This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner Home Page About AKRSI Publications Academic Programs Curriculum Resources Calendar of Events Announcements Site Index This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

1953 – 1973

© 2008


The first school year at Mt. Edgecumbe began with multiple problems and challenges. The new Administration was implementing a basic program and curriculum change as well as dealing with multiple problems created by the previous dysfunctional Administration. Numerous faculty and staff problems remained to be solved while, at the same time, the Administration continued to try to assure that the school itself functioned well to the benefit of all students. By the end of the first year, the school was beginning to operate smoothly and well.

Teachers as Civil Servants

- In 1959 teachers at Mt. Edgecumbe were twelve month Civil Servants, working eight hours a day. However, BIA Education Regulations and Statutes helped teachers attend Summer School, and to return to their homes in the Lower Forty-Eight. When employees were hired stateside, as I was, BIA paid home leave transportation after two years of employment, if the employee agreed to continue employment, as well as paid return fare to Mt. Edgecumbe. This transportation payment also included One’s family members. Each employee earned annual leave for each of the 26 annual pay periods. The first three years an employee earned four hours annual leave per pay period. From four years to 15 years, each employee earned six hours of annual leave per pay period. After 15 years of service each earned eight hours of annual leave per pay period. Each employee earned four hours of sick leave per pay period and there was no limit to the number of accruable hours. An annual cut-off of 240 hours on annual leave was required so that some employees had to take some annual leave each year or lose some leave time. Each teacher and/or aide was awarded Educational Leave, during which the employee was obligated to earn one semester-hour of college credit for each week of leave. This meant that a teacher could take one three semester-hour course and three weeks of Educational Leave, plus annual leave in any summer, thus, it was relatively easy for teachers to spend two months per summer away from the school on full pay. It was also important to the school that in terms of encouraging teacher to work at Alaska sites, all Federal employees in Alaska were paid a 25 percent Cost of living Allowance (COLA). COLA was non-taxable. In addition, Mt. Edgecumbe teachers’ housing was subsidized to a considerable extent. Our own bungalow, a two bedroom house with living room, kitchen and utility room, had been built by the teacher who taught carpentry. We paid $60.00 per month, furnished, all utilities paid, for this bungalow. A comparable house in Sitka would have cost at least $400.00 - $500.00 a month, unfurnished, plus utilities. After the first year, the teacher turnover at Mt. Edgecumbe was minimal. In summary, the Mt. Edgecumbe teachers were well-paid, and generally, liked working at the School.

Scheduling Students to Classes

Despite the opportunities offered by educational and annual leave, there was always a cadre of teachers who remained at Mt. Edgecumbe during the summer months. For class scheduling purposes, I took advantage of the services of the teachers who remained.

As mentioned above, during the incumbency of the previous Administration, the scheduling of students to classes was unstructured, and occupied an entire week of school time, which time the School counted as instructional time. This approach to scheduling was a kind of free-for-all for teachers; a competition for the good students, a shooing-away of poor students; and a full week of instruction was lost. I vowed to change this “procedure”, and I did.

Mr. Jackson had applied the scheduling tool of “Keys” to the school. A key was a set of classes that all students would must take and applied to the ninth and tenth grades. Ninth and tenth grade students had very few electives, so, the Key approach to scheduling was appropriate. For the most part, eleventh and twelfth grade students had individualized schedules. It was my assignment to develop the full class schedule for the entire school, including academic and vocational classes. I worked at home several evenings during April to get the next year’s schedule worked out. Mr. Jackson reviewed the schedule with the other supervisors; after it was set, I began the next task. I asked the tenth and eleventh grade students to select their electives for the next year.

Because our dropout rate were not great, it was feasible to have these students select their electives. We may use the numbers tested by year as shown above in Figure 1.

1958 176
1959 161 (15% decline)
1960 153 (5% decline)
1961 136 (11% decline)
1958 – 1961 176 – 136 = 40 ( total 23 % decline, or 5.75% annually)

The small decline in students from year-to-year made pre-scheduling students practical and effective. This prompted me to circulate among the tenth and eleventh grade students a form to allow each to select courses for the next school year. Some required courses for eleventh and twelfth grade were also listed such as English, American History and U.S. Government.

All teachers who were at the school in late July and early August were assembled, and we began scheduling the students for the next school year. In about a week we had scheduled all of the 660 students, including an individual class schedule for each student. I then sorted the schedules by grade (9th, 10th, 11th and 12th), alphabetized them, and got them ready for distribution. There was much grumbling among a few teachers about this procedure, but most thought it an improvement. The sour criticism was: There would be so many changes made or requested by students that such pre-scheduling would not work. In practice, the professional attitude of most of the teachers carried through the pre-scheduling work. Serious professional concern was manifested for each student schedule with whom they dealt.

On the first scheduled day of instruction, individual student schedules were distributed in the Girls’ Gym within one hour’s time; actual instruction began in the afternoon. Two or three tables were set up in the Girls Gym in order to schedule the new students into classes. Subsequently, There were requests for class changes, all of which had to be approved by me. After all, the extent of requested changes was not great; by the end of the second week of classes, student-initiated changes had dwindled to zero. More importantly, instruction began in an orderly fashion on the first day of school rather than on the sixth day of school. Another small improvement in the Mt. Edgecumbe program had been accomplished.

The 1961 Summer Program At The University of Alaska

Since there were not two Universities of Alaska in 1961, I will use only the singular designation. In 1961 the BIA became interested in providing an enrichment summer program for academically advanced eighth grade students. The term “gifted” was not used but it was implied. Because of the influence of Dr. Wood, President of the University and Dr. Ray, Chairman of the Department Education, and the BIA’s interest, the BIA University of Alaska Summer Program was initiated. It is also important to note that the BIA regularly sponsored summer programs for Indian children and youth, and dedicated one issue of their biweekly publication Indian Education to such Bureau-wide programs.

Subsequently, the 1961 Summer Program became very important to curriculum changes at Mt. Edgecumbe, also influencing the hiring of teachers specially trained in the new math and science curriculums implemented beginning in the fall of 1961. But first, some background about the Summer Program.

The Cold War was at white heat at the time, the USSR having successfully launched the first Sputnik, October 4, 1957. This event galvanized the U.S. into a soul- searching state of mind; how had the Russians succeeded in out-doing us in the realm of space exploration. Between October 4, 1957 and August 19, 1960 the Russians launched five space missions. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government was attempting to develop a response.

A first conclusion was that our U.S. public education system was not producing enough science and math graduates. While thinking through the problem of how to increase the numbers and quality of our math and science education graduates, the U.S. was faced with the complexity of, and the nature and fact of the local control of public education. Ultimately, U.S. educators settled upon a program of a basic math and science curriculum change with Teacher Education to handle the curriculum change, and counselors to guide students into math and science. The curriculum change was structured so that key Universities were awarded contracts for developing new curricula. This required cooperative effort among Math and Science Professors and Education Professors in the developing of the new curricula and the related teacher training programs. For example, Math and Science professors identified concepts needed in the curriculum and worked cooperatively with Education Professors to write the curriculum guides.

More than one University and/or College was awarded a curriculum development contract so that different “versions” of math and science curricula could be produced. These versions were usually color-coded with the Yellow Version of Biology being developed by the University of Texas and the Yellow Version of Math being developed by Yale. Usually, the various versions had two educational axioms in common. (1) To appeal to human intellectual curiosity and (2) to teach outright the importance of abstract thinking in math and science. The new curriculums were described in detail in the various Education publications.

Something somewhat related to the national upsurge of interest in math and science was involved in the coming together of Sitka-Mt. Edgecumbe community professionals in discussion groups, with Mortimer J. Adler’s Great Books of the Western World as a basic guide. At that time there were a large number of medical doctors at the 400-bed Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, more than 100 teachers in three different secondary schools in the community plus others adults of this rather isolated area, who were interested in intellectual stimulation. In the fall of 1960, one such group began meeting periodically to discuss topics from the Great Books. The group included my wife, Vinita, me, Dr. Alfred E. Miller, one of Mt. Edgecumbe’s thoracic surgeon, and Mrs. Lowell Shuler, wife of one of Sitka’s leading physicians. I remember because I agreed to lead the discussion of Freud. Preparing for the group sessions was a lot of work for everybody. The group sessions were attended by a minimum of six individuals and as many as 15. The sessions were held in the different homes of various members. Although we did not discuss directly the influence of Sputnik and the U.S.’s response, we were, no doubt as professionals, responding in our own way as so many other citizens were doing at that time.

The BIA Juneau Area Office decided to sponsor the Summer Program for academically talented students to be held on the University of Alaska campus. They asked Mt. Edgecumbe High School to provide a teacher for the program. Mr. Jackson thought the seniors’ English teacher would be excellent, as she would have been. I agreed, was on my way to her classroom, when it occurred to me to ask, “Why don’t I volunteer to be the teacher?”

As I reviewed the report on the 1961 Summer Program, I have realized how completely it reflects my lifelong Philosophy of education. To stimulate thinking , “The Discovery Method,” of teaching was used. Since the Discovery Method which remains for me a viable approach to teaching, I have included the narrative from the 1961 summer program.



The central objective of the academic curriculum developed for the eighth-grade summer project at the University of Alaska was to give the students, as potential leaders, an understanding of some of the basic ideas inherent in all societies of the Western World. The approach was to teach, in a very general way, the philosophic basis of western culture and to try to impress upon the students that the “white man” has an understandable background: That his complex form of government, his science, the mass of modern technology and his great comfort had meager beginnings - that “We are like dwarfs seated on the shoulders of Giants; we see more things than the ancients and things more distant, but this is due neither to the sharpness of our own sight, nor to the greatness of our own stature, but because we are raised and borne aloft on that giant mass.” *

It seemed important to lead the students to realize that the abstract ideas of the great thinkers had much to do with the shaping of modern men; that it is required of modern men that he have a vital intellectual curiosity if he is to compete successfully in a very complex and fast-moving world. At the very beginning of the session, the students were asked to consider the significance of the three questions: How did we get here? Where did we come from? Where are we going? in relation to Western man and to themselves as members of cultures - within a culture - in transition.

