«“Before We Teach It, We Have to Learn It”: Wisconsin Act 31 Compliance within Public Teacher Preparation Programs A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE ...»
Books were the second most common resource reported as being utilized in the survey with 52% whereas presented in the syllabi books consisted of 42% (n = 11). As with the survey responses, the syllabi demonstrated using both American Indian and nonAmerican Indian authors. Overall, American Indian authors tended to be more prevalent for courses that used books to address American Indian sections of the course and for those focusing the entire course on American Indian topics. Specifically Patty Loew and Nancy Lurie were mentioned frequently throughout the syllabi, which also appeared in the survey results. Based on the survey data, the next category of significant use with 43% is guest speakers, which was not as prevalent within the syllabi. All respondents at one institution mentioned forums while a couple courses only mentioned specific guest speakers.
Within the survey, academic articles were reported with 39% use. Unlike books and films, the topics for academic articles swayed further away from American Indian authors and American Indian specific topics. The syllabi reflected a high use of academic articles as well as selections from other books both of which came primarily from nonAmerican Indian authors. The survey reflected additional readings throughout courses without specified authors making it unclear where the information was coming from.
However, the syllabi clarified this with the specific titles and authors of academic articles and book chapters. Other areas such as website use and news sources that were present in the survey did not show up prominently within the syllabi but could have been presented in digital formats on course websites and pages such as Blackboard and Desire2Learn as indicated by several respondents.
In looking at the specific departments that focused on American Indian topics throughout the course, there was a shift in the authors utilized for resources throughout the course. First Nations Studies, like the time spent on topics, utilized resources that were more centered on the American Indian perspective. Patty Loew and Nancy Lurie again appeared as frequent authors being utilized but a large number of other American Indian authors were also incorporated throughout the courses. Again, this is not surprising considering the department is centered on American Indians. Unlike the education resources that utilized the Wisconsin Act 31 Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction packet as the most frequently reported print material, the First Nations Studies courses incorporated the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission Treaty Rights Guide as a resource, which had initially been highly reported in the survey. The use of American Indian voices clearly demonstrates the emphasis on an authentic American Indian perspective. Courses also incorporated non-American Indian voices as well, but the American Indian voices significantly outweighed those resources.
Within other specific departments, typically unrelated to American Indians, there was a blend between American Indian and non-American Indian authors as well.
Anthropology utilized an interesting balance between an American Indian historian and a non-American Indian anthropologist to bring in varying perspectives. English also used great resources with a balance between American Indian and non-American Indian resources, including edited volumes with American Indian voices. In addition, various films, from American Indian and non-American Indian perspectives were also utilized appropriately.
History had an interesting combination with the resources used. The course that was shorter brought in the same sources as Anthropology with the balance between Patty Loew and Nancy Lurie, American Indian and non-American Indian perspectives.
However, it also brought in another non-American Indian, highly respected scholar to bring the historical context to Wisconsin Act 31 to light. Ronald Satz’s “Chippewa Treaty Rights” has been a foundation in the history behind the treaties, court cases, and aftermath of the events leading to the creation of Wisconsin Act 31. In contrast, the semester long history course used three primary texts that were all written by nonAmerican Indian authors. Considering the linear fashion of history in general, it is not surprising these texts would be selected due to the format of the texts. Although all three authors tend to be well-respected individuals in American Indian academia and are recognized as scholars within an American Indian circle, the fact remains there is a lack of American Indian voices throughout the texts utilized.
Assignments. Although not all syllabi mentioned a particular assignment for the American Indian content within the course, it is interesting to see how the assignments that were identified as part of an American Indian section were incorporated. One course focused on the Patty Loew text that was mentioned throughout many courses. The assignment was for groups to read chapters separately and create a study guide for the assigned chapter. Then the class would meet together in their “expert” groups to review the main points of the chapter followed by smaller group meetings that would jigsaw the book back together. The assignment, although focusing on an American Indian author, does not go beyond the text to enhance the students’ knowledge beyond the pages of the text let alone apply the foundations to contemporary issues. In essence, the assignment summarizes the text.
Other assignments addressed through the document analysis included primarily journaling and reflection papers. Response papers and journals varied throughout the courses from weekly assignments to section specific reaction papers to various course components such as readings, films, guest speakers and Wisconsin Act 31 materials.
Discussion also appeared to be a main assignment type component of the courses within the American Indian sections. On the other hand, one course indicated a more hands on approach to the American Indian content throughout the course with a group project that included presentations to not only the class but also to American Indian middle school students. The project was specific in the purpose and goals as they relate to American Indian history and culture. Overall, the assignments that were indicated within the syllabi tended to be primarily reflective processes as well as projects that would require group cooperation including discussions.
Additional comments. In addition to the time spent on American Indian topics, the resources utilized throughout the course, and assignments related to American Indian sections of the course, additional observations developed based on the document analysis that were significant to the study. As mentioned in the first section on time spent on American Indian topics, one syllabus did not have any American Indian content within the course even though the course is designated as a course that complies with Wisconsin Act 31. Another issue that came out through the syllabi was a conflict in who was teaching the course compared to the person who had created the course. Two courses had a professor of record that was not the person teaching the course therefore the syllabus was developed by that person and not the actual instructor in the classroom. Similarly, a syllabus was provided from a respondent who was not listed as the instructor on the syllabus for the course analyzed as well.
