Bias in the Curricula Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Bias in Curricula

Native American Bias in K-12 Literature

There are many artifacts used in curricula that illustrate a racial bias towards marginalized groups. American Indians are one such group adversely affected by stereotypical and offensive portrayals in educational material and literature. Native Americans are typically not even mentioned in American history textbooks past 6th grade curriculum. When they are referenced, it is often in terms of Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. Other times they are depicted as adversaries to be defeated in the "settling" of the West. As far as most Americans have been taught in the educational system, Native Americans virtually ceased to exist after 1890. In addition, there exists a very pervasive and subtle dehumanizing Native American stereotype that has become ingrained in American popular culture (i.e., sports teams, Halloween costumes, etc.). These misrepresentations -- and the misperceptions that follow - are commonly held by all Americans, and have the power to impact Indian children themselves.

For example, The Indian in the Cupboard is a beloved children's book by British author Lynne Reid Banks. It was first published in 1980 and has received numerous awards, and was made into a film in 1995. However, for Native Americans, this is an incredibly biased work that perpetuates common myths and stereotypes. The miniature toy Indian that comes to life is the first example of bias in this abstract. Native Americans are objectified in this depiction. In addition, he is described as an Iroquois warrior, but is dressed as a movie western version of a generic plains Indian "chief," in full eagle feather headdress and other incorrect attire not typical of the Iroquois people.

The warrior speaks in grunts and partial sentences. There is an attempt to make him sound like Tonto -- a reference to the noble warrior tradition. He is manipulated by a more powerful white child, which reinforces the notion of a simple-minded, socially inferior Indian whose contact with the white man will save him and his people. This abstract can be found in many school libraries in both print and media formats. Despite the exciting plot, this book supports the continuation of certain classic misperceptions.

Another racially and ethnically biased abstract is the children's book Indian Campfire Tales: Legends About the Ways of Animals and Men by W.S. Phillips (1963). This work is one of a numerous collections] of generic Indian legends that exist. The author offers a compilation of stories described as a "history of the tribes," but makes no effort to identify the original sources of these tales or the original authors. The language used throughout the stories is also biased. Names such as "Big Feather Two Feet" are stereotypical. Further, descriptions of Native Americans as "roaming," "wandering," or "roving" across the land imply that they are where they do not belong. In a subtle way such language justifies the seizure of Native lands by clever and more mindful white Americans who "traveled" or "settled" their way westward.

One short story within the…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Banks, L.R. (2005). The Indian in the cupboard. New York: Random House/Listening Library.

Olson, H.A. (2001). Classification or organization: What's the difference? Knowledge

Organization 28(1), 1-3.

Phillips, W.S. (1963). Indian Campfire Tales: Legends about the Ways of Animals and Men. New York: Platt & Munk.

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