There would seem to be a need for leaders, particularly Alaskan Native leaders, who understand something of Western Man’s’ background and the philosophical ideas which have helped make him what he is. It is felt that this understanding may enable the Native student to put his own “different” culture in context and perspective. It may serve to clear his mind of misconceptions and, thereby, free him many of the fears and feelings of inadequacy which tend to retard his personal development and his development of a healthy relationship to and within the dominant “white” culture. We may introduce things without introducing the ideas behind the things and may, logically, produce a student who can adequately manipulate the things but who does not understand their significance. This search for a method and curriculum that will communicate an “understanding” approach to the acquisition of knowledge is the underlying premise of a great deal of educational research. The approach is philosophical in that the students are constantly led to ask “ why” and “how” and “where” about all knowledge until they begin automatically to investigate in this way on their own.

The math used was “The Arithmetic of the Real Numbers”, an understanding approach to math. The science taught was based in the attempt to teach an understanding of the meaning and significance of the scientific method both in history and intrinsically. Social Studies included a brief outline of traditional world history and a brief study of a few of the great philosophers and their contributions to the thought of the West. This study was an attempt to teach some of the basic ideas propounded by these thinkers as well, as something about the background - the times - and personality of each of the men selected. This is a different approach to the teaching of history at the eighth grade level and it is also the first time, to our knowledge, that specifically written philosophical materials has been used at this level.


The “discovery method” was employed in all areas of teaching to determine its effectiveness when used with Alaskan Native students. This method was adapted from the approach used by the University of Illinois Mathematics Study Group. The material taught during the math period is the material developed by this group.

An article entitled “Discovery Method” from the Mathematics Teacher comments on this approach. The discovery method is contrasted to the incidental method which received much credence during the Progressive Education era in American Education:

“ . . . But all too often they took no responsibility for seeing that instances of the same generalization came along close enough together for the learner to become aware of either concepts or principles. With no underlying explanatory theory, those educators simply did not realize that most learners under such conditions seldom “broke through” to awareness of abstractions. Such a school program was doomed to triviality, except in the hands of a teacher who did many additional things, even though he did them for unsound reasons. Many persons today associate this triviality of results, from many so- called “activity programs” with learning by discovery. They thus reject anything called “discovery method”

It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of this method as it was applied to the other subjects because of the lack of time available for adequate organization of the material and lack of opportunity for previous experimental work with it. The Illinois Mathematics Study Group did about four years of experimental work before presenting the above mentioned material. Whereas in the social studies and science, we had but a few weeks prior to the beginning of the six-weeks session to accomplish a similarly difficult task. Therefore, it was decided to limit the number of basic generalizations and to gradually teach vocabulary and concepts until it was possible to achieve real understanding..

The overall objectives of the social studies program were:

1. To teach a brief outline of the history of Western Man.
2. To teach the significance and the understanding of the abstract thought of Western Man. (His thoughts and actions are an integral whole which are sometimes separated arbitrarily).
3. To discover in a rational and positive way the similarities and differences in the “ white man’s” way of living and the Alaskan Native’s way of living and “why”.
4. To discover together how Alaskan Native culture has contributed and can continue to contribute to the good life for all Alaskans

The first three weeks of the social studies program consisted of a brief outline of the history of Western Man starting with prehistoric times and following through to the modern age. This phase of the program was to help the students realize that the history of Western Man is the story of the development of one of the ways of life, of the world and not the history of the world. A point of emphasis was that the study of the history of Western Man is necessary in the United States because the patterns of our life in this country are largely based in this history. Also, that this way of life developed slowly as a result of the combined efforts of many generations of people..

The text for the history phase of the social studies was Van Loon’s a Story of Mankind, which lent itself very well to the purposes discussed above. The vocabulary in the text was in part too advanced for total understanding but understanding was adequate so that the broad general outline of history was comprehended. The beginning day in this class was particularly interesting as it gave the students an opportunity to ponder the three basic questions presented in Chapter One of the social studies text. These questions were: “Who are we? Where do we come from? Whither are we bound?”

It was interesting to note that all the students manifested an interest in trying to deduce the significance of these three questions. One student summed up one question by rephrasing it and saying, “How we came to be.” One impressive student reaction which began the first day and lasted throughout the six-weeks was the large number of student responses to almost every type of classroom activity. The variety and number of these responses meant that the class was not always carried by the vocal few.

The first reading assignment carried the students through ancient Egyptian history and introduced the fact that hieroglyphics was the first form of writing developed by Western Man. This generated a discussion which led to the consideration of why the Natives of Alaska were a non-literate people until the advent of the “white man.” In pondering the question: Why didn’t Alaskan Native peoples develop writing? it was mentioned that, for many groups, “Living was too bard and the people had no time on their hands , and that, for other groups, “They did not mix enough with different peoples.” This basic understanding of the effects of lack of leisure time and of cultural isolation gave the students insight into some of the basic problems their people faced in changing from village life to urban life.

The study of the Egyptians further lent itself to a realization of the importance of writing and the part it plays in the accumulation and transmission of knowledge. The “Eskimo” way of preserving past history was then discussed. The question was asked of the students: How did the Eskimo pass on his history if he didn’t have writing? The students responded quite readily by saying, “story telling”. The reliability of word-of-mouth as a method of preserving history was then discussed. It was realized that there was also a time in the history of Western Man when he depended on the spoken word for passing on history. The students were then reminded that storytelling can be refined into an art and that many of the old folks in the villages are superb storytellers. The students agreed that they loved to sit together and listen to these folks tell stories about early native life.

Mythology was also studied. The basic question was: “Before the white man and his religion and science appeared on the scene in Alaska, how was the Creation explained?” The students were immediate in their response, “By funny stories.” It was explained that this type of story is called a myth and that there was a time when Western Man used myths to explain his world.

The Greek myth “Pygmalion and Galatea” was told to the students. Pygmalion falls in love with his work of art, an ivory statue of a woman, and the Greek god, Aphrodite, gives life to the statue. After having beard this tale one student commented that she knew an Eskimo myth similar to this one but that in this story the woman was made of wood.

Some interesting possibilities were opened up in the area of the comparison of Greek and other myths of the West and Alaskan Native myths as an educational device to be used in the study of literature with Alaskan Native students. These eighth-grade students manifested more than an ordinary interest in the Greek stories which were read and dramatized. Partly, no doubt, because they find something in mythology which corresponds to an aspect of their own culture -- an aspect which has certainly not yet been relegated to the status of an interesting relic of the past, as it has been in Western culture.

Each section of the study of history was culminated with a film strip, which was shown after much work had already been done on the subject. It was found that the showing of a movie or a film strip was more effective after a great deal of background teaching bad been done. In some instances the filmstrip or record was used twice, particularly if it contained an abundance of pertinent information.

Greek Civilization was covered briefly and emphasis was placed on the Greek idea of “moderation” in all ways of living and on the fact of the importance of the contributions of Greek philosophy, where the scientific method and our emphasis on “reason” originated. These emphases in the social studies class correlate with and clarified very well the studies in the science and math class,

The difference in life-ways between Sparta and Athens were discussed and the concept of “freedom” was brought out. The question was asked: “Which city had the most freedom of choice and which do you think had the most difficult way of life?’ The answers to this question were quite interesting as many students began to realize that real freedom of choice requires individual responsibility and thought. One boy had a rather unique approach to the question. He stated that he thought the best way of life would utilize something of each of these two cultures and summed up his statement by saying: “I like part of each way of living. Athens have too much freedom. But, does a lot of thinking. Athens has lots of free time, but too free, slaves working for them and if they were left alone to live by themselves they wouldn’t know how to make their living. As a Sparta citizen you can make your own living, but you don’t have time to do some thinking. Now you can work for your health, be healthy, but you can’t solve your personal problems or problems of the world. You cannot straighten out problems by wars.” It should be added that this student is an Eskimo from one of the very remote Arctic villages and speaks English as a second language. His standardized testing scores were not high, except for the nonverbal I. Q. test, yet he was perhaps the most creative thinker in the class. Many times he expressed thoughts, in his faltering English, that were beyond his years and he manifested a deep interest in the ideas of philosophers studied. He was most frustrated because he wanted to be able to read everything with complete comprehension and, of course, was unable to do so because his vocabulary was very limited. Encouragingly, before the six-weeks ended he began a self-motivated reading program.

During the early part of the study of history one student asked why we were not studying the history of the Chinese or some of the other peoples of Asia also. It was pointed out that since our (the U. S.) background is linked with Europe rather than with China, this is the logical place to begin a study of world history; that we need to understand our own origins before we can understand peoples with origins very different from our own.

Following the brief study of Greek Civilization, the Christian and the Roman Eras were introduced. The emphases here were on the political and social conditions out of which Christianity rose and on the change, with the advent of Christianity, in philosophical thought from an emphasis on reason to an emphasis on faith.

To teach this concept the word “faith” was introduced. Many comparisons were drawn to illustrate the difference between reason, as it was employed by the Greeks, and faith, as it was employed by the Christians. This difference was, finally, illustrated by a filmstrip depicting medieval life as compared to a film strip depicting the life of ancient Greece.

One historical fact which was emphasized throughout was the intermingling of peoples with different life-ways. It was pointed out early in the six weeks that different cultures have always been and are always in the process of coming together. This causes great confusion and out of this confusion comes a new way of life which is a combination of all that has gone before. This concept was applied to Alaska where the dominant culture of the U. S. and the minority cultures of the Indians and Eskimos are synthesizing. The different contributions of the Indian and Eskimo cultures were enumerated and shown to be increasingly important to life in Alaska. In general, the development of the United State. was held up as an excellent example of this synthesizing of a great number of diverse cultures into a new and unique. society of extraordinary vitality. Meaningful discussion of how individuals of both the dominant and minority groups can and do react to this synthesizing process logically followed.

The term “culture” was introduced to the class via a record, “Stand-in for a Murder,” which is one of a series in educational radio programs done in conjunction with the Anthropo1ogy Department of the University of California. This record is based on an episode in the lives of two Thlingit clans. The record is done by professional actors and expresses the concept of culture in a subtle and effective way. The students were amazed at how the question of war was settled by a “potlatch” where one clan shamed the other into submission by giving away wealth. (This record was, of course, of especial significance to the Thlingit student in the class.) Much discussion followed the presentation of the record and in the process the word ” culture” took on real meaning.

This explanation should clearly illustrate why, and how, it was necessary to take care to thoroughly teach certain vocabulary such as “faith”, “reason”, “ abstraction”, “culture”, etc. History per se has no meaning for these students until certain key words are somehow made vitally meaningful to them.