In relation to the content represented in the syllabi, an issue was made present regarding the type of information being provided to future teachers. Although many courses addressed the knowledge of human cultures in general, in relation to the American Indian, specifically the Wisconsin peoples, the topics in several courses remained in the context of the natural world. In essence, the information appeared to be stereotypical information with the connection to the environment and not as contemporary life. However, for those courses that focused on American Indians for an entire semester rather than just a few class sessions, a broader understanding of American Indians within a whole context was provided by incorporating history, literature, and legal and political standing of different tribes with the intended focus on American Indians that currently reside in Wisconsin.
Summary Overall, the survey represented feedback from the instructors that provided basic background information on the instructors as well as each respondent’s understanding of Wisconsin Act 31. The demographic information revealed that the majority of instructors of compliance courses are not American Indian but instead are white indicating a different perspective than an authentic American Indian perspective. In addition, most do not have educational background in American Indian Studies but rather in an area of education. Although many resources are used in the courses, there tends to be diversity in the types of resources utilized as well as a balance between American Indian and nonAmerican Indian sources. Furthermore, a distinction revealed itself in the area of resources between education-related courses and discipline specific courses.
Within the survey section on the respondent’s understanding of Wisconsin Act 31, the responses were much more diverse and not as easily defined. Although there was a firm understanding of Wisconsin Act 31 and the essential components of Wisconsin Act 31 by the respondents, when discussing the components they felt necessary to include in their course in order to be in compliant with the Act the answers varied significantly. For the most part, respondents referred back to the components of Wisconsin Act 31 and specific parts; only a few mentioned sovereignty which was another component to the survey. When asked to define sovereignty in relation to American Indians respondents provided even more assorted answers, which ranged from general sovereignty definitions to those that described limited sovereignty among American Indians. Given the variety in the latter answers to the survey, majority of respondents felt that they were well trained and equipped to prepare future teacher to comply with Wisconsin Act 31 within their classrooms.
Another look at the courses was through the document analysis. The analysis consisted of looking at the time spent on American Indian topics within each course, general course topics throughout the course, resources utilized for American Indian topics, and general resources. Additionally, other aspects were discovered relating to assignments and other aspects related to the research questions. With regard to time spent on American Indian topics, there was a vast difference in education-related courses compared to discipline specific courses. The discipline specific courses focused on American Indian components throughout the semester while the education-related courses spent on average a few class periods out of the entire semester. The resource use lined up according to the education-related courses and discipline specific courses.
The survey data was complemented well by the document analysis. There was a strong correlation particularly between the resources utilized in the courses. Although there were some minor discrepancies between the survey and the document analysis, for the most part the types of resources used as well as the authenticity of the resources matched up between the two. Education-related courses in both the survey and the document analysis tended to use a blend between non-American Indian and American Indian resources while the discipline specific courses focused more on an American Indian perspective. Although the resources lined up well, there was a significant difference between information reported in the survey with regard to the essential components to a course with regard to Wisconsin Act 31 and the actual topics represented in the document analysis. Education-related courses focused more on the Act itself instead of the specific components within Wisconsin Act 31. On the other hand, discipline specific courses brought in more details of the components throughout the semester rather than the idea of Wisconsin Act 31. Overall, observations indicated that although there is an understanding of the need for Wisconsin Act 31 within higher education classrooms, the inclusion of the foundational components of the Act are not as firm within the classrooms. As one respondent noted, “there is still a long way to go but it is an earnest ongoing project”.
Foundations The intent of this study was to determine how teacher preparation programs contribute to preparing future educators to teach American Indian history, culture, and contemporary society within Wisconsin public schools in order to be in compliance with Wisconsin Act 31. Due to the significant history of discrimination and violence within the state of Wisconsin during the late 20th century, Wisconsin Act 31 was instituted to promote not only awareness of American Indians within the state of Wisconsin but also provide an understanding of American Indian culture and in general, an understanding of human diversity. One of the biggest issues with American Indian history and culture being taught in schools is the emphasis on the past and a focus on particular events, such as Thanksgiving, rather than a more contemporary perspective that illustrates how American Indians continue to contribute to society today.
Although there continues to be a realization that changes are necessary in K-12 education, the fact remains that misinformation continues to be present in classrooms.
Therefore, determining where the breakdown occurs is essential in order for Wisconsin Act 31 to be effective in addressing the components of American Indian history, culture, and sovereignty within the state of Wisconsin as well as contemporary issues. A foundational aspect to the research is the idea stated by Teresa Veltkamp, in Carjuzaa (2009), “before we teach it, we have to learn it” (p. 38). Teachers in K-12 classrooms need to have a firm understanding of American Indian history, culture, sovereignty, and contemporary issues in order to be able to pass this knowledge onto students in order to comply with Wisconsin Act 31. It stands to reason then that those who are preparing teachers to be in compliance with Wisconsin Act 31 also need to know the material and understand American Indian history, culture, and sovereignty. Therefore, teacher preparation programs are foundational in making sure that future teachers are properly prepared to do so. Through this survey and document analysis, it is clear why there remains an issue with compliance.