First Nations Education Act
It is exceedingly difficult to find much fault with the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, particularly if one views it for what it is -- a negotiated deal. But it's becoming increasingly clear that a growing faction of what Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard so accurately dubbed Canada's "aboriginal industry" value practical improvements to the lives of native youth a great deal less than dogmatic adherence to some fantastical, idealized, and utterly impossible conception of how aboriginal-Canadian diplomacy is supposed to work.
It has become more and more urgent to -- as the proposal for a First Nations Education Act was titled -- work together for First nations students. This agreement, and the federal budget framework into which it is embedded, is an opportunity to do just that -- whatever one's skepticism and mistrust may recommend to the contrary. On the First Nation's side, the time has arrived to take both the concept and practice of self-control and self-determination to their logical conclusions. Let's call it getting our collective Indian act together.
I have spoken out against top-down attempts to implement educational reform, but now I want to talk about alternatives. The First Nations Education Act is going to be passed. It will be full of words, and funding will be slow to follow, if it ever truly does. It will not meet our needs, because it has not been designed by us. I believe we need to pool our considerable resources and expertise in order to set up and implement a system of temporary "schools" akin to the Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights movement. We could do this by creating for this one year, a system of "sovereignty summer schools."
There is no Aboriginal system of education in Canada. This fact is sometimes obscured by misunderstandings of reserve or band schools, or even charter schools that may provide 'indigenous content'. Nonetheless, the system of education that exists in Canada is wholly Canadian; the outcome of failed top-down initiatives to 'do what's best for the Indians'.