Joel Spring’s Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality examines the educational policies in the United States that have resulted in intentional patterns of oppression by Protestant, European Americans against racial and ethnic groups. The historical context of the European American oppressor is helpful in understanding how the dominant group has manipulated the minority groups. These minority groups include Americans who are Native, African, Latin/Hispanic, and Asian. Techniques for deculturalization were applied in attempts to erase the oppressed groups’ previous identities and to assimilate them into society at a level where they could be of use to the oppressors. Techniques include isolation from family, replacement of language, denial of education, inclusion of dominant group world view, and provision of inferior teachers and poor facilities. Relationships between educational policy and instances of racism and patterns of oppression are explored in the following. A section will also compare my prior education to the one presented in Spring’s book.
Understanding how European Americans have been able to perceive themselves as superior in psychological, spiritual, racial, and cultural terms is integral to seeing how cultural genocide has occurred in the United States. The basic program is taken from the Roman Imperium which delegates the authority to civilize others by erasing their laws and culture and simultaneously or subsequently installing new laws and mores from the dominant group into the minority group. This plan has been applied by U.S. educators and politicians in an attempt to carry out a perceived upgrade from an inferior cultural program to the superior Anglo-Saxon mixed with Protestantism point of view. This civilized versus uncivilized and Christian versus Pagan viewpoints reveal themselves throughout the history of U.S. education.
In the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, Native Americans were granted citizenship by the descendants of European immigrants who invaded their territory over 400 years ago. In the years before and after 1924, Native Americans have experienced cultural genocide, deculturalization, and denial of education (Spring, 2010, pp. 8-9). For example, the Naturalization Act of 1790 excluded Native Americans from citizenship, thus preventing them from having a political voice in their rapidly changing world. In 1867, the Indian Peace Commission made 2 requirements for U.S. citizenship: 1) rejection of native religions and 2) acceptance of middle-class American Christianity. The bases of a philosophy that uses superiority and inferiority include racial, linguistic and cultural differences. For European American educators, the “civilizing” of Native Americans included the installing of a work ethic, the creation of desire to accumulate property; the repression of pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure; the establishment of a nuclear family structure with the father in control; the implementation of authoritarian child-rearing practices; and conversion to Christianity (p. 14).
The U.S. government’s program of Native American deculturalization was developed in part because it was less costly than fighting and killing them. Thomas Jefferson’s civilization program called for government agents to establish schools to teach women to spin and sew and men farming and husbandry (p. 18). Educational policies such as this set the stage for purchasing land and avoiding costly wars. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act authorized the President to set aside lands west of the Mississippi for exchange of Indian Land east of the Mississippi (p. 28). Cultural-ecological theory puts Native Americans in the category of involuntary minorities. They were conquered and forced into European American customs and beliefs. Replacing the use of native languages with English,...