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Indigenous Philosophies and Critical Education

A Reader- Foreword by Akwasi Asabere-Ameyaw

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Edited By George J. Sefa Dei

An important academic goal is to understand ongoing contestations in knowledge in the search to engage everyday social practice and experiences, as well as the social barriers and approaches to peaceful human coexistence. This reader pulls together ideas concerning Indigenous epistemologies (e.g., worldviews, paradigms, standpoints, and philosophies) as they manifest themselves in the mental lives of persons both from and outside the orbit of the usual Euro-American culture. The book engages Indigenous knowledges as far more than a «contest of the marginals», thereby challenging the way oppositional knowledges are positioned, particularly in the Western academy. Subsequently, this book is a call to recognize and acknowledge Indigenous knowledges as legitimate knowings in their own right, and not necessarily in competition with other sources or forms of knowledge. The project offers an opportunity for the critical thinker to continue on a de-colonial/anti-colonial intellectual journey in ways informed by Indigenous theorizing.

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15. Bringing the Experience of Indigenous People into Alaska Rural Systematic Initiative/ Alaska Native Knowledge Network Gregory Smith 229

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Schools in the United S tates have been notably unsuccessful in their ef fort to educate NativeAmerican students. Graduation rates for young people indigenous to this continent and the Hawaiian Islands are lower than for any other population group—50 percent compared to 76 per- cent for Asian Americans, 75 per cent for White students, 55 percent for Hispanic, and 51 percent for African Americans (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009). These numbers are often interpret- ed as a sign of individual failure or of deficits associated with poverty or cultural background. Only rarely do educators or the general public grasp the possibility that these statistics might instead be indicative of a more active decision on the part of students to reject the knowledge and skills they encounter in school. Researchers such as John Ogbu (1978) and Paul Willis (1981) have observed similar respons- es on the part of groups denied full participation in society because of their race or social class as well as prior defeat by a colonizing group. Never deeply questioning the purpose or nature of for- mal schooling, however, Ogbu and, to a lesser extent, Willis tend to see this rejection as more self- defeating than empowering, a form of false consciousness that hurts resistant students more than it helps them. Such was not the case two and a half centuries ago when a group of Native American leaders declined an invitation to send their young people to the College of William and Mary in Virginia: Several...

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