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Native wisdom with the practice wisdom of great European pioneers in work with troubled youth.  A note about each of these traditions will serve as an introduction to our model.

Psychologists Rogoff and Morelli (1989) contended that, to fully understand child development, one must break free of cultural biases and explore other cultural models.  Centuries before European and American reformers would challenge Western patriarchal models of obedience, Native American tribes of North America had developed elaborate democratic institutions, governance systems, and models of education.  These “primitive” peoples actually were far more advanced than the conquering Europeans in their understanding of child and youth development.  When Europeans settled this new land, however, they imposed their obedience training system on Indian children, who were placed forcibly in militaristic boarding schools.

Martin Brokenleg’s father was captured by the boarding school staff, who traveled the reservation each fall to harvest the next crop of first-graders.  Now, several generations of Indian youth have been parented artificially in this environment, where they were beaten if they spoke their native language.  Our research sought to reclaim traditional Native empowerment philosophies for use in developing contemporary approaches to youth at risk.

We also were intrigued to find great similarity between Native concepts of education and ideas expressed by Western educational reformers who challenged traditional European concepts of obedience training.  These youth work pioneers worked at a time when democracy was replacing dictatorship in many nations.  Attacking traditional authoritarian pedagogy, they included:

-- Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female physician, who created schools for disadvantaged youth and wrote passionately about the need to build inner discipline.

-- Janusz Korczak, Polish social pedagogue, who proclaimed the child’s right to respect and created a national children’s newspaper so the voices of children might be heard.

-- John Dewey, American pioneer of progressive education, who saw schools as miniature democratic communities of students and teachers working to pose and solve problems.

-- Anton Makarenko, who after the Russian Revolution brought street delinquents into self-governing colonies where youth took turns as leaders of youth councils.

Now modern psychological researchers are validating the wisdom of these early pioneers.

The Circle of Courage

EDMS 512, Hood

Summer 2006

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