A discussion of the fall of Rome produced an interesting exchange of ideas. The students had been asked to seek reasons why Rome fell. This verbal exploration led to a discussion of the implications of an emphasis on the military. Some members of the class were particularly interested in the after-effects of atomic fallout. There is much talk of an experimental detonation near Cape Thompson on the far Arctic coast close to Point hope. The students wanted to know what effect this explosion might have on the plants and wild-life of the Arctic area. Material was sought in the library concerning this inquiry but it was found that there is very little reliable information available pertaining to this particular experiment.

In further discussing the fall of Rome one student, a very average student according to standardized tests and one who was lees inclined to speak out, asked the question, “When do you think the United States will fall?” This exciting question created a vibrant atmosphere in the class and the students began to ask mere earnestly why Rome fell. They began to try to find similarities and differences between the U.S. and Rome. Some of the similarities which they brought out without teacher help were: (1) “We have an easy life in the United States.” (2) Not as many people vote as should.” (That is, vitally interest themselves in their government). It was pointed out that as citizens of the United States they must be responsible and attempt to inform themselves on the pertinent political and social problems of the times.

Throughout the entire course constant frustrations were created by the impossible task of following through on all of the many diverse questions asked by the students. This very difficulty was pointed up as an object lesson to the students. By its nature summer school, it was noted, implies intense activity and shortness of time, but even if this were not true, the frustrations would, hopefully, remain for all formal education is meant to be merely a beginning -- this is true even of purely technical training. The aim is to interest and motivate students to the point where they will continue to question and search on their own - -during and after their graduation from high school and college. It is felt that these children caught something of the spirit expressed by this aim.

Again, let it be emphasized that certain basic vocabulary and concepts were developed in the history overview which were later to play a vital part in the philosophy study. For instance, such terms as universals, abstractions, matter, atoms, generalizations, evolution, reason, faith, senses, etc. were introduced and used long before the lessons in philosophy began. The philosophy lessons did not and could not emphasize a rigorous systematic understanding of everything the philosophers were trying to say. Rather, the emphasis was on the man and one, or several, of the basic ideas which he advocated, and the historical significance of the man and his ideas.

The students were eager to read and learn something about some of the “philosophers” because they had already been hearing about them in class and had been hearing the term “Doctor” used on the campus. Why is such a person called “ Doctor” when he does not look after the sick people? It was explained that these men (women) are doctors of philosophy or people who are devoting their lives to the studying and teaching of their respective subjects. They were told that the great philosophers of the past were usually connected with universities. It was explained that in the traditional world history only the actions which these men helped energize are studied. (it is felt that this absence of emphasis on abstract thought at all levels in most of our Nation’s schools is creating a vacuum in American education that further strengthens materialism and encourages teaching without understanding.) Students need to be taught to ask and search for answers to basic questions as well as to memorize and manipulate.

Democritus (Lucretius) with whom the study of philosophy was begun was particularly stimulating to. study (some. did research during the evening Study Hall and found that there is very little biographical information available on Democritus and Lucretius) as his ideas of the world were unique in his time and tied in interestingly with some of our modern ideas. The students were intrigued to learn that he originated the idea of atoms and to begin to understand his idea of matter.

The concept of matter had been studied in the very first unit in science so that the students were already familiar with the word and the idea behind it. It was pointed out that Democritus had an influence in the world of science. They were puzzled by the statement, “Nothing is created out of nothing.” They were forced finally to agree. The question was then asked, “What did he start with?” and they answered, “matter. “ What is matter made of, according to Democritus, “Atoms”, A student asked (this happened to be an average student) “How did the atoms get there?” And then everyone in the class turned philosopher and tried to formulate a theory to answer this question. This basic approach was applied to all subjects, and the results began to show up in questions which were asked to the various visitors who gave lessens to the class. The students. expressed a very basic interest in almost any subject presented to them.

Plato was presented as an example of the flowering of Greek thought. Greek concept of moderation and Socrates’ questioning were emphasized. The students were questioned and led to realize what is meant by moderation and that moderation in all things is still thought of as an ideal in contemporary life in the U. S. Plato was introduced as a man of “reason”, one who depended on his own powers to deduce the eternal verities. Also, that the Greeks were the first to establish a university and that the University of Alaska is a modern version of this early Greek idea. Plato’s idea of utopia was briefly touched on to show that man very early conceived an ideal society and that the man of reason ‘s ideal society is an earthly one.

Paul and his thought was studied to epitomize the Christian Era. He was presented as an individual who believed very deeply in Christian faith and who originated church organization and dogma. The establishment of the Christian church, it was taught, profoundly changed the lives of Western man and the course of Western thought. It was emphasized that Christianity had meager and coarse beginnings but was finally adopted by the Roman Empire and from that point on gained momentum.

Perhaps the more fascinating of the philosophers studied were the modern thinkers, Descartes and John Locke. Time would not permit a more detailed investigation of these two men but early class response indicated that what was presented of their thought was more quickly and completely understood than that of Plato and Democritus.

One very exciting time was when the class was seeking to understand the one universal on which Descartes based his philosophy. The class looked over the reading material form time to time before they began to get the idea. There was much excitement when they began to comprehend the meaning and some of the implications that Descartes based his thinking on the universal of “I think, therefore I am”. The students experimented by trying to construct thoughts starting from this premise and moving toward more complex ideas.

Perhaps the best understood of the philosophers studied was John Locke. The students thought Locke made better sense and it was explained that he should because the writers of the Constitution were very much influenced by Locke’s thinking. A copy of the United States Constitution was kept on the bulletin board and certain passages of it were referred to in order to emphasize the similarities.

To summarize, the approach to social studies was first to cover a brief outline of the history of Western man and then to study some of the great thinkers of’ the Western world. It was found that it is a good idea to cover the broad general outline of the entire course first and then go back and study the material in more detail. The basic approach plus great emphasis on the reading (the reading was often directed by the teacher in class or in the evening study hall) of the material, discussion of it, movies and film strips closely related to the subject matter and brief essay type tests over the material was, it is felt, fairly effective in getting across the major points. A variety of teaching techniques were used in repeating the material to be learned in the interest of effectiveness – i.e. to avoid monotony, ‘dryness’, boredom, to enhance understanding by approaching the material from different ‘angles’.

Reading for content was emphasized and though vocabulary was also strongly emphasized it was not the focus of attention in social studies. Specific vocabulary and reading skills were emphasized in the Language Arts section. Therefore, the reading skill emphasized in social studies was apprehending meaning from context. This was necessary as the reading assignments were long and the students, with very few exceptions, had no reading habits. The necessity of developing reading habits was emphasized again and again throughout the entire six-weeks period.

The specific vocabulary developed for the social studies was limited to that expressing certain basic concepts thought necessary for an understanding of Western culture. The social studies program was not burdened with a plethora of vocabulary words Large groups of words were brought out in the language arts program where detailed analysis and explanation could be employed without interrupting the train of thought. This type of curriculum organization was possible because the social studies and language arts were both taught by the same teacher and the correlation necessary was facilitated thereby. Close coordination and planning of all subject areas was necessary so that the students would gain a broad, integrated, view rather than a number of highly departmentalized unrelated facts and concepts, which would, by their “un-relation”, be rendered meaningless to these students.

The social studies part of the program was the basis for the understandings gained from the entire six-weeks academic program for it emphasized the fact that an adequate understanding of the dominant culture is the base from which the students must work toward a real grasp of other subject matter. While the social studies program was the basis of the academic program it was still in reality just one part of a general introduction to modern life that was provided the students during the six- weeks project.


The language arts program was quite broad and consisted generally of vocabulary, composition, dramatics and reading skills. This part of the curriculum was a catch-all which gave specific meaning to other parts of the program. It was during this period that many new subjects were first introduced and taught. The vocabulary and skills introduced in the language arts part were used extensively in social studies, math and science and in fact, were planned largely to supplement the other areas of study. For instance, the term “abstraction” was first introduced In the language arts program and discussed from a phonetic as well as from a ‘meaning’ point of view.

The approach taken to vocabulary included root words, the significance of suffixes and prefixes, pronunciation skills, dictionary usage and implied meanings. A great number of the words were first presented in their basic form and the students were then asked to make new words by adding prefixes and suffixes. Thus the number of basic words could be expanded by adding prefixes and suffixes to them. The object was to teach the students to look for meanings in new words by analysis.

Words attacked in this manner were taken from all reading matter and from the environment of the University and from the many worthwhile activities which the students experienced. The vocabulary was then a part of the living environment, in which but a few of the group had ever had first-hand experience. It was always interesting to observe something new in one of the outside-of-class activities and then investigate its significance in the classroom setting.

The composition skills were focused largely on field trip experiences and formal test questions. The students were not given objective-type tests in social studies and were expected to answer questions in complete sentences and paragraphs. The essay-type tests were checked for both subject matter content and for composition skills.

Some excellent stories were written in conjunction with the weekend field trips and excursions which were constantly broadening the perspectives of the students. The students were asked to write their impressions of their experiences. This type of experience is always an excellent motivation device.

Dramatic presentations were used to exemplify different points. The radio drama “Greek Meets Greek” was used to give meaning to the word “values”. Another radio drama was used to exemplify the word “culture”. This play was called “Stand-in for a Murderer” and both plays were educational dramas which were available from the Anthropology Department of the University of Alaska. Role playing of the Famous Scopes trial was used to help give meaning to multiple concepts that ordinarily were strange to the experience background of the students.

The drama “Greek Meets Greek” pertained to two Greek boys, one from Athens and one from Sparta. The plot concerned the different values placed on such ideas as honesty, duty, obedience, freedom, eating, etc, by these two boys. The students spent a few class periods reviewing the play for mechanics of English and for vocabulary. As a culmination some students presented the play to the rest of the class. This provided opportunity for personal arid individual expression and interpretation as well as serving to repeat the play for understanding. The play was played on a record during an evening study hail so that the students could hear it as interpreted by a group of professional actors.

The play, “Stand-in for A Murderer” was played to the students to dramatize the word “culture”. This play is unique in that It is based on an Imaginary but possible event in the life of a group of Thlingit Indians of Southeastern Alaska. This play presents a very complex concept In a very subtle but dynamic way. It should be noted that minute and detailed explanations of such terms were not required of the students after introduction of the term and general discussion It was used in proper context and before long the students began to use it correctly themselves.

