OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Indigenize the Institution

Education should be taught from many perspectives, not just the Western way.

Photo of Savannah Smith
19 13

Written by


Education should be taught from many perspectives, not just the Western way. 

The U.S. higher education has been formed around Western ways of thinking and teaching and has thus hindered all students of learning many different ways of knowing. Non-western classes are often in special topics or departments that many may never take.  

There are approximately 370 million Indigenous people in the world making up around 5% of the population, belonging to 5,000 different groups, in 90 countries worldwide. Native Americans, the Indigenous people of this land, have only a 51% high school graduation rate with only 5% going onto college and then 10% of those graduate in 4 years. What is missing for these students to keep them in school?

Inventions and innovations in math, linguistics, government, economics, music, art, medicine, and science all have roots in Indigenous knowledge that is often not acknowledged but have been influential. Due to Westernization after the forced colonization of countries, many are unaware of the knowledge that was already known in Indigenous communities.

If we incorporate Indigenous knowledge in mainstream classes, it gives all students a different method of learning material and gives the Indigenous students something to relate to in a space that they may already be uncomfortable in. 

In order to be respectful of the people the knowledge is being taught from, professors, teachers, community members, and elders will be apart of creating and if possible, teaching the curriculum.

One of the main differences between Indigenous and Western thought is that you learn to better yourself as a person as well as your community while Western thinking is much more based around individualism and gaining something to get ahead in your career. Learning with Indigenous thought will enable students to learn something for more than a grade mark or letter of recommendation. All students will understand that knowledge can be learned in everyday life in a non-academic setting (as it was before secondary education even existed) and can have more meaning than just applying it as a commodifiable skill.


Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • A classroom or academic assignment

Tell us about your work experience:

I am graduating this semester from Mills College with a B.A. in Ethnic Studies with a minor in Sociolgy. I have worked at Mills' Ethnic Studies Department for 3 years and have interned and worked at a few Native organizations over the past few years but have an interest in Public Health.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

As a member of the Navajo Nation attending a private liberal arts college far from home and my community, this idea was inspired by both my culture and my learnings from Ethnic Studies. I ask you all to reflect on your own backgrounds and experiences in academia and see what was learned in your institution and from whose perspective was it taught.

19 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of janice tellez

Hello everyone I’m glad to write this testimony to spread this good news to the entire world on how i got my husband back. I was going crazy when my husband left me for another woman last month,But when i meet a friend that introduce me to DR. Abulo the great messenger to the oracle that he serve,I narrated my problem to DR. Abulo about how my husband left me. He only said to me that i have come to the right place were i will be getting my heart desire without any side effect. He told me what i need to do,After it was been done,In the next 2 days,My husband called me on the phone and was saying sorry for living me before now and also in the next one week after my husband called me to be pleading for forgiveness. I am so happy and overwhelmed that i have to tell this to the entire world on how DR. Abulo help me grant my heart desire. If you need any kind of help contact DR. Abulo at the following email address: dr.abulosolutionhome@gmail.com or call or whatspp+2349012479806 He also cast so many spell like,
(1) If you want your ex back.
(2) you don't need a divorce in your relationship.
(3) You want to be promoted in your office.
(4) You want women & men to run after you.
(5) If you want a child.

Photo of janice tellez

Hello everyone I’m glad to write this testimony to spread this good news to the entire world on how i got my husband back. I was going crazy when my husband left me for another woman last month,But when i meet a friend that introduce me to DR. Abulo the great messenger to the oracle that he serve,I narrated my problem to DR. Abulo about how my husband left me. He only said to me that i have come to the right place were i will be getting my heart desire without any side effect. He told me what i need to do,After it was been done,In the next 2 days,My husband called me on the phone and was saying sorry for living me before now and also in the next one week after my husband called me to be pleading for forgiveness. I am so happy and overwhelmed that i have to tell this to the entire world on how DR. Abulo help me grant my heart desire. If you need any kind of help contact DR. Abulo at the following email address: dr.abulosolutionhome@gmail.com or call or whatspp+2349012479806 He also cast so many spell like,
(1) If you want your ex back.
(2) you don't need a divorce in your relationship.
(3) You want to be promoted in your office.
(4) You want women & men to run after you.
(5) If you want a child.

