first nations education
"They should leave the reserves without a decent education?"
Erickson Owen wanted to prove "anything is possible."
"If you don't have education, you will not change the picture."
It is exceedingly difficult to find much fault with the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, particularly if one views it for what it is -- a negotiated deal. But it's becoming increasingly clear that a growing faction of what Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard so accurately dubbed Canada's "aboriginal industry" value practical improvements to the lives of native youth a great deal less than dogmatic adherence to some fantastical, idealized, and utterly impossible conception of how aboriginal-Canadian diplomacy is supposed to work.
On February 7, the government announced it would give almost $2 billion in new funding for aboriginal education. But it will take years to build all the new schools required, let alone create new community-run school systems. The real impact on aboriginal communities will take at least a generation to manifest. When next year's federal election rolls around, this agreement will provide few tangible, here-and-now marshmallows for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to offer voters.
I have spoken out against top-down attempts to implement educational reform, but now I want to talk about alternatives. The First Nations Education Act is going to be passed. It will be full of words, and funding will be slow to follow, if it ever truly does. It will not meet our needs, because it has not been designed by us. I believe we need to pool our considerable resources and expertise in order to set up and implement a system of temporary "schools" akin to the Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights movement. We could do this by creating for this one year, a system of "sovereignty summer schools."
With the start of the new Parliamentary session next week, a key part of the government's agenda is expected to be sweeping legislation dealing with First Nations' education. The Conservative government has unilaterally developed a blueprint for the legislation and is now trying to characterize a number of strictly controlled information sessions over the summer as consultation. Put simply, First Nations are about to be presented with another top-down, one-size-fits-all government solution, absent proper consultation and without the necessary resources to fix the problems. First Nations have told the government that this approach is unacceptable and will simply produce a bill that won't work.