A brief take-off on the famous Scopes trial was done using the role-playing technique. Three adults played the roles of Judge Rulston, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow and a student took the part (unspeaking) of Scopes. This particular bit of drama was produced to put over several points: An understanding of the historical conflict between evolutionists and religionists; to give the students an Idea of courtroom organization and procedure; to show that many of the early conflicts in history are still with us today and to show how freedom of thought can be endangered even in a democracy.

Reading of literature was also Included in language arts with two Greek myths being chosen for interpretation. The ones chosen were “Odysseus and Circe” and “Minotar in the Labyrinth”. Both of these myths were taken from regular textbooks for junior high school students and were presented immediately and concurrently ‘with the study of the Greeks in history. There seemed to be a natural interest in these stories and one student read of her own volition several of the chapters from Homer’s Odyssey. (This book was discovered during one of the evening study halls and became her regular reading material for the next few evenings).

The students had little trouble following the incredible incidents of the two myths. They were able to pick out such moments in the stories as suspense, fright, happiness, courage, etc. The most interesting consequence of this reading of these myths was the discovery of an almost natural interest in such stories. This was not particularly surprising in view of the importance of mythological stories in most of the native cultures within Alaska. These stories did lend themselves quite well to the developing of the skill of picking out main ideas from a story. It is thought that by and large classroom language arts was only a small part of the summer “language” experience for these students. The real use of the English language came about through the many experiences made available in the environment of the University of Alaska.


The new Innovations in the study of mathematics in the United States are beginning to be felt at all levels of education. There are several studies of mathematics going on simultaneously at present. The experimental study being sponsored by the University of Illinois is one of the more noteworthy of these studies and has produced a series of textbooks for junior high school through the high school. The University of Illinois and the School Mathematics Study Group (with headquarters at Yale University) are doing much to improve the math curriculum in the United States. They have helped to bring the teaching of math at the elementary and high school levels more in line with what will be taught at a higher level. This should not be interpreted to mean that all mathematics is going to be college-bound oriented. The basic approach to numbers developed by these studies does not take anything of significance away from the curriculum it merely cuts out a great deal of the useless material now taught in most curriculums in the name of essential mathematics. The approach is so basic that it will eventually change the teaching of math even down to the first level.

“The Arithmetic of the Real Numbers” that was used in the six-weeks session employs a basic philosophical perspective in that the students are led to understand the meaning behind the number symbols. The symbols used are significant insofar as they represent some known or unknown quantity. Actually, the level of math taught the group is the material that is immediately followed by beginning algebra. This in effect means that the eighth grade general mathematics course which now precedes algebra could be amended to include this material for the brighter algebra-bound students. These students, the algebra-bound students, could benefit greatly by an introduction to this concept of mathematics.

The text has an admirable introduction appropriate to the Alaskan scene. The opening lesson introduces two pen-pals one of whom decides to teach the other, via letters, something about mathematics. The pen-pal who lives in the Alaska ‘bush’ totally unlearned in the area of mathematics. It becomes apparent to his friend that he is going to have to be most basic in introducing the Alaskan to mathematics. This story is humorous and does a wonderful job of motivating the students to seek a logical understanding of the philosophical significance of numbers.

The reactions of the students to the. basic questions raised by the introductory story were in keeping with what the teacher’s a manual anticipated. The “ discovery method” (see the introduction for more details concerning the discovery method) seeks to disseminate facts which create a concept in the mind of the student. The student should be able to generalize this concept without being told. For example, the addition of positive and negative numbers was developed without ever having to base the process on pro-learned rules. The students were logically and carefully led through various sequential steps so that they were eventually led to add positive and negative numbers without having been presented with a single rule. Such basic teaching is the kind that “sticks” with the student as he will not have to depend entirely on memory but rather on concepts that have become part of his philosophy of mathematics.

All the students, even the lowest achievers in the group, were able to eventually understand most of the concepts introduced. The high achievers in the group were capable of going along very rapidly and enjoyed this new approach to arithmetic.

The procedure recommended by the teacher’s manual was closely followed and in most cases the students responded quite satisfactorily. Responses based on the use of this material would make it feasible to include “The Arithmetic of the Real Numbers” as supplemental material for eighth grade students of a high caliber in the day schools of Alaska. However, before making this material available a workshop specifically concerned with explaining some of the new concepts in mathematics to the elementary teachers should be held. This would seem almost a necessity as many of the textbook companies are already beginning to include this new material in their texts.


The science curriculum for the six-weeks was aimed at explaining the scientific method and then using various units in science to show how the modern scientist looks at the world. The first unit studied was “What Science Is”. Other units or chapters covered were “What Matter Is Like”, “How Things Change”, “Human Change” , “Evolution”, “How the Earth Changes”, “Living Things Have Much in Common”, “ Our Changing Planet”, and “Our Planet in Space”. The idea was to give the students an introduction to a few of the basic philosophic concepts of science. Two texts were used, Vitalized General Science and High Points in Biology, both of which are paperback high school texts.

The scientific way of thinking was contrasted with the mythological approach of explaining the world. To begin with, the students were asked to write about superstitions drawn from their village environments and then to prove them or disprove them according to science. This was a very stimulating exercise an the students enjoyed contrasting the superstitions from different villages.

Science began with an initial inquiry: “How did man explain the earth prior to science?” After a little hesitation, one student said, “With stories.”

Then, “What does a scientist use to explain the world?” One student answered, “facts.” Another said, “I now what it is but can’t think what you call it. It is something like asparagus.”

With a little help the correct pronunciation of “apparatus” was brought out for the class to learn. Next, the question was posed: “What must the scientist use along with the facts and apparatus?” This question caused a dumb silence for a few moments until one very thoughtful young lady said, “Could it be the scientist’s brain?” This being said, the fact that the scientist uses his reason to arrive at conclusions, the stage was set for the study of science. From this point on the importance of reason in the work of the scientist was emphasized. This correlated well with social studies and math and was another point of unity of the curriculum.

Activities that the students participated in for the science class were varied and all added to the overall concept of the importance of science in our modern life. During the course of the six-weeks the students were exposed to many demonstrations of experiments and performed experiments themselves. The University facilities helped very much to impress the students with the tools of the scientist. For instance, during the study of evolution the Anthropology Department provided fossil bones that the students could clean and shellac for a display in the classroom. During the study of how matter changes the students saw several experiments demonstrating physical and chemical changes and the physics Department Head demonstrated wave motion with both simple and complex apparatus and tried to show some of the kinds of thing. the physicists do. (This particular experiment will be covered in more detail in another part of this report.)

The science class was often the high point of the day. The University environment helped tremendously to make this part of the program vital and interesting. It was possible to conduct unusual experiments (there was a white rat nutritional experiment going on in the classroom during the entire six-weeks) and to give real meaning to science. The University professors and Instructors were more than generous with their time and help.

It is thought that the students gained some (a beginning) understanding of the significance of science.


The physical education program was contained in a thirty-minute period each afternoon. The objective of this period was to introduce the students to a few basic games (volley ball, basketball, baseball, etc.) and to introduce them to the facilities of a gymnasium. As usual, this period was looked forward to each day as it gave the students a chance to run and exercise their growing muscles. The boys in particular were fascinated with basketball for many of them were playing on a gymnasium floor for the first time.

The physical education period was also used to put together the information about native games that was prepared for the excursion to Mt. McKinley Park. This was a written description of several games played in the villages. The visitors to the park were interested to see the students playing these games in and about the hotel area.

It was impossible to have a rigorous physical education program during the six weeks session but enough of a variety of activities was included to make this part of each day enjoyable and worthwhile.


The environment of the University of Alaska made available to the group special resource people who are available only in college communities. These people were very stimulating in a unique and important way.

Three very popular and informative visitors were students at the University who are from Africa (Nigeria), Korea and Germany. These three students lived in the same dormitory that the Native students lived in and were brought to the attention of the teacher by the group. The students themselves ask the foreign students to visit the class, wrote questions for them to base their discussion on, paid strict attention while the visitors were talking, ask them many interesting questions (indeed, the class had to cut out questioning in all cases because the visitors ran out of time) and wrote thank-you letters to all the guests.

The students as a group thought of twenty-two questions which they wanted to ask the first visitor, the student from Nigeria. These questions were written on the board by the teacher as the students spoke them, were written down on paper by another student and were given to the visitor as a guide for his talk. In all cases the visitors were most gracious and sincere in presenting their material to the class. The twenty-two questions given to the student from Nigeria were:

1. What is your home like?

2. How do you live?

3. How do you make a living?

4. What kind of clothing do you wear at home?

5. What Is the weather like in your country?

6. Have you ever lived in the jungle?

7. What kind of animals do you have?

8. What kind of transportation do you have in Nigeria?

9. What kinds of religion do you have?

10. What kinds of diseases do you have there?

11. Why did you leave Nigeria?

12. What too1s do you use?

13. What kind of food do you eat? Does everyone have enough to eat?

14. What plants do you have?

15. What jobs do you work at?

16. What do you do for recreation?

17. Do you have myths to explain the world?

18. How do you like Alaska?

19. Do the people of Nigeria have any rulers or kings?

20. Do you have a written language?

21. Do you have to pay for’ your own education?

22. What are some of your traditions?

As can be surmised from the above mentioned questions the session with this foreign student and the other foreign students were very lively and informative.

In two cases the visitors command of the English language was limited and the students exhibited great politeness and a sincere desire to help the visitor deal with the problem. It was most touching to observe the empathy extended by the class to the visitors who had this handicap. Of course, this is not surprising as most of the students in the class speak English as a second language.

The class was fortunate to have Professor Dancer from the Alaska Methodist University speak to than. Dr. Dancer talked with the group about the binary number system inasmuch as this lesson would fit in well with the theory behind, “The Arithmetic of the real Numbers.” Dr Dancer used his unusual ability, acquired during his many year’s as a math teacher, to bring an entirely new concept of numbers to the attention of the group. He stated in the course of his lecture that some fifteen years ago he bad explained the binary number system to a group of high school students as something interesting but not very practical. It was then pointed out how much times have changed and that the binary number system is now quite important as it is used extensively in electronic computers.

The binary number system was explained as having a base of two rather than a base of ten, as does our commonly used number system. The significance of symbolism in explaining such a system is very important and it was thought that the lessons as taught In “The Arithmetic of the Real Numbers” made this lesson understandable and interesting to these eighth grade graduates. It should be mentioned that a mathematics professor from the University of Washington explained this same number system last year to the math students at Mt. Edgecumbe High School. It was observed that, percentage-wise, more students in the eighth grade summer project class seemed to understand this explanation than among the high school students at Mt. Edgecumbe. This is no doubt because of the difference in approach to mathematics between the traditional, “Here’s a rule, learn it.” approach and the “ discovery method”.

There is great need for elementary teachers who understand the significance of the new innovations in the mathematics textbooks. The new material does not say that computational procedures need no longer be taught. The emphasis is to modify the former predominance of computational procedures and mix with it some abstract understandings. The following quote is taken from the School Mathematics Study Group “Report of a Conference on Elementary School Mathematics”, held at Chicago, Illinois on February 13 and 14, 1959:

Content and methods both depend in great measure upon the objectives sought In teaching elementary mathematics. For practical and cultural reasons, we have no choice but to teach a good deal of arithmetic and intuitive geometry to our boys and girls. However, it is not so generally accepted that our objective must be the double one of developing purely technical skills (e.g in the art of computation) and of preparing the way towards mathematical insight into the relations which give arithmetic and elementary geometry their characteristic structures. These contrasting aims are often distinguished by the adjectives “concrete” and “abstract”. What we really mean by abstraction is the recognition of patterns, as in a geometric configuration, which have a special significance being learned. It is essential to recognize that technical skill and insight go hand in hand in mathematics - each strengthens the other and the mathematician who lacks either one cannot expect to attain his maximum development as a mathematician. This is why it is so very important to have both aims in mind, even at the grade school level.

Dr. Dancer’s brief visit helped to strengthen the students’ understanding of the abstract part of math. Re used new concepts with the students. However, due to the basic approach of the real numbers text they were easily able to bridge the gulf between conventional computational concepts and the creative thinking of theoretical mathematics. Almost all the members of the class understood the quantitative significance of the binary notation system and a good number of them could add with this new system.

Some of the members of the class who were best able to follow this lecture were not necessarily the quickest and sharpest but were the intuitive mathematicians and thinkers. It was a pleasure to watch them grappling with these new ideas.

The resource people who so generously donated their tine and efforts during the six-weeks period were the spice of the curriculum and gave added meaning to the regular classroom activities. Dr. Herman Slotnick, Head of the History Department at the University of Alaska, consented to speak to the class about Russian history. Russia held a particular fascination for the group and many interesting and curious inquiries were made concerning this vast country.

Professor Slotnick used a very fine approach in presenting his excellently outlined material. His talking slowly and defining his major terms as he progressed made the lesson much more than the usual success. He developed briefly the pro- revolution history of Russia and then went into an outline of the major facets of the communist government in Russia. He brought some excellent maps with him which gave added meaning to his lecture.

The very closeness of Alaska to Russia and the added stimulation of Dr. Slotnick’ s excellent teaching generated many questions (more than there was time to answer), many of which were very mature. The encouraging reaction of the students, in all cases, was their active verbal participation. The class was not constantly carried by the bright and vocal few.

Mrs. Neville Waterfield, contemporary Alaskan artist, gave a talk on art. She covered the different styles artists have used to express themselves, the different mediums, and most importantly, the significance and relationship of art to culture in general and to Alaskan cultures in particular, She then explained what contemporary Alaskan art can mean aesthetically, to the people who buy it or view it. She had with her some examples of her own art as well as examples of native art from some of the outlying villages where she had visited and done art work.

The students exhibited the most interest in her explanation of the significance and technique of’ the abstract art of the modern world. Several students tried their talent at creating art of an abstract nature following her talk.

One example of native art that she exhibited was a polar bear sculpture of drift wood by an Eskimo of the Arctic coast. The bear was expertly done and was the focal point of high interest. Her own oil painting of an Alaskan scene meant much to the students and also impressed them because it was exhibited by the artist.

Dr. John Tryon, Professor of Engineering Physics, gave the students two demonstrations which pertained to wave motion and the use of physics to measure wave motion. His first class period was devoted to the use of a long steel wire coil which when stretched out and properly moved showed wave motions. His leading questions soon led the students to see the significance of experimenting to determine the facts of the demonstration. His second class was used to demonstrate motion by employing a special apparatus which exhibited light waves. The questions asked by the class in both experiments were pertinent and to the point. Dr. Tryon did an excellent job of’ motivating the students and leading them to think scientifically about the experiments, to follow him step by step and to create an experiment of their own.

His third demonstration used a more complicated laboratory apparatus and could be observed by only a few students at a time, The object of this experiment was to measure light waves.

Dr. Tryon wanted to encourage the students to utilize their natural curiosity about the world around them. It is felt that his excellent demonstrations did much to excite the students the study of science in general and of physics in particular.

Mr. Donval R. Simpson, Instructor of Mathematics at the University of Alaska, was kind enough to lead the class in a lesson on short-cuts in arithmetic. He introduced the class to several facts about our number system that shorten the usual time used for computation, The students enjoyed this lesson very much. One of the brighter students of the class became quite adept at using the short-cuts and far out- stripped her classmates in giving correct answers.

The students visited a campus chemistry laboratory where each student performed a simple experiment. The laboratory was under the direction of Mrs. Elaine L. Jacobson, Instructor of Chemistry at the University of Alaska. In a student evaluation following the close of the six-weeks session, several students listed this classroom activity, which gave them a chance to try a real chemistry experiment, as the most interesting academic experience.

The most exciting visitor to the campus during the summer was Dr. Werner Von Braun, the famous rocket expert for the United States missile program. Dr. Von Braun bad been visiting Alaska and had lunch at the University of Alaska. The students were fortunate enough to be present during his visit to the campus and many shook hands and greeted him. Following this encounter the students returned to the classroom with much excitement. The supervising teacher had missed Dr. Von Braun and the students were bubbling over with excitement when be returned. They related - en masse - that they had seen, shaken hands with, talked with and obtained autographs from this famous scientist.

His visit to the campus sparked some real interest in theoretical scientists and prompted the students to ask many questions about the man and about what he does. His visit came late in the school day so that there was not enough time left in that day to talk at length about Von Braun. However, since the evening study period was yet to come, it was decided that those who wished could use this period to do research in the library on Dr. Von Braun.

The evening study time on this day very interesting as several students were becoming acquainted with the card catalog and the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. They were fascinated to learn that Reader Guide listed magazine articles written ten, twenty, and thirty years ago.

Prior to leaving the classroom. the students had made a list, of questions they would liked to have asked Dr. Von Braun, had he been available for a classroom visit. The questions were used as a basis for the research carried on during the evening study time.

The questions were:

1. What is he working on now?

2. When did he start his education?

3. Where is his home now?

4. What kind of family does he have?

5. Where was he educated?

6. What are some of the things he has done

7. When did he start reading?

On the following morning several students made reports to the telling what had been learned the preceding evening by finding information in the library. Most all the questions were answered and it was emphasized, for the benefit of all, that the answers came from the library, and that the card catalog and the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature were used to help find information.

One boy was interested to find pictures and stories from magazines dated in 1943 and 1944 which gave the first information about rockets. He found it interesting to contrast this knowledge with the present knowledge of rockets.

The resource people who contributed to the class made a very favorable impression on the students. These people were experts in their fields and were, above all, interested in communicating with. the young Native people of Alaska. They were the source of many stimulating discussions and motivated the students to want to observe, read and study about, their world. Their contributions to the classroom activities were sincerely appreciated by all concerned.


The daily schedule for the activities of the students was roughly as indicated below:

8:30 - 9:00 Rome Room and Planning
9:00 - 10:00 Social Studies
10:00 - 10:10 Recess
10:10 - 11:30 Language Arts
11:30 - 12:30 Lunch
12:30 - 1:30 Mathematics
1:30 - 2:00 Physical Education
2:00 - 3:00 Science
3:00 - 3:30 Review of Days Activities
3:30 - 7:00 Dinner and Free Time
7:00 - 8:45 Study Time
8:45 - 10:00 Free Time

It can be seen by the above schedule that the students had a full day. Of course, there are changes that could be made which would help the students and there are features that were good for the class as a whole. The actual class day took the blocks of time from 8:30 to 11:30 and from 12:30 to 3:30. The thirty-minute period in the morning and the thirty-minute period in the afternoon were good in that they allowed plenty of time to relax and have the day’s activities put into perspective. These two periods were often used very much to help plan the activities of the class. They were also used to teach portions of lessons that had been cut short by other activities.

As a whole the schedule was not contained within the 8:30 to 3:30 school day but rather the evening study time was considered as much a part of the school day as were the earlier periods. This particular plan allowed a flexibility that enabled many activities to be included which otherwise would not have been possible.

For instance, if the resource speakers could not come to class during the day (as the foreign students could not) the evening study time was used for this purpose and extra study time was given the following school day. Several times pertinent audio-visual aids could not be worked into the school day and were shown in the classroom in the evening. In the evening the University sponsored movies or slides about some part of Alaska or some phase of science which was related to Alaska. These movies or slides were seen by the students as a part of the evening study time. This concept of the school day made it possible to work in a variety of interesting activities and the evening study time was not devoted entirely to studying at the library table.

The schedule of the day’s activities was discussed with members of the Education Department at the University of Alaska and it was noted by these staff people that a surface look at the schedule would indicate that the evening study time might be too strenuous for the students. However, it was stated, a more intimate contact with the classroom activities and what and how things were being taught made this study time seem appropriate and desirable. In fact, it relieved the classroom of the ordinary pressures of not having enough time to complete certain activities.

However, the summer experience could seem to indicate a need to shorten the evening study time to one hour and a half, always offering students the option of staying longer if they wish. (it was found that there were usually three to six students who chose to stay overtime in the library to read and study.)


The students were taken on a number of field trips during the six-weeks period. The major ones were to Mt. McKinley National Park, a modern dairy, two military bases, the Arctic Area-Med laboratory, ‘the Experimental Farm operated by the University of Alaska, the newspaper, The Daily News Miner, the Eskimo Olympics and a riverboat ride.

The field trips were followed up in the classroom as common experiences on which stories, art work, charts and discussions could be based. Stories were written by the students describing their experiences, impressions and opinions of the excursions. From an academic point of view, these field trips were useful in the classroom because they broadened the students range of experiences and gave them common experiences to talk and write about.

