Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Focus On" column at School Library Journal (Nov 2008)

Two years ago, the University of Illinois's Board of Trustees voted to rid UIUC of its mascot, "Chief Illiniwek." Students and alums who embrace the mascot are hosting a rally this weekend. Their rally made an already full month (November is Native American month) even more taxing. So much that I didn't post something earlier that I'd meant to.

It is the "Focus On" column that I wrote for School Library Journal. It was a pleasure working with them. I threw a hard ball in my opening paragraphs, and thought they would object, but they didn't. Click here to go to the column and see the list of books I recommended. Below is one paragraph from the column. Click on APA and ASA to read their statements.

America’s collective refusal to let go of stereotypical images of Indians is costing all of us. In 2006 and 2007, respectively, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Sociological Association (ASA) passed resolutions centered on images of Indians used as mascots for athletic teams (see p. 56 for URLs). Both associations called for an end to the use of this imagery, citing research studies that show that the mascots are harmful to the self-esteem of Native children, and, conversely, create a sense of superiority in non-Native children. I invite you to look at those mascots and compare them to images of Indians in classics like Little House on the Prairie. Indian mascots on a playing field and Indians in classic and popular children’s books are similar. If we take the APA and ASA resolutions seriously, we must take action. That means teaching children to recognize and critique stereotypes, and it means providing them with literature that offers realistic Indian characters.
(Note: at the bottom of the column is a piece called "Media Picks" by Phyllis Levy Mandell. I do not know the items she included there, so please don't think I agree with Mandell. I may, but I may not, once I see the items she recommends. A safer bet for acquiring media is to get those available at Oyate. I know the work Oyate does, and trust their recommendations. Click here to see their VHS and DVD collection.

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