WBIS 188: Native American Experiences and Education

M/W 3:30 - 5 Clow 223

Instructor: Prof. Miriam Schacht
Office: Radford 222
E-mail: schacht.uwo@gmail.com (preferred); schachtm@uwosh.edu
Office Hours: Monday 5-6 pm; Wed. 5-7 pm; and by appointment. ** If downstairs door is closed, please call my office phone at 424-7475, and I will come let you in!

In this course we will explore a range of issues surrounding Native American educational experiences and culture, and you will be encouraged to reflect critically and constructively on experiences in higher education generally, and at UWO specifically, and to consider what a liberal arts education means to you. (See below for more information on the concept of a liberal education.)

Because of the continuing presence of Native American communities in this country and in Wisconsin in particular, everyone in this course already has a relationship with Native American culture, whether you are aware of it or not; part of the goal of the course is to explore what you believe, what you know, and what you believe you know, and where your ideas come from. In doing so, you will develop an understanding of your own cultural background and what influences have shaped you. This will also help you hone your critical thinking and analytic skills, and you will come to a greater understanding of who you are and where you stand in relation to the world around you.

In addition to fostering strong writing and critical thinking skills, the course will also introduce you to resources and programs on campus, both within and in addition to the University Studies Program. You will also be required to attend some events that address our signature question and foster your intercultural competence.

University Studies Program: Our Signature Question

As part of the new Universities Studies Program, this course will investigate one of three Quest I Signature Questions, Intercultural Knowledge and Competence.

How do people understand and bridge cultural differences?

“I have sought teachers in all areas of my life who would challenge me beyond what I might select for myself, and in and through that challenge allow me a space of radical openness where I am truly free to choose—able to learn and grow without limits ... The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress.” - bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

Intercultural knowledge and competence is the understanding of one's own culture as well as cultures beyond one's own; the recognition of the cultural values and history, language, traditions, arts, and social institutions of a group of people; the ability to negotiate and bridge cultural differences in ways that allow for broader perspectives to emerge; and the skill to investigate a wide range of world views, beliefs, practices, and values.

Other Signature Questions: Sustainability and Civic Engagement

Sustainability is about working towards a future in which all human beings can enjoy decent quality of life– good health, economic security, membership in strong and inclusive communities, the list goes on– while ensuring that we do not endanger the natural resources and environments upon which we depend. At its core, sustainability is about helping us live up to our fullest potential, as individuals and as a society.

Civic knowledge consists of an awareness and understanding of the various political and social processes that impact the nature and quality of life in local, state, national, or global communities. It also encompasses the cultivation of skills which may be useful in public life, like effective communication and ethical reasoning. Civic engagement means having an appreciation for and applying the values gained from civic knowledge in real world settings, directed at improving the quality of life in the communities of which one is a part. Civic knowledge and civic engagement emphasize learning, reflection, and action in order to create better communities.

Our Course Objectives

* Strengthen your knowledge of human history and culture, especially of the first peoples on this continent.

* Develop an understanding of your own cultural background, and what it means to you.

* Sharpen your awareness of the rules and biases of one's own culture and an understanding of elements important to other cultures

* Interpret your own intercultural experiences empathetically from more than one worldview and act supportively in relation to the feelings of another cultural group.

* Ask complex questions and seek out answers regarding multiple cultural perspectives.

* Initiate and develop respectful interactions with people who are culturally different from you.

* Practice synthesizing different sources using critical thinking.

* Build confidence in the ability to write clearly and intelligently in a variety of situations, with awareness of purpose, audience, and context.

* Understand the power of language and its rootedness in cultural space, and how our values and biases shape our use and understanding of language.

A Liberal Education

"Why do I have to learn this? It doesn't have anything to do with what I'm going to do with my life!"

That question, believe it or not, is the key to understanding the concept of a liberal arts education. You have made the decision to attend a liberal arts university, rather than a technical college, and the key difference between those two kinds of education is that a liberal arts education teaches you far more than just the skills you need for a particular job. And employers value this well-roundedness; nearly all (93%) employers surveyed by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) agreed that "a candidate's demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major" (AAC&U 2013). A liberal education ("liberal" not in the political sense, but in the academic sense, from the Latin liber, or free man - it originally meant the kind of education suitable for a gentleman) prepares you not just for a particular job, but for the many challenges and opportunities life will throw at you.

From AAC&U "What is a 21st-Century Liberal Education?" (follow the link for even more in-depth explanations!):

Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

The broad goals of liberal education have been enduring even as the courses and requirements that comprise a liberal education have changed over the years. Today, a liberal education usually includes a general education curriculum that provides broad learning in multiple disciplines and ways of knowing, along with more in-depth study in a major.


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Updated 30. January 2014