The Mt. McKinley trip correlated well with the study of evolution and the study of mythology as the Indians living around Mt. McKinley had many stories about this monster of nature. The train ride to the park gave the students a firsthand experience which they had not had so that a meaningful discussion of the importance railroads and modern means of transportation in general have played in the development or our country could be held.

The army and air force bases afforded many excellent examples of science as it has been applied to the technology of war. Military bases are nowadays heavily dependent on all types of electronic equipment. The apparent magic of many such pieces of equipment was a point of fascination for the students. The vast size of the military installations was impressive and gave them another opportunity to observe the complexity of modern life.

The visit to the newspaper, The Daily News Miner, was an intriguing to the students as the visit to the military bases. This visit gave us an opportunity to learn something about this great institution directly. This served us well in the classroom for purposes of discussion and deepened the understanding of the emphasis on the importance of the invention of the printing press.

The visit to the horse show afforded an experience or the students to write about as they rode a horse for the first time. One student left at the end of the session declaring that her favorite sport was horse back riding though she had ridden only this one time during her entire lifetime.

The experimental farm gave the students an opportunity to visit an efficient and well managed farm, something that not many native students have ever seen. Again, after the students have actually seen a farm in operation, the word takes a meaning it would never have for them otherwise.

The Areo-Med lab gave them an opportunity to see lab technicians in the act of performing their tasks They were shown a building devoted to experimental studies with rats and rabbits (they also had a rat experiment in the classroom the full time which was concluded on the last day of school). They also saw an experiment being conducted to determine the effectiveness of different kinds of clothing at extremely low temperatures. This trip gave added meaning to our discussion of the practical applications of science.

Generally speaking, the field trips helped in the classroom activities by giving the students a necessary practical introduction to some facets of modern living. These activities helped to round out the six-weeks session and make It a unified experience.

The field trips were an important part of the overall program for the six weeks session and it is thought that their potential use in the classroom could be strengthened by advance consultation of all personnel who are to participate in the project. It is suggested that, if the same type of summer project is held in the future, there be a planning meeting of all participants prior to the project. This meeting, though it would involve expense, would enhance the educational benefits derived by the students because the total program could be more carefully coordinated and unified. All participants In the program correspond and exchange information, plans and ideas but this kind of exchange is no substitute for a conference meeting of the participants.


The textbook materials used in the project were all paperback and were chosen for two main reasons: (1) Paperback books could be given to the students at the close of the session to keep as a nucleus for the beginning of a personal library. (2) The paperback textbooks were usually much less expensive and were actually better suited for the type of curriculum taught for this six-weeks period. As an example, hardback general science book costs about $4.50. The general science text used in the project was comparable to most any such text yet the total cost, new, was .95. It should be noted that even the dictionaries were paperback which made it possible to supply each student with one at a fraction of the cost for clothbound books. The use of paperback books in the project seemed to appeal to the students in that all were very pleased to learn that they could take the books home with them.


There were four standardized tests given to the students, two achievement tests and two I. Q. tests. A summary of the testing results are given on the following page.

The first test administered was the SRA High School Placement Test which is administered at the school and scored by machine by the SRA testing company. This test proved to be satisfactory for all purposes and even included a nonverbal I.Q.. The test is relatively inexpensive, $1.00 per student is easily administered and is efficiently handled by the company. It is recommended that this test be used by the Juneau Area Office to give to students who graduate from the eighth grade in day schools and are interested in continuing their education, The test could be given to all eighth grade graduates who are interested in entering boarding school. The results of the test could be forwarded directly to the Area Office or to the boarding school from the SRA testing center. Such a test would give the boarding school added assistance in guiding the student in his choice of a suitable curriculum for himself.

The second test given was the California Mental Maturity, a highly verbal I. Q. test. This test is not customarily used in the BIA in Alaska and was chosen as an experiment to compare with the Lorge-Thorndike Nonverbal I. Q. Test. As was expected, in almost all cases this test scored the students much lower than the nonverbal test. it is evident that this instrument does not reliably measure or indicate the intelligence of bilingual students.

The other achievement test that was given was the California Achievement Test, Advanced Battery. This is the same test given to incoming students at Mt. Edgecumbe High School. It was given because it is fairly reliable and is easy to score if the scoreze answer sheets are used. This test gave the teachers an immediate indicator of the achievement level of the students.

Comparison of Test Scores

The last test given was the Lorge-Thorndike nonverbal I. Q. test. This test is used at Mt. Edgecumbe High School as the I. Q. test for the school. It is a more faithful indicator of intelligence due to its lack of reliance on verbal skills. This test compares favorably to the I. Q. section of the SRA High School Placement Test and indicates that the SRA could be used before the students are placed in the proper boarding school.

By and large the group of students, using the freshman class scores of Mt. Edgecumbe for the school year 1960-61 as a comparison to the test scores, was one of average ability. In some cases the students showed a need for remedial work and were hard pressed to keep the pace set by the faster students.

It should be mentioned that the curriculum was devised for high-ability Native students and that this fact posed some difficulties, given an average group, The needs of each individual student were kept in mind at all times and a sincere effort was made to adapt the prepared material to these needs where at all possible. It is thought that it is unfair to below-average students to set them in the University environment. For example, one such student was most impressed by the University environment and was thus motivated to want a college education. This is a fine goal and one which, it was hoped, most of those who were a part of the project would be motivated to set for themselves, but experience at the University may serve to frustrate this student. It is not recommended, therefore, that the below-average students be admitted to the program, if one should be held in the future, as this student is likely to gain little from the experience arid may be harmed by setting for himself false, unattainable goals. There is no doubt that something was gained by each student, regardless of his (her) academic potential, but perhaps more attention should be directed toward getting potential leaders into the program.

The six-weeks session was, in general, in the opinion of the supervising teacher, a most wholesome experience for the students. They were a very well- behaved group and each expressed gratitude for having been a part of the group. The educational benefits gleaned by the group are far too varied and numerous to be detected by contemporary standardized tests. The experience of living in a sophisticated environment did much to help the students understand the problems and advantages they will encounter for themselves in moving into an urbanized world.

A bureaucratic struggle had been going among the counselor in charge of the dormitory program, the Fairbanks Agency Superintendent and me. Primarily, this conflict involved my failed attempts to discuss successfully, the program with the Agency Superintendent. The conflict culminated in the BIA’s making the decision that the program was unsuited to the needs of Alaskan Native education. To quote entirely, “ Those little Native kids don’t need all that ‘intellectual’ stuff. They need ‘nuts and bolts’, i.e. reading, writing and arithmetic”. So, come the summer of 1962 the counselor of the 1961 program was in charge and the program was a disaster, according to the teachers involved. Serious personal misconduct on the part of the Counselor occurred, this misconduct carried over to his place of full-time employment, Wrangell Institute. The ultimate effect was in the Fall of 1962 both the Wrangell School Superintendent and the Counselor were placed on Administrative Leave.

The 1961 Summer Program had a significant influence on curriculum change at Mt. Edgecumbe. The Summer Program helped to provide an opportunity for us to develop an integrated curriculum, the basic integrating factor being a focus on abstract and critical thinking; keeping in mind the fact tha, the Federal Government’s education response to Suptnik was to promote the improvement of the math and science curriculums throughout the U.S. The University of Illinois Mathematics program used in the Summer Program emphasized the abstract nature of mathematics.

The philosophic textual material especially written by Dr. Alfred E. Miller and Vinita F. Hopkins will be found in the Appendix B. The reader will see how this material was integrated with other readings used in the program.

Changing the Academic Curriculum at Mt. Edgecumbe

At Mt. Edgecumbe we began teaching sections of The Arithmetic of the Real Numbers in our General Math courses. The Teacher, a willing participant, did an excellent job of teaching these classes. We also selected one of the other “new” curricula developed, in the Yale, “Yellow Version” for our Algebra classes. As teachers left Mt. Edgecumbe’s staff, we were careful to replace them with new teachers who could easily handle these new curricula in math and science. These experiences taught me that any innovation in education must be a joint venture in educational leadership and cooperation among administrative personnel and teachers. My approach to education supervision is to consider myself a teacher. I think any education supervisor must be able to and willing to personally demonstrate the effective teaching of any unit of a new curriculum. This approach was criticized by most of my fellow administrators who seemed to think of supervision as primarily concerned, with budgetary considerations, and rather less with the teaching process and/or curriculum content.

The science curriculum received the same innovative attention, specifically with our selection of the Biological Study Committee’s Yellow Version. Here again, a new teacher was added to our staff, one who was fully qualified, as well as enthusiastic, to teach the new curriculum. Soon, our Biology course was one of the high points of the high school academic experience for the Mt. Edgecumbe students. In time, after I left, a second-year Biology course was offered for the college bound students. Previously, Physics had not been offered at Mt. Edgecumbe. The Physical Science Study Committee version was chosen. It, like the math and biology courses, required well-structured, critical thinking. We hired a new teacher from Texas A & M University, who had recently been trained to teach this version. Later, I asked one of our Senior (Eskimo) students who was taking Physics how he liked the course. He, paused, thought, said, “It is one of the most difficult courses I have ever taken, but also one of the most interesting.”

Mt. Edgecumbe established contact with the various University and College Training Centers for the new curricula. At that time, the Federal Government financed teachers who attended the summer training courses in the new curricula. We took full advantage of this support. At that time, I remember, one of the major National Representative for the Biology curriculum training centers visiting Mt. Edgecumbe school, later, going fishing with our Biology teacher.

Before the arrival of the new Administration, all of the English teachers in the Academic Department had purchased the SRA Reading Program. This is, basically, a “ Programmed” reading program; the materials are tightly structured so that the student can self-teach. Classroom observations told me that a few of the English teachers simply sat at their desks amid the silent ambiance of the classroom while students moved back and forth from their desks to the SRA materials boxes. The students were taught to keep their own records of progress. I observed for a while in order to discover when, or if, the teachers eventually actively taught. When it became apparent that the SRA materials were the curriculum with selected literature, innovative student composition, and class discussion playing no role whatsoever, I personally removed the SRA materials from classrooms, storing them permanently in a remote closet on the top floor of the main building. An ignored hue and cry from a few teachers soon ceased and normal teaching procedures began/continued.

