquer" - even concerning test taking and other forms of assessment. Regarding the American assessment model, Pink (2005) continues, "The exercise is linear, sequential, and bounded by time. You answer one question with one right answer. Then you move on to the next question and the next and the next until time runs out. These tests have become important gatekeepers for entry into meritocratic, middleclass society." (p. 29)

This individual test-taking paradigm is another concept that was originally alien to the collective culture of Native Americans; whereas pride in individual achievement is honored in today's dominant culture, such actions may be considered shameful by many Native Americans. Jessica Hutchison's action to "prove herself follows the White Anglos-Saxon cultural norm of individual achievement. Gollnick and Chinn (2006) explain individualism as seen by Anglo-Saxon or Western European customs as, "The overpowering value of the dominant group . …

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