Education: Is it really for everyone?
That question has been increasingly on my mind since we have been discussing those who are differently abled, and those who are made disadvantaged by society in this course. A novel that was recently brought to my attention, and I think reflects the hierarchy which the educational system presents, is Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. This book displays the difference between the advantaged and the disadvantaged, and how education can work to keep each category within the limits of their current society.
For example the educational system on the reservation where Arnold/Junior lives can be understood as keeping future generations to spheres of suppression, which has taken place towards the Indigenous population for generations. This suppression works to keep them to a disadvantage. This can be understood as working to govern their lives. This is evident here:
“My school and my tribe are so poor and sad that we have to study from the same dang books our parents studied from. That is absolutely the saddest thing in the world.
And let me tell you, that old, old, old decrepit geometry book hit my heart with the force of a nuclear bomb. My hopes and dreams floated up in a mushroom cloud. What do you do when the world has declared nuclear war on you? (Alexie, 57-58)
It becomes evident in this quotation that these out dated textbooks work to represent much more then out of date information. They work to represent the reservations poverty, and the outside world’s low expectations of those who are educated there. They hinder the future generation’s chances of success as the textbooks work to suppress the students by providing inadequate means of education. The textbooks represent that society is trying to keep these students to a disadvantage. The educational system on the reservation is purposely using the same means of education for generations, it can be suggested that this keeps future generations to the same spheres of past generations, spheres of poverty, and disadvantage.
This is further reinforced through Arnold/Junior going to school outside the reservation, and the vastly improved educational treatment he, and the other non Indigenous students receive there.
Although this book is fiction, this can be related to real life. As, upon researching I found out the following was happening in the year 2010, “Provincial schools are paid more than double that of on reserve schools for student tuition. Over the past 10 years these on-reserve schools: education funding increased 19 per cent, while in the same period provincial systems funding increased 45 per cent” (Web). If education was really for everyone, would the same amount of funding not be available to residential schools as non residential schools? If our country really wanted everyone to be given the best chance of success, they would start with funding the schools equally, as education is where we learn the tools of life. One spends more waking hours with ones teachers throughout childhood then one does with anyone else. It becomes apparent to me that it is fundamental to give every child the same means and chances of success.
Currently Harper has promised an additional $1.9 billion in funding for Indigenous education starting in 2015. The fact that this is for 2015 reinforces that Canada has kept the Indigenous population purposely to a disadvantage for generations upon generations.
In my final project I will be using Alexie’s novel for examples of the way in which the educational system creates hierarchies which place students at a disadvantage.
Alexie Sherman: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. 2007
CBC, First Nations to Get More Control over Education: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/first-nations-to-get-more-control-over-education-ottawa-says-1.2527266. CBC 2014
The Aboriginal Multi-Media Society. Canada’s Aboriginal Education Crisis: