Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Education of Little Tree (again) and Spirit Bear (again)

A North Carolina newspaper ran a column a few days ago, about the summer reading list for Kernodle Middle School. As teachers across the country plan for the coming year, the column, "Ahearn: 'Native' book on 7th-grade list a 'slap in the face'" is worth reading.

Ahearn (the columnist) did a fine job, noting the controversy that is the backstory of The Education of Little Tree, but also in her interview with Native parents and community members.

The school principal indicated the book is used at Kernodle, based on its inclusion on a list prepared by the National Middle School Association. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find the list. Is it on line somewhere?

Teachers across the country place great confidence in professional organizations. We should all remember that people in those organizations have been taught and socialized to view American Indians in limited, and too-often biased and stereotypical ways.

Change can happen, but it will be driven by teachers and parents and librarians who think critically about how American Indians are presented in books, stories, curriculum materials, movies, videos, cartoons, etc.

This blog/resource is intended to help with that effort. Read the articles and reviews. Visit the websites I link to.

I'm sure the teachers and staff at Kernodle are taken aback by the column and criticism's being directed at them. But as Ahearn noted, there's more information available now than ever before, and being proactive is necessary.

This blog has included discussion of The Education of Little Tree several times. I've also blogged several times about another book students at Kernodle are reading, Touching Spirit Bear. I hope you find them useful. Share them with teachers and librarians. Books like this cannot be used "as is." If you teach them, or read them, use the information presented below. Help children and teens to know that books are not sacred. They contain errors, and they often mislead and miseducate.

One family's experience with The Education of Little Tree

"Home of the Brave," by Paul Chaat Smith (critique of Brother Eagle Sister Sky and The Education of Little Tree

Forrest Carter's Education of Little Tree

A Review of Ben Mikaelsen's Touching Spirit Bear

Reaction to Slapin's review of Touching Spirit Bear



Anonymous said...

Hello -- I'm from National Middle School Association and we don't have a suggested reading list. We don't know what the principal is referring to.

Leslie McNabb said...

Thanks for drawing attention to this. I was shocked to find that we have a copy of this book in the Biography section. I told my Branch Manager, and she contacted our catalog department to change the classification to Fiction.

k8 said...

I've twice told our local Barnes & Noble that Ed. of Little Tree does not belong in the Native American Studies section of the bookstore (and the reasons why), but every time I return the copies are still there. One would think that, in the interest of commerce and customer loyalty, that they would want to avoid this sort of snafu.

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing the "true" story about Carter and his deception on 60 Minutes or something like that at least 10 years ago. But a book gets categorized a certain way and it is near impossible to change it. Booksellers, librarians and teachers take it as described. You have to wonder why Carter did it? Somehow Indians were okay to write a story about, but African Americans were less than human? he makes my skin crawl.