«“Before We Teach It, We Have to Learn It”: Wisconsin Act 31 Compliance within Public Teacher Preparation Programs A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE ...»
Resources utilized in the course. Beyond professional and personal development is the importance of resources that are actually utilized within the classroom. Another section of the Wisconsin Act 31 discusses mandates regarding instructional resources within K-12 classrooms but that are as equally important to those teaching in higher education. Wisconsin statute s.121.02(1)(h) requires that each school board provide adequate instructional materials, texts, and library services which reflect the cultural diversity and pluralistic nature of American society; efforts to provide accurate, authentic information depend on the use of the quality instructional materials that are free of bias and stereotypes, students must be exposed to resources that reflect a diverse world (2013).
Although background of the instructor is important it is vital to look at the resources that are actually used to teach the course to future teachers. The extent to which these resources are used will be discussed later within the document analysis portion.
The main objective of the survey response was to gather an idea of the types of resources used and the source of those resources. Resources were categorized into nine types: books, films, printed materials, academic articles, news/media, websites/online resources, guest speakers, non-specified readings/supplemental readings, and other. The number of different resources utilized within the course is represented in Table 7 below.
Eighty-seven percent of the respondents reported using more than one type of resource.
Within that 87%, the largest span tended to be in the two to three types of resources used with 60% (n = 12). However, four or more types were reported with 40% (n = 8), with half of those (n = 4) reporting using five or more types of resources.
More generalized comments about supplemental readings or unspecific types of readings were mentioned by 26% (n = 6) of the respondents and included course readings that were noted as being developed by another instructor, legal and historical material, and readings that in general dealt with histories and oral traditions. Resources that did not fit into one particular category were placed under the “other” category, which was also reported by 26% (n = 6) of respondents as well. Items within this category included contacts within the University, consultation with colleagues, material culture, personal research, and community contacts.
The overall distribution of the types of sources reported by respondents is offered in Table 8 below.
Of the nine types of resources being reported as mentioned above, films tended to be the most utilized by 57% (n = 13) of the respondents. Types of films included documentaries, public television productions, and fiction. Although not all respondents indicated specific titles or topics, those that did included the topics of American Indian history, treaty rights, native language and education, including boarding school experiences. Two films in particular were both reported as being used by 23% of the respondents, “Lighting the 7th Fire” and “In the White Man’s Image”.
“Lighting the 7th Fire” is a 1994 PBS production documenting the Chippewa treaty rights issues including the violence, discrimination, and protests during the 1980s.
Interviews are provided by both native and non-native individuals but tend to provide more of a native perspective. “In the White Man’s Image” is a 1992 documentary that chronicles the history of boarding schools in an attempt to assimilate American Indians into American culture beginning with Captain Richard Pratt. Unlike “Lighting the 7th Fire”, this film presents more of a historical overview in a timeline manner. Although there are native perspectives, many of the scholars presenting information are nonnatives.
The second most reported resource was books. Fifty-two percent (n = 12) of respondents utilized books in their course with a majority of those books coming from native authors. As with the films, not all respondents indicated specific authors and book titles. However, for those that did the range of topics again was diverse including tribal history, specific focus on tribal nations, education, stereotypes, treaty rights, and native philosophy. Compared to films, there was greater diversity within the books category.
Within this category, half of the respondents (n = 6) reported utilizing Patty Loew’s text, Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal. The text covers a dense history of each of the tribal nations of Wisconsin using a variety of sources throughout the book from native perspectives including interviews, tribal newspapers, treaties, and oral traditions. The non-native books reported were those by Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Nancy Lurie’s Wisconsin Indians. One-third (n = 4) of respondents reported more generalized information, such as edited collections and selections from various texts.
The next category of significant use with 43% (n = 10) was guest speakers.
Speakers tended to be identified as being connected to American Indian Studies in general or a particular tribal nation. In addition, those from an American Indian background were identified as either an elder or a scholar. Other scholars within the field of American Indian Studies were also incorporated including those from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Guest speakers provide a different perspective than what is typically presented in a classroom often times bringing in personal experience. In addition, guest speakers tend to be American Indian, which is beneficial given the fact that the majority of the instructors are white. Compared to books and written material, speakers provide real life experience and an opportunity to get a native perspective that is commonly not found within texts that are typically written from a non-native perspective.
The differences among written materials come across within the category of academic articles. Academic articles were reported with 39% (n = 9) use. Unlike books and films, the topics for academic articles swayed further away from native authors and native topics. The majority of articles tended to focus on race, class, and gender equality, classroom diversity, and culturally responsive and relevant education. Those who did report using articles with native topics included tribal histories, contemporary issues, and Indigenous education. One of the reasons I believe there is a difference in the topics of written articles is that articles tend to be more about contemporary issues as well as written by scholars. In addition, general education topics are more frequent among the courses and therefore bring in more resources that are focused on the contemporary education issues within the courses that currently are culturally relevant pedagogy and race relations.
