The American Experience in Education

By John Barnard; David Burner | Go to book overview

7
MODEL ZIONS FOR THE AMERICAN INDIAN

Robert F. Berkhofer Jr.

Since the earliest settlements by Europeans in the New World, solicitude for the welfare of American Indians has been expressed. Most whites, however, were more interested in lands and furs than in the Indians' minds and souls. Consequently, warfare and trade instead of learning and religion have been the dominant modes of contact. But as Indians became less of a threat to white control of the continent, they won a greater claim on educational and religious philanthropy. It was generally agreed that education should aim at assimilation, specifically at encouraging conversion to Christianity and the adoption of the prevailing ideals of social and economic individualism. The resources devoted to this ambitious task of cultural transformation were never adequate. They amounted only to the establishment of scattered missionary and government agencies and schools and the admission of a few Indian youths to predominantly white schools. In the late nineteenth century, with the elimination of Indian resistance, the federal government established off-reservation boarding schools; Carlyle, in Pennsylvania, a former military post, was the best known. During the New Deal of the 1930s the assimilationist ideal fell out of favor with the government officials responsible for Indian educational policy, but attempts to initiate alternatives met with only limited success. In his essay, Robert F. Berkhofer discusses the emergence of the manual labor boarding school for Indian youth prior to the Civil War -- and finds a wide significance in his topic.

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