Dr. Charles K Ray, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Dr. Ray, Education Chair, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, became an important influence in my professional life at Mt. Edgecumbe. The DIQ he created at Teachers College, Columbia, made possible the production of an education achievement statistic that balanced over-ageness against standardized test scores. Nowadays, as the Alaskan Native students struggle with standardized test scores, such a statistic would be defined as an “Accommodation.” It is worth noting that current (2006) research on accommodations related to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) does not mention any of the many such professional concerns regarding Alaskan Native education. According to contemporary accommodation researchers, the awareness of education accommodations related to standardized test use with culturally different students began somewhere around the year 2002. Further, accommodations research discusses language differences between the dominant English usage of the school and Spanish and/or various Asian languages. Never mind that Ray did accommodation research at Teachers College in 1955. And, Anderson and Eells experimented with the need for the changing the achievement tests and IQ tests in 1934. This kind of research ‘ignorance’ seems to reflect the historical indifference of the American Education Establishment to the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

In 1963 Frank Latta, Principal of Sheldon Jackson Boarding High School, and I put together a one-day Sitka Education Conference. At that time the teaching profession was well-represented in the three schools, Sitka Public Schools, Sheldon Jackson School and Mt. Edgecumbe High School. Frank and I estimated that there were 150 teachers and administrators in the Sitka-Mt. Edgecumbe community, and we knew that they never had been brought together for a professional meeting. We secured the cooperation of all three schools, developed an agenda for a one-day conference, and an evening dinner. We asked Dr. Ray to keynote the evening dinner session, and he accepted the invitation. I do not remember his selected topic for the evening, but I do remember that it was well-received.

I have always thought Dr. Ray’s Alaska Native Secondary School Dropouts, A Research Report (1962) was the best-designed of the many dropout studies of American Indians and Alaskan Natives. I remember Dr. Seymour Parker visiting Mt. Edgecumbe and explaining to me just how selective our student body actually was. Parker explained that by grade six, a very large number of children had already left school. The reasons for the school dropouts were numerous and, more often than not, related directly to both subsistence living requirements, and to the general culture of the Alaskan Native peoples. His modified Thematic Apperception Technique (TAT) was a new one to me and an exciting one. He left with me the sketches used in the research; I tried them with a few of the students. Parker also pointed out that he perceived the Mt. Edgecumbe curriculum to be extremely oriented toward Eurocentric content. He recommended that we include more of the Alaskan Native culture content. I explained the problems we had of including such culture content because of the cultural diversity of the student body. Nonetheless, I was left feeling ambivalent about the lack of Native culture content in our school program.

Problems and Tragedies

There are always problems in schools, especially in boarding schools. Sexual misconduct among students and sometimes between students, and, staff and staff and staff, is always a potential source of such problems. During my time at Mt. Edgecumbe there were two cases involving students and a teacher, and two involving faculty members. The more important one involving a teacher and students, concerned our Band Teacher. Predatory behavior by the Band Teacher was eventually exposed by some students who were invited to his apartment. The incident occurred after the Teacher’s mother had left Mt. Edgecumbe to live permanently in the South Forty-Eight. The Band Teacher was convicted in Federal Court in Juneau and sentenced to a jail term there. This whole event came as a complete shock to me as to many others. The other such event concerned a Practical Nurse at the hospital and some young students (boys) who were patients there. He, too, was convicted and sentenced to jail.

Faculty problems mostly involved bachelor male teachers who lived in apartments, and ate at the Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ), so-called from WW II occupancy days. A Teacher-Counselor had been attempting to intimidate two other teachers with a revolver. The victims would not swear out an official complaint against the revolver-toting Counselor, so that we could only “listen” and keep admonishing all to “ take care.” The Counselor finally voluntarily resigned at the end of that school year, as did the two threatened teachers.

Religion is sometimes a source of problems at BIA boarding schools. The local leader of the Baha’i Religious Community in Sitka also happened to be a popular local radio announcer. He had asked if he could speak to the English classes on the subject of radio communication. I agreed to this, only to learn that he at the same time was proselytizing for the Baha’I faith. I learned so while observing one of his presentations; I told him, immediately after the class, to leave the campus, and that he might subsequently return only with written permission of the Superintendent. He did not object, and, personally, we remained friendly, as he well understood his “mistake.”.

Two other religious incidents occurred involving the Latter Day Saints (LDS). In September, a very large number of students from the Aleutian Chain area arrived at the school indicating to the school’s Religious Coordinator a change in religious affiliation from Russian Orthodox to LDS. The Religious Coordinator, an employee of the National Council of Churches, New York City, was puzzled by so many changes of religious affiliation from a single geographical area. He notified the students’ parents in order to verify the validity of the changes. As it turned out, none of the parents had approved the changes. Mt. Edgecumbe school policy allowed no change of student religious affiliation without written parental consent. Therefore, the Religious Coordinator changed the students’ religious preference to read Russian Orthodox. The school had not notified the Juneau Area Office of the preference change. At that time, the BIA Assistant Area Director for Education in Juneau, an active member of the LDS church, had learned of the preference change through the LDS Church. Having done so, he called the Superintendent, huffily, instructing him to fire the Religious Coordinator. (Ironically, the “ changed” students had continued to attend the weekly services of the Russian Orthodox Church even though they had had the religion affiliation “changed). Subsequently, we learned that LDS missionaries were very busy targeting the Aleutian Chain villages during the summer and had somehow managed to document the change of religious affiliation of the students without the parents knowledge or consent. Needless to say the Religious Coordinator was not fired.

Another incident also involved LDS missionaries and a teacher. A well-liked teacher invited several students to his quarters after school. The students were introduced to visiting LDS missionaries. We learned of this occurrence and confronted the teacher about the incident. He quickly admitted that he had done so. This teacher was a reformed alcoholic who credited his LDS faith with enabling him to control his alcoholism. When the missionaries asked him to set up the meeting with his students, he felt unable to say no to them even though he knew he was in the wrong as an employee of the Federal Government. I met with him once more, telling him explicitly that if he continued the practice he would be fired. I followed up our meeting with a memo to this effect. He, of course complied with the requirements. He was an excellent teacher who went on with a career in BIA, later, becoming the principal of a school.

Two student tragedies remain vivid in my memory. The first concerned a young man from Southeastern Alaska. One end section of Japonski Island, the largest of the Mt. Edgecumbe island complex, was exceptionally rocky. When the weather was stormy, as it often was, our male students would go there on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and play a game that was very dangerous. One big rock, just off the beach, was especially high and craggy. The raging waves would break off this rock, and as the water withdrew, preparing another crashing wave, the boys would run over to the big rock. The point of game was to make the trip to the big rock before a new wave crashed. The dormitory staff knew that this was not just a harmless game but a very dangerous activity. The boys were instructed never to go to this end section of the island. But, of course, some of them did go, surreptitiously. One stormy afternoon, a few boys were playing the game, and made a dash for the shore from the rock, all making it to the shore, except one. As they looked around, this boy was seen nowhere. The boys rushed to the dormitory to report that the boy probably had been swept away by the waves. Rescue workers went immediately to the spot of the accident but the boy was not found nor was his body recovered. This placed a sad pall over the entire school for a considerable time.

In January,1963, another tragedy involved a boy’s having lost his right arm in a laundry “extractor”. This piece of equipment revolves at a very high rate of speed in order to extract water from washed clothes. The particular extractor was a very old one left behind by World War II personnel. As a member of the School Safety Committee, I was asked, along with the Boys Vocational Supervisor, to investigate the occurrence. The following are extracts from the report we subsequently prepared for the Superintendent.

Mr. Huff (Dormitory Instructional Aide) was giving out passes for the evening library study when a student rushed into the second floor office and announced that a boy had just lost his arm in the extractor. Mr. Huff was reluctant to believe the boy but was soon to witness the victim in the doorway of the office, minus his right arm. Mr. Huff quickly took a clean pillow slip and wrapped the stump; picked up _____ and began to carry him to the hospital. He had student assist to accompany him and keep the pillow case compress tight against the stump to inhibit bleeding. He sent another student ahead to ring the hospital door bell to warn the nurse to prepare for a patient. Upon arrival at the hospital door the nurse inquired about the trouble and made haste to let them in when Mr. Huff said a boy had just lost his arm. The nurse very quickly set things right, phoned the doctor and from this point the boy was in the hands of the hospital.

Mr. Huff remained at the hospital for another two hours helping the doctors by holding the compress against the stump to prevent further bleeding.

Mr. Huff was commended by the doctor for his quick thinking and action regarding first aid and the accident.

Dormitory staff and students were also interviewed. It seems that a Dormitory Aide had visited the laundry room shortly before the accident and had told the boys to get on with doing their laundry. One student who was in the laundry room at the time of the accident had this to say:

The student and the victim were in the laundry room together. The victim called the student over to the extractor and asked him to watch him as he threw items into the machine while it was running. The victim first threw in a bit of plastic braiding and some paper. The victim then shut off the power, and used the extractor brake to stop the circular motion, and removed the plastic and paper. The victim started the extractor again and began to play by letting his hand touch the shirt while the machine was going at full power. The next thing that the student knew the victim had been pulled down and when he stood up he was without an arm. The student shut off the machine while the victim started walking toward the second floor office.

The student lost his arm and eventually was fitted with a prosthetic device.

One might think student pregnancies could become a significant problem of a coed boarding school. They were not. However, at one time a Senior student came to me saying his girl friend was pregnant. He told me of this in January of the year he was to graduate in May. At the time, the Superintendent’s policy was: Immediate expulsion of both students involved. It seemed to me to be an unwise policy to send both students home when the one was due to graduate in May. Therefore, I asked the young man to remain silent about “the problem.” Unfortunately, her doctor unthinkingly, casually told the Principal of the girl’s condition. The Principal wanted to expel both of the students immediately. The Area Office Social Worker was consulted; and she told Principal and Superintendent that the decision about leaving Mt. Edgecumbe was one that should be made by both students. The boy remained to graduate; the girl, a sophomore, went home. The couple married shortly after the boy’s graduation. Otherwise, the summer-month’s produced occasional pregnancies, those diagnosed soon after the girls arrived at school in August resulted in the girls being sent home immediately.

Prior to Mr. Dean’s becoming Superintendent, student consumption of alcohol was a major problem. Mr. Dean quickly made a hard-and-fast rule; drinking would not be tolerated; offenders would be sent home upon the first ‘offence’. He enforced this rule unfailingly. I was told by a Dormitory Counselor who had been at Mt. Edgecumbe for several years, that, previously, student drinking had occurred on virtually any day of the week. Often, as many as 20 boys might be drunk on, for example, a Wednesday night. During my time at Mt. Edgecumbe, mid-week drinking did not happen. Occasional drinking incidents occurred, but, invariably on week-ends, or most often, on Saturday night or on a holiday. I like to think that our student “Selective Policy” also contributed to the dearth of drinking incidents.

