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This timely publication brings diverse perspectives on aboriginal education together in one volume, providing readers a context with which to understand and consider them. These approaches are juxtaposed to encourage critical analysis of the different assumptions underlying proposals for improving aboriginal education.

There are two general categories of perspectives explored in the book – parallelist and integrationist approaches. Nine essays are provided as examples of parallelist thinking. They all argue, to varying degrees, that Aboriginal autonomy and control over education, as well as the revitalization of Aboriginal traditions, is necessary for Aboriginal education to be improved.  Integrationist approaches, on the other hand, assume that solutions to Aboriginal problems lie in facilitating native participation in the Canadian educational system and workforce. These approaches, represented by nine articles, are informed by both liberalism and political economy.

The book concludes with two dialogues between parallelist and integrationist approaches. These exchanges are intended to uncover how the different approaches respond to arguments and assumptions that are oppositional to their own. The book ends with a rebuttal from a parallelist perspective. As parallelism is the dominant approach being articulated with respect to Aboriginal education policy, it is important that this perspective be given the last word. 

Approaches to Aboriginal Education in Canada is a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in attempting to understand the complexity of Aboriginal issues. Solutions can be found only by understanding the root causes of problems, and the book provides critical thinkers with a starting point in this important conversation.


Education Matters: The Journal of Teaching and Learning

Table of Contents

Introduction: Hunting assumptions in the search for solutions
Part I: Parallelist Approaches
1. Aboriginal education in Canada: A retrospective and a prospective, Verna J. Kirkness
2. Silencing Aboriginal curricular content and perspectives through multiculturalism: “There are other children here,” Verna St. Denis
3. Closing the education gap: A case for Aboriginal early childhood education in Canada, a look at the Aboriginal Headstart program, Mai Nguyen
4. Canadian Native students and inequitable learning, Wayne Gorman
5. Making science assessment culturally valid for Aboriginal students, John B. Friesen and Anthony N. Ezeife
6. A new deal, Blair Stonechild
7. Connections and reconnections: Affirming cultural identity in Aboriginal teacher education, Linda Goulet and Yvonne McLeod
Part II: Integrationist Approaches
8. Schools matter, John Richards
9. A new approach to understanding Aboriginal educational outcomes: The role of social capital, Jerry White, Nicholas Spence, and Paul Maxim
10. Why we need a First Nations Education Act, Michael Mendelson
11. Free to learn: Giving Aboriginal youth control over their post-secondary education, Calvin Helin and Dave Snow
12. Retention of Aboriginal students in post-secondary education, Judy Hardes
13. Aboriginalism and the problems of Indigenous archaeology, Robert McGhee
14. Running the gauntlet: Challenging the taboo obstructing Aboriginal education policy development, Albert Howard with Frances Widdowson
15. The unintended outcomes of institutionalizing ethnicity: Lessons from Maori education in New Zealand, Elizabeth Rata
16. Native studies and Canadian political science: The implications of “decolonizing the discipline,” Frances Widdowson
Part III: Exchanges
17. First Nations education and rentier economics: Parallels with the Gulf states, John R. Minnis
18. First Nations education and Minnis’s rentier mentality, Frank Deer
19. Ganigonhi:oh: The good mind meets the academy, David Newhouse
20. The “good mind” and critical thinking: A response to David Newhouse, Frances Widdowson
21. Paths to truths, David Newhouse

The strengths of this volume are its openness and its courage to allow different perspectives to exchange and debate about the longstanding and sometimes conflicting issues of Aboriginal education.… [T]his volume has huge implications for Aboriginal education.

Education Matters: The Journal of Teaching and Learning

This book is an important collection of essays by over twenty authors exploring two distinct approaches to Aboriginal education... Widdowson and Howard participate in the debate, but do not dominate it. I found the range of views, the challenging discourses, and the new perspectives to be welcome and refreshing.

Mark Salvor, IPAC NWT Regional Group Book Review Forum

Frances Widdowson

Frances Widdowson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Policy Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary. With Albert Howard she co-authored Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry: The Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural Preservation, which was nominated for the Donner prize in 2008.

Albert Howard

Albert Howard has worked as a consultant for government and Native groups.