Month: October 2003

Victims or whiners?

It’s very gratifying to hear the responses regarding the dilemma of the teacher with the students who think it’s time for Indians to “get over it.” There is no doubt that the need to move forward is real, but we are all bearers of the burdens of the past. Somehow, we need to find a way to honor the truth that our past bequeaths us while keeping a strong vision for the future. It is no different for cultures than it is for individuals. If we as Americans have a bias, it is toward forgetting our past and focussing only on our future. But we carry a past, and we must find a way to acknowledge both its genius and its failures.

Please keep the comments coming on what the teacher should say to her students. I know she is watching this site, and will take each response to heart.

An interesting approach came from a friend of mine who has taught junior high for many years and is now a second grade teacher. He suggested she ask the students if they realize they are living on what used to be Indian land. When they answer with a tired “yes,” ask them, “Where did they go?”

Now, that, in my opinion, is good teaching at work.

Helping students

I recently received some correspondence from a second year teacher in a well-respected high school in a fairly wealthy, fairly white town. Her email read, in part, ” My 21st Century Elective English class finishes [Neither Wolf nor Dog] this week, and they’ve grown increasingly cynical and negative–especially toward Dan’s “ranting on white people who’ve never hurt him” (their words). I wanted them to read your particular work once their personal narratives revealed how close-minded and narrow many of their worlds really are. After today, I fear some students have really gotten the wrong message. I’m not sure how to reverse their thinking…”

Any thoughts?