Next Steps: Research and Practice to Advance Indian Education

Feb 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 11-3: Native Language, Media Reviews
By Clarice Baker Big Back, Ph.D.

NEXT STEPS COVEREdited by Karen Gayton Swisher and John W. Tippeconnic III.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools
Charleston, W. V., 1999. 317 pages. $28.

Review by Clarice Baker Big Back, Ph.D.

The publication of Next Steps: Research and Practice to Advance Indian Education should be welcomed by Indian and non-Indian educators at every level. This is the first collection of readings selected entirely from the work of Native authors. Their collected work illustrates dramatically the inability of one voice to speak for this diverse group while pulling together a set of ideas about a developing perspective on education so appropriately named “Next Steps.”

This work builds on the historical perspective offered by Donna Deyhle and Swisher in Research in American Indian and Alaska Native Education: From Assimilation to Self-Determination. This book is the starting point for seminars on Indian education. It is essential reading for any introduction to educational thought. It should be required in any consideration of educating for diversity. In short, every student of education in America should read this text!

The book opens with K. Tsianina Lomawaima’s analysis of “The Unnatural History of American Indian Education.” She explains the extent to which a deficit model has overwhelmed historical approaches to Indian education. This theme recurs in the work of later authors. It provides an essential perspective for the novice to this field and a touchstone for understanding some of the circles in which we have walked without being able to take the “next steps.” Tippeconnic makes the point (p. 39) in his distinction between tribal control and Indian control. He argues that although tribal control is desirable in the education of American Indian children, it is not sufficient to assure their learning. Successful Indian education preserves culture and language and enhances student learning.

Importantly, the book presents examples of educational programs that contribute to Native students’ success. For years, we have been asked for models of self-determined efforts that practice what we are preaching about. Next Steps provides examples of effective practices and recommends what is needed for overall improvement of Indian education. Its authors are brave to explicate the steps that must be taken for success of such programs.

Clarice Baker Big Back, a member of the Mandan Tribe, is the interim academic dean at Fort Berthold Community College in North Dakota, where she also directs the teacher education program. She is on leave of absence from her assistant professorship at the University of North Dakota. Her Ph.D. is in curriculum and instruction from Pennsylvania State University. She writes in memory of her father, Clyde Baker, who “walked his talk” as a committed leader in Indian education.

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