You can also contact me through via jantellz249@gmail.com for more info about Dr abulo ..

Photo of sonia garry

EFFECTIVE AND POWERFUL LOVE SPELL CASTER AND LOTTERY SPELL 2019 GBOJIESPIRITUALTEMPLE@GMAIL. COM OR WHATSAPP HIM :+2349066410185


Hi i am from USA I have just experience the wonders of Dr. gbojie love spell, that have been spread on the internet and worldwide, How he marvelously helped people all over the world to restored back their marriage life and get back lost lovers, and also help to win lottery. I contacted him after going through so many testimonies from different people how he help to bring back ex lover back, i told him about my husband that abandoned me about 8 months ago, and left home with all i had.. Dr GBOJIE only told me to smile and have a rest of mind he will handle all in just 24 hours, After the second day my husband called me, i was just so shocked, i pick the call and couldn't believe my ears, he was really begging me to forgive him and making promises on phone.. He came back home and also got me a new car just for him to proof his love for me. i was so happy and called Dr Gbojie and thanked him, he only told me to share the good news all over the world .. Well if you need an effective and real spell caster contact Dr gbojie Via email: gbojiespiritualtemple@gmail.com, gbojiespiritualtemple@yahoo.com or Call or WhatsApp: +2349066410185
website : http://gbojiespiritualtemple.website2.me/

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Savannah!

I hope you had a good start to the year. The ideas phase of the Higher Education challenge is closing in 16 days. I hope you will post your idea there (https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/ideas). You just need to resubmit your idea (a simple copy and paste) and the community can help build on it.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Savannah!

The ideas phase is now open. I hope you will post your idea there. The link is - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/ideas
Have you seen Dan Ryan post Open Syllabus Project ? I wonder how some of these courses could be amended.

Photo of Madiha Ahmed

Hi Savannah !

I agree with what you said.

I am from India,even here education is from a Western perspective. I believe this is the case in many places to maintain uniformity,to ensure that students studying in one part of the world can continue their education in another part. (I think I am being too optimistic :) )

You spoke about the different methods of learning. How do you think the teaching will be carried out ? Will professors in general be trained to teach in these ways or will people from specific backgrounds and cultures be employed or trained to teach ?

Also,another question that arises is -are only the native Methods to be used or are you implying and seeing the need to include native subjects,topics and culture to be a part of education to enrich the lives of students and their minds and spirits ?

I loved your post :)

Thank you Savannah !

Photo of Heather Cowart

Savannah, I think that is a great idea to incorporate Indigenous learning into the classroom. I believe children today do not have enough broad learning regarding other cultures. It would make a child feel empowered to learn that other cultures teach respect, and knowledge and use that knowledge to actually help others.

Photo of Savannah Smith

Thank you, Heather for your insightful responses. It is true that many do not have or take the opportunity to learn about other cultures or sometimes even their own, and at times its not in a respectful way. I have added an image of a global map naming Indigenous groups (although I don't think it includes all Indigenous peoples) by region for reference and I'll include the url source here if anyone wants to see the larger version of the image: 
https://propresobama.org/2015/08/07/international-day-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples/

Photo of Heather Cowart

Thank you Savannah. I would love to have more information.

Photo of Amelia

Thank you for your contribution. You bring up so many excellent points about discredited native knowledge in higher education. How do you envision incorporating different perspectives in already existing courses or making more people aware of westernization academic institutions? Would this be a reformist movement or more revolutionary?

Photo of Savannah Smith

Hi Amelia I was thinking of it as reforming mainstream curriculum that is usually taught from a viewpoint of Western ideals to other forms by those who know Indigenous knowledge best. Although I think the U.S. higher education system does need a revolutionary change, I think incorporating Indigenous knowledge to what we already learn is possible. Thanks for your comment!

Photo of Isaac Jumba

I totally love the idea Savannah Smith ! What really stands out is that the indigeneous approach always emphasized on communities and collaboration and not self. It will be interesting to actually bring this to life! 

