Native Underachievement in Canadian Schools
A comparison of native students and their non-native peers quickly brings one to the realization that native students are not experiencing a comparable degree of education success in Canadian schools. It is vital that native Canadians address this issue thoroughly, to insure that the nation is no longer faced with a semi-literate, unemployable population, requiring financial support. In order to fully address native educational underachievement it is important to examine the historical causes of the problem, the issues we are faced with today, as well as, identifying possible viable solutions.
Early European settlers in Canada unfoundedly conceived the white culture to be superior to that of the native population they encountered. This rampant feeling of superiority led the Europeans to desire domination of the native nation, which was to be achieved through assimilation. The [European settlers] believed that "Indian children were best prepared for assimilation into the dominant society if they were removed from the influences of home, family, and community" (Barman, Hebert & McCaskill, 1986). In the opinion of these settlers residential, or boarding schools were a superior means of achieving native assimilation. After a century, native assimilation through education was forsaken as the official goal of the Canadian government. However, Kevin Busswood, speaking on behalf of the Members of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges states, " educational institutions fail to recognize the hidden agenda through which they are presenting the industrial of life as the only way to go". He further stated, "it is not very useful to lament the effects of colonialism when its institutions are still alive and well in Canada" (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1994). Therefore, it is possible to conclude that through the hidden curriculum the educational system is continuing to promote
the superiority of a non-native lifestyle. Thus, this is the reason many natives stood in strong opposition to early residential schools. Susan Awashish of the council of the Atikamkw of Manawan Nation states, "If one...society imposes its [institutions] on the other, the latter will react with hostility, adopting an adversarial attitude, because it feels restricted where its most fundamental rights are concerned...We believe that a dominant society has the responsibility to protect its minorities from eventual assimilation" (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples,1993). This is also the reason many natives today view the education required in white schools to be irrelevant with regards to the traditional native lifestyle.
It is apparent that to many degrees, cultural assimilation through education did not work for a variety of reasons. Although early native students were culturally displaced in white schools, they continued to take tremendous pride in their heritage. It was impossible for the...