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Native Americans have been undermined in the United States ever since Europeans ventured across the Atlantic Ocean and struck land. They have been constantly mistreated and neglected throughout history. In modern society, there is finally a push to recognize Native Americanstruggles and address them to the best of the government’s and the people’s ability. This push has been vital to starting a movement to better the lives of all of American Indigenous peoples. The bigger issue has yet to be solved.
The end goal for the Native Americans is to have the vast majority of them living in healthy, happier conditions. With a going rate of approximately 30 percent, they have more people under the poverty line than any other race in the country (census.gov). This problem is derived from lack of education. Native American students have agonized for decades in a bureaucratic school system handicapped by a combination of federal agencies responsible for different aspects of their education.
Since the 1970s, the federal government has promoted Indian “self determination,” but tribes still receive federal subsidies and are burdened by layers of federal regulations (downsizinggovrnment.org). Unfortunately, Indians who live on reservations are still very dependent on the federal government. The government continues to oversee 55 million acres of land held in trust for Indians and tribes. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has conducted federal Indian policies since 1824, and its history is evident by episodes of daunting mismanagement. In order to solve the problem of poor education, the three-part R.
I.P. plan has been triggered to “Reform” Indian education, “Initiate” exploration of native youth, and “Propose” incentives and opportunities for them to do well in primary school, then move on to receive a higher education.
Education of Native Americans is indubitably subpar in comparison to other ethnicities. This is shown through their high school and college graduation rates. Today, native youth have the worst achievement scores and the lowest graduation rates of any student subgroup. Last school year, 67 percent of American Indian students graduated from high school compared the national average of 80 percent (niea.org). Because of this low graduation rate, less students have the opportunity to get into college. When there are less Native American students in college, it makes sense that the college graduation rate for them is substantially lower than the national rate as well. Only 39 percent of Native Americans who started at a four-year institution completed a bachelor’s degree within six years, which is about one fourth less than all students (niea.org). Low graduation rates are not the only evidence of Native American education lacking efficiency.
In recent years, American Indian average ACT and SAT scores have declined substantially. While for other race and ethnicities ACT scores have risen or stayed the same, native scores have declined by almost an entire point in the last seven years (huffingtonpost.com). Also, in 2013, the mean SAT score for Caucasians was 1576, and in the same year it was almost 150 points below that (collegeboard.com). These results are a direct portrayal of Indian’s poor education. These scores could have a correlation with the amount of native students who have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses in high school. While anywhere from 89-97 percent of other races have those classes available to them, only 76 percent of native students do (huffingtonpost.com). These numbers show significant drifts from other race’s, but the poor education does not just start in high school.
Most Native American students are not proficient in math or reading by eighth grade. By this time, most other students have reached proficiency in both of these subjects by eighth grade. For the last two decades, native students have stalemated below or just above the most basic level of intellect for these subjects. This exemplifies that elementary and junior high schools are not training these kids to be prepared for high school level learning. Many of their school facilities have been equally neglected, lacking even basic essentials such as heat and running water. Neglecting Native American education has been going on ever since the constitution was signed. In our modern society, the inconsideration has decreased, although it is clearly not enough. With native education stuck significantly below the national standard, it could not be more blatant that something needs to be done to fix this longstanding dilemma.
The 3-part R.I.P. plan has been devised to solve this inefficiency of Native American education. The first part of the plan, “Reform”, calls for a complete reform of the educational system. Due to rural isolation, there are low teacher salaries, high poverty, and differences in languages and cultures (nea.org). Considering these facts, it is difficult to recruit and retain quality teachers in American Indian schools. Without quality teachers, native students cannot be expected to be as academically successful as other students in this nation. Because of this, the first part in this step of the plan is to bring in a surplus of well educated teachers to highly Native American schools throughout the country. There will be a proposal to congress to enact a slight raise in taxes to help pay said teachers a good salary. Once new teachers start getting into the lives of natives, each respective school will educate the entire staff of R.I.P.’s goal for students. The goal is to give students the tools they need to succeed, and these teachers will be working with natives from a relatively young age to assure that they do.
