Changing the System

Aug 15th, 1994 | By | Category: 6-2: Spirituality, Tribal College News
By Paul Boyer

It is well known that too few Indians pursue careers in the growing fields of science, math, engineering and technol­ogy. A solution, eagerly sought by educators, remains elusive.

Part of the problem is that schools, tribes and the federal government work piecemeal, focusing on only parts of the puz­zle. Some investigate bar­riers faced in college, oth­ers look at equity in government funding. Still others focus on the needs of small children.

What is needed, argues Turtle Mountain College President Carty Monette, is a comprehensive inves­tigation of the problem and systemic reform.

Turtle Mountain, in collaboration with other tribal colleges, is begin­ning just such an investigation. Funded by the National Science Foundation under its Rural Systemic Initiative program, the college will investigate those things that “confuse, hinder or interfere with the performance of the system,” according to Academic Dean Larry Belgarde, who is the project’s principal investigator.

This means that they will explore much more than how math and sci­ence is taught in school. They will also investigate the role of federal, state and local governments, examining their responsi­bility and taking them to task, if necessary, if there is too little cooperation and a “pass the buck” atti­tude.

The project is begin­ning with a $140,000 planning grant. During this first phase, college officials will work with tribes located in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and several National Science Foundation projects affili­ated with states. There will be at least two regional conferences.

In addition, the project will look at the needs of one particular tribe, “probably Fort Berthold (reservation) if they will have us,” says Belgarde.

All of this will help investigators identify the barriers to achievement in math, science, engineer­ing and technology. From this, an implementation plan will be developed, baseline data will be collected and an “implemen­tation strategy will begin at each participating site,” says Monette.

By bringing together all interested parties, sharing the knowledge that is available and devising a comprehensive plan, Monette hopes that more Indians will be able to take part in one of the most important parts of the American economy.

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