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How Progressive Liberal Ideology Helped Shape Educational Policy for Native Americans Dianna Laffey EDF 3660-5171 Saint Petersburg College, Tarpon Springs

October 1, 2011

EDUCATIONAL POLICIES FOR NATIVE AMERICANS How Progressive Liberal Ideology Helped Shape Educational Policy for Native Americans When Europeans came to America it was not an unoccupied land. American Indians had lived there undisturbed, for hundreds, even thousands, of years. According to the teachings of American History, it is clear that many Native American Tribes did not welcome these newcomers with open arms. It is hard to conceive of a more frightening time for the American Indians. Imagine going about living your life as you have always lived it, as did your ancestors, and to suddenly have that ripped away through no fault of your own? Those who chose to move to, and settle in, America brought with them their own customs, traditions, and ways of life that were very different to those of the American Indians. The Euro-Americans thought their way of living was not only the better way, but the only way. As the American Indians were forced to give up the very land they had owned and lived on for generations, they were also expected to change nearly everything about themselves and give up their heritage. According to Tozer, Senese & Violas (2009), education was viewed as the most important method of assimilating Native Americans into the European American way of life. Initially, Native American children were sent to public schools and boarding schools where they were taught a curriculum focused on minimizing their own culture and heritage so that they would accept the values of the new American society (Tozer, Senese & Violas, 2009). The modern society was focused on the developing a more democratic society, which emphasized conformity and each individuals place in an industrial society. The methods being used to assimilate Native Americans were not working; in fact, they were having the opposite effect (Tozer, Senese & Violas, 2009). Those involved in the Progressive Reform Movement recognized that the Native American way of life and their heritage meant everything to their entire civilization, and this must be considered in the assimilation process. As a result of this new

EDUCATIONAL POLICIES FOR NATIVE AMERICANS way of thinking changes to Indian Education were made, which included activity-based learning and social sciences (Tozer, Senese & Violas, 2009). These learning concepts were major themes of the progressive education movement, which prepared students for work in manual labor type jobs in the modern society rather than providing them with the choice to receive the educational foundation needed to be successful in advanced level positions or go on to obtain higher education (Tozer, Senese & Violas, 2009). It was not the Native American people who were deciding what type of jobs their people could do or what their potential may be, it was the EuroAmericans making the decisions. Based on the principals of liberal ideology, Native Americans were viewed as a lesser intelligent civilization and incapable of making appropriate decisions for themselves. Although progressive education may have been an improvement from earlier educational policies, it still resulted in Native Americans being denied equal opportunities, which still rings true today. A main contributor to the progressive education movement was John Collier (Tozer, Senese & Violas, 2009). Collier was an advocate for Native Americans and recognized that allowing them opportunities to bring their culture and traditions into the educational arena would help to break down barriers, resulting in cohesiveness with the Whites while maintaining their American Indian heritage. If both groups could work in harmony, the result would be eventual assimilation of Native Americans into the modern American society with little or no resistance (Tozer, Senese & Violas, 2009). Colliers concept may have been implemented with good intentions, but in reality the American Indians were being forced to conform to a society that had no real place for them. This is still apparent today as Native Americans are characteristically perceived and treated as outcasts in American society. From the very beginning, their right to maintain their own civilization and live freely on the land where they flourished for generations

EDUCATIONAL POLICIES FOR NATIVE AMERICANS was virtually ignored. If it were not for those like John Collier, who recognized that the methods used to assimilate Native Americans into Euro-American society were having enormous negative effects, the American Indians may have totally been eliminated. In many ways liberal ideology also oppressed Native Americans, resulting in years long struggles for their people, which are still going on today. However, they have proven to be a resilient society, recognizing that in order for their people to carry on they themselves must be involved in all aspects of the education of both the current and future generations of American Indians.

EDUCATIONAL POLICIES FOR NATIVE AMERICANS References Tozer S., Senese G., & Violas P. (2009). School and society historical and contemporary perspectives. New York: McGraw Hill