Although not as prominent as academic articles, other printed materials were reported by 30% (n = 7) of the respondents. The printed materials that were specifically mentioned were all directly related to American Indian Studies topics. Eighty-six percent (n = 6) utilized materials from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction relating to Act 31 and American Indians. Almost a third (29%, n = 2) utilized printed resources from the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) which also relates to other treaty rights legal documentation that was reported as well. The use of these sources represents a direct correlation to the response to Wisconsin Act 31. Both the American Indian Studies program at the Department of Public Instruction and the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission were created to respond to the issues surrounding the discrimination and lack of understanding resulting from the treaty rights issues. The materials come from an American Indian perspective and provide guidance particularly to non-American Indian educators.
Websites and online resources were reported by 26% (n = 6) of the respondents and generally were focused on particular treaty rights and history aspects of American Indian Studies. Specific sites mentioned were Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), Indian Land Tenure, Wisconsin Historical Society, Teaching Tolerance, and PBS. In relation to the last two sites mentioned, contemporary issues and native perspectives were the focus for these sites. Bringing in these types of websites is important because they bring in not only technology but also access to perspectives and information that is not readily available through books and articles. In other words, more contemporary information on particular issues that are evolving and changing can be more readily accessed through websites. Topics such as land and environment, racial discrimination within schools, including mascots, and policies can be brought out through websites. Doing so also allows students to go beyond the history and stereotypical components of American Indian culture and look at American Indians in the 21st century and the issues that they continue to deal with.
Although not comprising a large portion of the responses, 13% (n = 3) reported using some sort of news and media resources within his or her course. These were used to address contemporary issues in Wisconsin including race-based mascots, and racism in schools. An emphasis was also presented regarding the use of native media such as native radio stations and native television sources, including Vision Maker Media. Vision Maker Media was formerly known as Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) and recently changed their name in January 2013. According to their mission statement, “Vision Maker Media shares Native stories with the world that represent the cultures, experiences, and values of American Indians and Alaska Native” (Vision Maker Media, 2013). Although the responses in this category were the least reported amongst the types, news and media are important to Wisconsin Act 31 in order to represent the current issues in Indian Country. News and media bring a comparison of native and nonnative perspectives to the issues, and like websites, bring in technological aspects that allow for a wider range of sources that ordinarily would not be as accessible.
Understanding of Wisconsin Education Act 31. The final section of the survey consisted of a series of questions to assess the instructor’s knowledge of Wisconsin Education Act 31 including his or her interpretation of the Act as well as what the essential components of Act 31 are to be included in the course. In addition, in order to address one main component of Act 31, each participant was asked to define what sovereignty is as it relates to American Indians. For individuals seeking teacher certification this is fundamental knowledge and therefore an instructor must be aware of a definition as well going back to the idea of “before we teach, we have to learn it”.
Finally, instructors were asked if he or she felt well prepared to teach future students to comply with Act 31 and to explain why.
Interpretation of Act 31. One of the fundamental issues with Wisconsin Act 31 is the basic understanding of the Act itself. Each participant was asked for his or her interpretation of Wisconsin Act 31. Of the 22 responses provided, 23% (n = 5) did not provide an answer and one respondent even commented that she was completely unaware of Wisconsin Act 31 even though she had been teaching for two years. Another 23% (n =
5) of participants placed an emphasis on the importance of pre-service teacher curriculum in relation to the standards presented within Wisconsin Act 31 including the foundations of a background in American Indian history, culture, and sovereignty including the issues of violence and discrimination over treaty rights issues in Northern Wisconsin. More specifically several respondents indicated that all educators certified by the DPI should be broadly familiar with the history of Wisconsin's American Indian nations, including the legal and political significance of federal treaties with those nations, and the meaning and significance of American Indian sovereignty in American and international law.
Responses within this group included not only application of the background of American Indian history, culture, and sovereignty within content and lessons but also an emphasis on the inclusion of the American Indian voice in the curriculum and in general inter-ethnic communication. Although there seemed to be a fair understanding of this emphasis on pre-service teachers one respondent commented that although there is this spirit of the idea, there is a question as to how often this actually happens for pre-service teachers.
In addition to the emphasis on pre-service education, 18% (n = 4) of the responses referenced the specific legislation associated with Wisconsin Act 31. Majority of the emphasis within this section dealt with the controversy and violence generated after the 1983 Voight decision confirming treaty-based rights to hunting, fishing, and gathering.
Racism is to be addressed through the formal, school learning opportunities. A focus on the reactions and continued controversies as they relate to the history, culture, and sovereignty of Wisconsin tribal nations were mentioned to address that all K-12 students understand the historical and current implications of American Indians. In essence, this group of responses focused more on the history of the formation of Wisconsin Act 31 and the inclusion of the Wisconsin Department of Instruction in developing a program in a response to the standards presented in the legislation. The specific legislation as written in law was mentioned by 14% (n = 3) of the respondents including addressing the racist backlash of specifically white residents in northern Wisconsin.