The next and arguably most important part of this step is to implement JUMP Math into the curriculums of Native American schools. JUMP Math is a numeracy program created by the Canadian author and mathematician John Mighton. This program is dedicated to enhancing the potential in children by encouraging an understanding and a love of math in students and educators (jumpmath.org). Mighton’s organization replaces the self-fulfilling myth that some people are either born with mathematical ability or not with assumptions that all children can be taught to think like a mathematician. The foundation of this process is building confidence, which Mighton believes should be the first goal of a math teacher. The program is made for kids who do not generally think of themselves as math proficient. This program has shown substantial progress in England and Canada. In one particular class, after one year of JUMP, the average math percentile shot from 66th to 92nd jumpmath.org). If this kind of jump occurred with American Indian students, it would be a revolution for native education. This will solve the problem of math incompetence. In an attempt to tackle all other subject impotency, this style of teaching will be applied to all courses starting from grade one. Placing better teachers, applying JUMP Math, and its style of educating is a necessary to inaugurate an effective reform of American Indian education.
The next step of the R.I.P. plan is to “Initiate” Native Americans to explore new norms for success and all the possibilities available for future careers. This part of the plan may be smaller in relativity to the other two, but it is an absolute necessity in paving the way for step three. The basis of this step will also imitate the foundation of JUMP Math. The students will be informed from a young age the modern ideals of living a healthy lifestyle which includes monetary aspects. They will be taught the basic necessities of life; a healthy amount of food and shelter. In order for students to comprehend how important these aspects are, the ideas will be pressed into their minds starting from first grade. In addition to the basic necessities, other current attributes to a healthy life will also be implemented into their education. Happiness will be the pinnacle of this portion. These students will be taught that being happy with your life is integral to health and wellness. They will be encouraged to follow their dreams, and that they can be anything that they want to when they grow up. This may seem tacky, but part of the education issue may start at home with the parents. When students’ families have lived in harsh conditions for decades, they may consider that their life is destined to that fate as well. To change those types of attitudes in students, the teachers will meet with each of his or her students personally once a week during elementary and middle school years, and then once again in their junior year of high school. During these meetings, the teachers will check up on the student to see how they are doing at home, and help them figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. The life figuring will start small in elementary school and gradually rise as they get older. The teachers will keep personal records on each student about the discussion in each meeting, so that they can then be passed on to the next teacher effectively. Initiating exploration in these students will play a significant role in changing their levels of motivation.
The third and final step of R.I.P. is to “Propose” new incentives for students to try harder in school and overall improve academically. Sometimes it takes more than a motivational push to see abundant results. This part of the plan will helpmaximize total development. First, a scholarship fund will be opened to award 3000 scholarships at $2500 each to American Indians across the nation. The money pool will be supplied by mostly donations, and a proposal will be made to all reservation casinos asking them to give a supplemental yearly gift to the foundation. These scholarships will be spread throughout each state based on the amount of Indigenous students living there. This scholarship will be mainly need-based. There will be a minimum grade point average requirement of 3.0 and essay questions required to explain financial need and life struggles. Aside from creating this scholarship fund, a free Native American retreat will take place in each state to promote academic and economic success. This retreat will also have a minimum grade point average requirement of 3.0 but only for the current year. The retreat will pose as a fun time to get away from home for a week during the summer, an opportunity to learn about different career paths, and being financially healthy. With all three steps of the R.I.P. plan executed efficiently, Native American education will reach an all time high in a matter of years.
Each part of this plan holds an impartial role in improving education for the Indigenous people of our country. Providing a new wave of teachers into native schools across the nation is vital because without efficient teachers, students will not be taught as well, thus not giving them the opportunity to succeed from a fundamental standpoint. Implementing JUMP Math and its ideals into the curriculums of Native American students creates an entire reform on the way material is taught. As previously shown, studies prove that this program has worked in Canada and England. JUMP Math is effective, and its style of teaching will be too once integrated into other subjects.Step two is crucial because it gives students more motivation to work hard in school. Once they realize that the conditions that they currently live in are generally subpar in comparison to the rest of the country, they will push themselves to focus more on school. Along with that, an overall attitude adjustment is necessary to make them feel better about themselves and their futures. When kids start figuring what they want to do with their life at a younger age, it will brew a new light in their minds, causing them to exert more effort into school. This step is important leading up to the “Propose” part of the R.I.P plan. Making scholarships more opportune for native students is a key step in motivating them to work hard in order to get a discounted or free education, while creating a retreat for students extends as an incentive to get out of the house for a week, have a great time with new people, and learn about careers and financial security. Once, the R.I.P plan is brought to fruition, it will solve the the problems that pose as pillars for a lacking American Indian education system, and in the long run, create a healthier style of living for natives across the country.
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