A sociocultural analysis of high-risk native american children in schools

Stephanie A. Fryberg*, Peter A. Leavitt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Children characterized as “high risk” constitute one of the most formidable problems of the 21st-century educational system. By “high risk” we refer to children who are immersed in everyday realities characterized by issues such as child abuse, child poverty, teen suicide, teen drug abuse, high school dropout rates, unemployment, limited or no health insurance coverage, food insecurities, and income inequality (Institute for Innovation in Social Policy, 2010). In this chapter, we contend that high-risk Native American children underperform in school, in large part, because their relationship with education is fraught with social, cultural, and historical difficulties (e.g., cultural mismatches, discrimination, historical cycles of low expectations and underperformance) and because attempts to solve these issues have been largely reactive and limited in scope. The difficulties Native American children experience in education, for example, are too often explained by mainstream, individualist explanations for underperformance. Native students are seen as either not motivated and/or cognitively less skilled, or their home and community contexts are viewed as not adequately fostering positive development. These simple cause-and-effect explanations ignore the fact that history is replete with examples of the ways in which inequality and racism toward Native Americans have been and continue to be fostered by mainstream cultural ideas and practices (Winant, 2004). The legacy of education in the United States, for instance, includes the forced removal of Native American children from their families and placement in government-run boarding schools (Adams, 1988, 1995), which has had a number of pernicious long-term effects on the adaptation of formal, mainstream education in tribal communities (Kawamoto, 2001; Lomawaima & McCarty, 2006).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCultural and Contextual Perspectives on Developmental Risk and Well-Being
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780511920165
ISBN (Print)9781107008854
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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