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Savannah!
 Thank you for your post. I am really interested in seeing how this idea develops and progresses.  What do you think of the Human Library? https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/research/human-library Is the ‘Using Maori Pedagogies’ video along the lines of what you are thinking but something more cross-disciplinary? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nY0NV2mO2oM

How accurate are the videos in my post on Native Americans in College? https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/research/native-americans-in-college Unfortunately, I live in the UK and it is difficult to meet anyone who is indigenous. 

Photo of Savannah Smith

Kate Rushton Hi Kate! I have not heard of the human library before so it was interesting to read about it on your post and on their website. I see that it is based in the UK and I wonder if this has been publicized in other countries. I do think the implementation of the Maori Pedagogy is similar to what I was thinking of incorporating Indigenous knowledge with mainstream practices of learning and researching. The videos made at ASU are accurate and I think they are great because they were made by Native students and included their perspectives of acclimating to higher education and I think the point of creating a community so we don't feel as isolated or having other peers who can relate to our experiences is really needed. If cultural knowledge was used in the classroom in a respectful way, I think that it would take it a step further in retaining Indigenous students in college as well as teaching non-Native students something about their peers as well as a different way to learn. 

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Savannah!

The Human Library is international. Here is the link to their website - http://humanlibrary.org/ Of their three upcoming events, two are in Denmark and one is in the Philippines - http://humanlibrary.org/events/list/. They have had events in the US e.g. Chicago which are locally organised because the human books needed in one location may differ to another. For example, where I live, we probably need more 'human books' who are refugees and asylum seekers than other 'human books', if that makes sense.

I have done a bit of research and found a few talks / articles / examples of research that might interest you.

Maori in New Zealand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeK3SkxrZRI - Mana: The power in knowing who you are

Tame explores how the old saying of "Te ka nohi ki te ka nohi" (Dealing with it eye to eye) creates a far more productive space for open dialogue around any issue.

https://foodtank.com/news/2014/12/integration-of-maaori-knowledge-into-new-zealand-politics-promotes-biodiver/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ljHI9zKTp4 - Living and working by Maori customs, values and culture

Sami in Scandinavia

https://arcticreview.no/index.php/arctic/article/view/101

https://rauna.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/sami-higher-education-and-research.pdf


I hope to see your ideas in the ideas phase in nine days time.

Photo of Heather Cowart

Great provocative idea.  A related insight is that national educational systems around the world tend to be blind/deaf to useful content and and effective practices of other systems. Cross-fertilization of these can have both the effects of welcoming and just making systems work better.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Audey Seawright

What really excites me in this post is the collaborative potential of "..knowledge from, professors, teachers, community members, and elders.."       The institutions need to answer the call by first valuing these perspectives, but then they need to give real incentive and intellectual credit to efforts like the ones you describe. I've been a few institutions by now...always disappointed by the lack of cross discipline interest from department to department. I'm a Sociology major and I love theory, but it's missing something without hearing from real people with real lives and real histories that are the basis for informing theory.  Those real lives and real histories are not simply white, Western ones... so who is the theory for? How might we get the institution to see the value and also incentivize specialized researchers to consider making Indigenous knowledge and perspectives informed by Indigenous communities a part of every curriculum?

Photo of Alexina

I think this idea is a long overdue one, and I can imagine it's been thought of before, but unfortunately hasn't been done. I would love to see this actually happen. I didn't realize that I knew almost nothing about my heritage because I was always focused in school, and when I did learn things, it was always with the West being the hero and any other cultures being the villians; but we know this isn't the case. I think it would be great to see this happen through a mandatory curriculum that is threaded throughout k through 12. If students can take english and math every year, we should learn about indigenous cultures and our own heritage as well throughout the years. This would also give opportunities for indigenous people who are unemployed to be employed and be a step towards equity, a step. I think in higher education then students will have knowledge, but then they should be required to learn more, the same way some places require a new language or general requirements. Indigenizing education will happen slowly, but I think it should happen quickly and efficiently by indigenous people.