My little rant last week nearly cost me the Miss America pageant, so I wanted to get back on the right track this time. Back to world peace, love, holding hands and getting along. One of the first occurrences of “getting along“ that I can think of in American history is the original Thanksgiving. The “O.T.,“ if you will.
Remember in fourth grade how we‘d draw a little table, with a turkey in the middle, covered in food, and the people gathered around it? Some wearing black hats and dresses, others nearly naked with feathers sticking out their hair? And we were told about how our new friends the Indians helped the Pilgrims survive in the New World? By now everyone knows what a great misrepresentation of their relationship we were taught as children. I‘m not a teacher or a psychologist, and I don‘t know the proper way to teach children about mass slaughter, but I do not condone outright lying to them either.
In middle school we get a slightly wider scope of information and are told about diseases that the American Indians, not to be confused with the actual Indians in India, didn‘t have immunities toward. Semantics are important here: did the Native Americans fail to have the correct immunities, or did the English infect them with the diseases that killed what like 80 percent of their population? Silly Native Americans didn‘t get their shots for that winter, I suppose.
It‘s around high school when we finally learn about the Trail of Tears and the substantial numbers of the Native American people that were wiped out in the process. With a name like Trail of Tears there‘s no avoiding it I guess. I mean, claiming tears of joy would be a stretch right?
So, now that we‘re in college what are we being taught? Unless someone takes a Native American Studies class, the majority of the campus probably forgot all about the subject. If there‘s no required class you have to take, most people won‘t. I mean I forgot all about math when I came to Davis (thank whatever for social sciences). The difference here though is this: Native Americans are real people, not just a school subject you should choose to avoid. According to the UC Davis website, enrollment figures of Native Americans in 2007, between undergraduate, graduate and professional students, was a total of 213 individuals. At least 213 people who have nearly nothing to relate to the general campus with. Of course there are great resources that Native American students can always turn to, for instance the Student Recruitment and Retention Center. The SRRC has programs that help unify and empower students in minority groups such as the Native people. Because a group 213 people in a pool of about 30,000 is, well, invisible.
Imagine the complete difference in cultures here. Imagine being a Native American child in an elementary school and the disparity between the history being taught at home and at school. Something about a cute potluck had on Plymouth Rock or whatever. That kind of instability can be psychologically unpleasant. Who do you believe more? Who do you trust more? The ambiguous nature of the information and its effects can be seen in dropout rates among Native American high school students. The California Department of Education gives the following statistic: In 2006, Native Americans accounted for .77 percent of the total school population while 31.3 percent of that ethnic group dropped out of high school. In case you were curious, that is the smallest ethnic group and the largest dropout rate.
I‘m not an expert in the subject and I don‘t want to butcher the information any further, but these numbers are eye opening. What different forces are the causes of this dropoff in enrollment? Did anyone else notice the abundance of question marks in this column, not including this last one? I‘m equally as unfamiliar about the subject. But finding even some information about a marginalized group, and analyzing it, can seriously help change your perspective on things we take for granted. This way, remember, we can all hold hands, love each other and attain world peace.
If you want more information, citations or to punch SARA KOHGADAI in the face for talking about world peace again, bring it on at firstname.lastname@example.org.