In Education System Go Back To Efforts To Assimilate Native Americans,
According To New Book
Dec. 21, 1999 -- Tensions in today's
public education can be traced to the country's beginnings
when European colonists began educating Native Americans for "cultural
extinction," say the authors of a new edition of the history
of American schooling.
Wayne J. Urban, Regents' Professor at Georgia State University,
and Jennings L. Wagoner Jr., professor of the history of education
at the University of Virginia, believe the symptoms of divisive
conflicts in today's education system have been evident since those
earliest settlers began trying to convert Native Americans to European
ways of thinking and behaving.
the new edition of "American Education, A History," published
by McGraw Hill, Urban and Wagoner describe Native American encounters
with imposed forms of education from the days of the early settlers
into the late 20th century. "Through various types
of school experiences, including reservation day and boarding schools,
off-reservation boarding schools, tribal schools and eventually
local public schools, American Indian children and their families
have been continually torn between two opposing cultural orientations,"
said Wagoner. "Examining the tensions between the teachers'
and the taught' emphasizes the cultural conflicts that
are inherent in our education process."
book traces the dominant currents and counter-currents in American
education from precolonial times through President Clinton's
administration, showing the problems of delivering education in
a pluralistic society.
presents each major development in American education and describes
key people and their aspirations, placing their actions within the
context of national events of each period.
the Native American experience forms a small part of the book, the
tensions highlighted in that slice of history run throughout the
authors' analysis of American education. They note that Americans
from the country's beginning have placed great faith in education
making people moral as well as literate. Education, they say, has
long been viewed as a means of assimilating immigrants, controlling
and civilizing young people, and producing good citizens and efficient
disagreements over the balancing of education's goals and persistent
conflicts over the best means of reaching those goals underscore
not only the uneven history of American schooling, but also bring
into focus tensions that have been in the forefront of efforts to
shape the social and cultural content of the nation," said
complex history of public schools shows that, from their inception,
they have served a multitude of purposes and agendas. What seems
clear is that the public school, if it is to survive in the 21st
century, cannot become captive to any single special-interest group,"
book ends on a somber note as the authors view the prospects for
schools are facing mounting pressures accompanied by an undermining
of historic faith and support. Perhaps to put it crudely, it may
be that the system must be destroyed in order to save it,"
said Wagoner. "Or to frame it more hopefully, it may be that
the very idea of public education' must undergo a process
of redefinition as a system and concept."
more information, Jennings Wagoner can be reached at (804) 924-0808,
office; (804) 296-8560, home; or via email@example.com. Wayne Urban
is at (404) 651-2582, office, or (404)377-8602, home; or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857