American Indian and Alaska Native students have a dropout rate twice the national average; the highest dropout rate of any United States ethnic or racial group. About three out of every ten Native students drop out of school before graduating from high school both on reservations and in cities. As the psychiatrist Erik Erikson has pointed out, positive identity formation is an ongoing, cumulative process that starts in the home with a trusting relationship established between mother and child and develops through the child's interaction with other children and adults.
To build a strong positive identity, new adults that the child interacts with need to reinforce and build on the cultural messages that the child has previously received. However, too often in schools today teachers are not reinforcing what Native parents show and tell their children producing cultural discontinuity between home and school and forcing Native children to choose between their Native heritage and school success with disastrous results. The author also points out that many of the problems faced by students such as drug and alcohol abuse are symptoms of the poor self concepts of Native students who have unresolved internal conflicts resulting from educators asking students to give up their Native culture.
In order to help Native students form positive, mature identities and to reduce the number of Native dropouts large schools need to be restructured to allow teachers to get to know and interact with their students, caring teachers (especially Native teachers) need to be recruited who will spend the time and effort to learn from as well as teach their students, these caring teachers need to use active teaching strategies with their students to keep their students motivated, Native curriculum needs to be developed and used in Native schools to reduce cultural discontinuity, testing needs to be used in schools to help students learn rather than...