In 1879, the U.S. Government made a plan concerning Indian Industrial School when the executors of this cultural genocide took Indian children away from their tribes and parents and put the students into boarding schools for about three years. In order to eradicate Indians and inculcate in cultural standards of civilization world, the students were not allowed to speak native language; moreover, even were punished if did in such a way. The book Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928 by David Wallace Adams focuses on the last ‘Indian War’ in which the government fought against Indians. In this paper, several vital questions that are still open today will be explored.
Firstly, the issues are linked with advantages and disadvantages of moving the board schools off the reservations for the government and students. It is essential to analyze the effect this had on relationships between the students and their families. Secondly, the basic changes in appearance, identify, values, perceptions, and customs, from the standpoint of school officials, necessary for the civilizing of Indian children so they could assimilate successfully into the non-native culture will be discussed. Thirdly, it is important to assess the success and failures of the assimilation’s aims of boarding schools with respect to the lives of returned Indian students.
In order to answer all those key questions, it is necessary to give a short description of educational methods that were used during the governmental Indian children’s program. The first idea was to remove Native American children from the houses for long lasting periods. This was done for taking root of white civilization. Indian children had to forget about their childhood before school as officials said, “Kill the Indian and save the man” (Adams, 1995).
Indian children had to live daily in the‘total institution’ (Adams, 1995). It was purposefully worked out in order to accomplish the total psychological and cultural reconstruction.
The plan of identity was fulfilled in various forms. The aims were reached by means of physical and humiliating punishment. The children were renamed; they were not allowed to speak native tribal languages and share their religious or patriotic beliefs.
However, there are both advantages and disadvantages of such governmental policy of moving the boarding schools off the reservations for the government and students.
Most students had a strong desire to be free and they tried to be drawn out of their households. At the same time, they felt strong displeasure that was the main cause of their running away. After the runaway plan failed, the offender was harshly punished and became an example for holding up before other students.
Boarding schools faced another grave problem of illness. Such situation was resulted by overcrowded conditions and absence of qualified medical care. These were the first steps for diseases spreading. The usual ones were tuberculosis, measles, and influenza. Frequently, the windows were opened for night in Indian schools that, certainly, worse the health of students. Many of them died at school and were not buried at their homes.
However, it should be pointed that boarding schools gave not only negative experiences for the students. The advantages of education were also immense. Firstly, Indian children gained such benefits as going in for sports and games. They had many friends at school that made many positive moments. Communication of people from different cultures and areas influenced positively on young people’s mental outlook. In schools, the boys had a possibility to play baseball, go in for broad jumping, run foot races, and play marbles and mumblety-peg. There were many other entertainments to engage in. In addition, the students recognized practical advantages such as electricity and running water that were not presented in reservations, offered by the schools. They also had showers, clean clothes, and good food.
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As the children had no opportunity to communicate with their families, they lost the connection with parents; and that affected negatively on the family relations in a whole. The educational policy was aimed for the destruction of the Indian identity of children so they became no more Indians; and that was another objective of the estrangement with the family.
School officials worked out special kinds of basic changes in appearance, identify, values, perceptions, and customs that were necessary for the civilizing of Indian children so they could assimilate successfully into the non-native culture. Policy makers used boarding schools like a tool to transform “Indian youth to ‘American’ ways of thinking, doing, and living” (Adams, 1995).
Adams (1995) stated:
Native American students were anything but passive recipients of the ‘curriculum of civilization’. Everything is here: the cropped hair and army uniforms, the endless drilling and marching, the round of daily chores, the spells in the guardhouse for speaking Indian, and the ubiquitous little school graveyards that signaled the terrible toll these institutions took on young lives.
The first step to civilize the Indians was done by means of the shaving of children’s hair. The hair of both girls and boys was cut in order to control the problem of lice within the school and for the removal of “savageness” (Adams, 1995). The second step was changing the outfits. Students had to wear a typical school uniform, and their old clothing was ‘illegal’ at school.
The next attempt to ‘civilize’ the savage was changing the Native American students’ names to more European-sounding ones due to the teachers could not pronounce the tribal names correctly. To give surnames for children was also a part of a conscious government policy.Children could not participate in their tribal rituals and religious traditions anymore; they were allowed to attend only a Christian Church.
This book takes the readers through the historical crossing “of how American Indians came to be a part of the U.S. colossal education system” (Adams, 1995). It is also eminently that the only federal education model is American Indian education. It is essential to assess the success and failures of the assimilation’s aims of boarding schools with respect to the lives of returned Indian students. On the one hand, the government tried to civilize Indian children as it was considered to be a good and even charity idea. However, “by the 1920s the Bureau of Indian Affairs had changed its opinion about boarding schools, responding to complaints that the schools were too expensive and that they encouraged dependency more than self-sufficiency” (Adams, 1995). Due to these events, in 1923, the greater part of children became to attend public schools. It was much better as represented more respect for Indian children’s lives. In the board schools, students suffered from poor diet, low-standard medical care, overcrowding, extreme labor, and imperfect teaching. After 1930, much changed in the governmental Indian policy, and the educational philosophy was rethought and took a favourable turn. Indian culture was no more suppressed and could be learnt on the lessons. More children became attendance of public schools which caused better assumption of State’s superintendence of Indian education. That all proves that only with the esteem of human rights the Government’s policy becomes successful.
To make a conclusion, in his book, Adams portrays the problem of Indian children education that at the very beginning was represented by brutal and cruel methods that did not correspond with human rights. However, the idea was purposeful, but not the methods. Indian children had to obtain benefits from civilization process such as education and another level of social and cultural life. The mistake was that this painful process was hardened by awful conditions when childern had to work hard and study at the same time. The policy was worked out without any note on physiological factor. Indian children were taken out of their families, and their life difficulties were hard to overcome without support and understanding. Moreover, misunderstanding, punishment, and absolute ignore of students’ needs and wishes are portrayed. As all innovations, this educational one was also time tested. The Government insured itself in non-idealness of the plan and changed the ideology in another direction. That became the turning point in the history of human rights and Indian educational system.