The 1963 Summer Program

In late April, 1963, I was asked to report the Principal’s Office. The University of Alaska had asked that I be allowed to do another Summer Program for Alaska Natives. The 1962 Summer Program was considered by the BIA and the University to have been a failure. The 1962 program was pedestrian in design and quality; and the unprofessional behavior of the BIA leader of the program, the Dormitory Head at Wrangell Institute, had demoralized the Program Staff. In fact, the Dormitory Head’s relationship to an Aide had continued at Wrangell Institute where an unpleasant incident had occurred involving the Dormitory Head, the Superintendent, the Aide and her husband. Both the Superintendent and the Dormitory Head were administratively removed from the school. The BIA apparently quickly concurred with the request of the University that I do the 1963 University of Alaska Summer Program.

Since the BIA paid for most of the program, it selected the topic “College Orientation of Alaska Natives.” With the change in Mt. Edgecumbe’s curriculum to support college attendance, it seemed appropriate to do something that might help students adjust to college-oriented curricula. Having been given the assignment, I immediately began working up a program. Based upon our experience at Mt. Edgecumbe School beginning in 1958 and upon our village teaching experience, the Staff (as well as my wife) thought the general theme, ”Who Am I?” would be an appropriate one for the summer program. The “Introduction” of the report generally describes the program. The full report is Appendix C.


The summer program at the University of Alaska for 1963 found the U.S.BIA working with college-bound students for the first time at this institution and for the first time in a summer program in Alaska. In previous years, summer projects have been aimed primarily at developing programs for students on the secondary or elementary level.

The central theme, “Who Am I?” served as the guiding principle in the selection and planning of content material and related activities. The program was planned as an attempt to assist the prospective freshman student to begin to find himself; to begin to question the “why” of his existence and to help him make his own very personal adjustment to the answers these questions might lead him to discover, particularly as they relate to college life in general and, hopefully, to the deeper meanings in his life.

The question of “Who Am I” would seem to be of consuming importance to all young people of college age, but most especially, it would seem to be so to the Alaskan native young person who is so often torn by what he sees as a dramatic conflict between the “old and the new”. This conflict is created in part by the cultural differences between the Alaskan native way of life and of the dominant culture of the United States. These cultural differences mean, in essence, that the Alaskan native student is being asked to compete in a culture which is different from the way of life which he learned in his home village. Under the circumstances, the importance of formal education has added significance in the life of the Alaskan native. The schools, as social institutions, have an added responsibility for instructing him in the values and skills indigenous to the highly literate and technologically sophisticated dominant culture of the United States. Furthermore, in order to successfully teach these values, skills, and essences to this special group of students, the teachers and administrators of Alaska’s schools must make a concentrated, determined effort to understand “who the young people are” in their own - - if not dominant at this time in history, certainly valuable - - society and thereby be ready to help them retain pride of heritage while they are at the same time coming to know the meaning of competing in a modern world. This is a large and demanding responsibility and one which can not be adequately met by school people unless they have an articulate understanding of the beginnings of Western society in general and of American society in particular. Many cultural values and elements taken for granted in the average middle class home of the United States are found to be very different from those taught in Alaskan native homes, This absence of some of the basic cultural elements of Western society which contribute to some of the standards by which the student is judged in the dominant culture means that the schools must do a more than adequate job of teaching knowledge and skills, but also in teaching the essences of the dominant culture of the United States. The absence of some of the dominant culture-elements from his experience and training certainly does not mean that the Alaskan native is therefore exempted from evaluation under criteria evolved in the dominant culture. The Alaskan native, like every other citizen of the citizens of the United States, is often assigned his social role and status based on his individual worth to the dominant society. Whether this should be the case is not a question. Moral and philosophical consideration aside, it is the case. An irreversible historical process is making it more the case every year. As a result, the Alaskan native must depend heavily on the knowledge and understandings he is taught in the schools of Alaska.

This great responsibility of the schools means that Alaskan natives must be encouraged toward high educational aspirations. They must be encouraged and helped to bridge the cultural gap between village and urban society so that it will be possible for them, if they wish to do so, to enter the fast-changing culture of the United States on an equal footing with other citizens. The BIA and the State of Alaska through the University of Alaska feels a great responsibility in assisting the Alaskan native to be successful in every phase of his formal education. As a group, the Alaskan native represents one of the largest stable human resources of the state and, unfortunately, a human resource which is only now beginning to receive attention regarding leadership potential. The citizens of Alaska can no longer afford to overlook the potential of these unique peoples. Effective education would seem to be the key to the successful development of this potential.

The theme, “Who am I?” lends itself admirably to the development of a summer program which may help the Alaskan native student make a unique success of his college life and, hopefully, of his life as a citizen in the modern state of Alaska and in the United States.

The program centered around the activities of twenty-one college capable Alaskan native students who elected to participate in the summer session at the University of Alaska. An original number of thirty students was reduced to this number due to pressures usually felt by young people to prepare financially for the coming college year. These twenty-one students are from throughout the state of Alaska: from Barrow in the north to Sitka in the south. They are graduates of public high schools and Mt. Edgecumbe High School which is operated by the U. S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. In all, eight different Alaskan high schools were represented in the program.

The students were invited to attend by invitation sent to the respective high schools during the spring of the year. (The information sent the students is attached in the Appendix of this report and may be read there in its entirety.) The program was presented to the students as one which would involve them in a regular college program by enrolling them in one course for credit and in one orientation course conducted by U. S. Bureau of Indian Affairs personnel. The course chosen for college credit was the freshman level anthropology 101 course.

The students were housed in University dormitories and lived under normal college dormitory regulations. They ate their meals at the University cafeteria and were situated insofar as is possible, during a summer term, in a college environment.

The anthropology course was taught by a member of the Anthropology Department of the University of Alaska and had an enrollment of thirty-nine students, twenty-one of whom, as has been noted, were in the Bureau summer program. The other students in the class were college freshmen and older, more mature students who wanted credit in beginning anthropology.

The textbooks for the anthropology course were those which are normally used during the regular fall and spring semesters: Hoebel, Man in the Primitive World and Readings in Anthropology by Koebel, Jennings and Smith.

The sessions conducted by the personnel of the U. S. Bureau of Indian Affairs represented the same time investment as did the anthropology course. The structure of this part of the program was such that the reading requirements also equaled those of a regular University course. The central objective of the six-weeks program was to develop the theme, “Who am I?” from historical, philosophical and psychological points of views in such a way as to lead the students to discover the correlative meaning of the total program.

Large group sessions were devoted to the historical and philosophical development of the theme while small group and individual conferences were provided to help the student learn more about himself in the psychological sense. Efforts were made to help the student coordinate the activities of the program and to relate these activities to the theme of the program. In the beginning, these sessions were highly structured but as the program evolved they became less so and the students were encouraged to pursue pertinent subjects and problems which grew spontaneously out of their activities and discussions.

Very few lecture-type sessions were held, for great emphasis was placed on the evolution of the kind of climate which encourages and allows individual to personalize and verbalize the problems and intellectual concerns coincident to their studies, thoughts and activities.

The historical development of the theme emphasized the study of the lives of individuals in the history of the western world who “found themselves” and were able to make important contributions to the development of mankind. At the same time, an attempt was made to provide the students with the beginnings of a knowledge of what Man has learned about the genesis of the differences in the world-view of preliterate peoples and literate peoples, and about the essences of these different world-views. The material used was chosen for readability as well as pertinence. Selections from the following books were used:

The Story of Mankind by Van Loon

The Making of the President by Theodore White

This Is My Story by Eleanor Roosevelt

The Greeks by Edith Hamilton

Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy

The Primitive World and Its Transformations by Redfield

During the philosophical development three levels of study were emphasized: (1) mythology; (2) the meaning of freedom and (3) the meaning of leisure time. Mythology was approached on a comparative basis and the classical mythology of the western world was compared to the mythology of Alaskan native cultures. The point being to demonstrate, in a philosophical and yet concrete way, how it is that all peoples have ideas in common, as well as different ideas, in this area. The further point of this study was to show how the mythology of a people lays bare in a very elemental way, the essential spiritual and philosophical thought-trends of that people.

The plan was also to have included the record album “Ways of Mankind”, but this was presented in the anthropology course so that, naturally, it was not used in the orientation program.

In addition, there was the study of world affairs which was designed to awaken the students to the world about them and to lead them to relate themselves to the rest of the world. Areas briefly studied were: Russia and Russia’s Satellites, Japan, China and India. This aspect of the program was worked out on a small-group presentation basis and included resource people from the University whose homes are in the various countries which were studied. These meetings were held once a week. Emphasis in this phase as well as in the other parts of the program was on independent study, summarizing, interpreting and relating, and presentation.

The leisure time sub-theme was developed in the following way: What is the meaning of leisure time? What has it meant in the villages in the past? -- (Comparison with some other preliterate cultures). What does it mean in the U. S. at the present time? -- (comparison with village attitudes toward leisure time in the present), What has leisure time meant to me (the student)? What shall it mean to me on this campus and in the more distant future?

Selections from these books were used:

The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant

“ The Grand Inquisitor” by F. Dostoyevsky (from The Brothers Karamazov)

The books chosen for this group to study, discuss and interpret were selected, keeping carefully in mind both the length of the time of the total program and the hours per day available to the students for study. Those books read in their entirety are invariably “easy” reading for high school graduates. Only selections from those books which would be “hard going” for the students if read in their entirety were used. The thought was that the emphasis should be placed - - given the time element and orientation nature of the program -- on general understandings and the verbalization of these understandings, both orally and in the form of some critical and interpretative short essays. Much effort was expended in an attempt to broaden and deepen the students critical facility,

The dates for the six-weeks session for the University of Alaska were June 24. - August 2 and the students who were to participate in the program began arriving on June 20. By registration day, all students, excepting one, had arrived.

The general arrangements for financial assistance were unique inasmuch as the students were given as much opportunity as possible to handle their own finances, This included, “pocket money”, which was released periodically during the program. Textbooks were purchased by the students from funds allotted each student at the beginning of the program. The books used in the Bureau portion of the program were all paperbacks and were furnished without cost to the student.

The time interval between the arrival of the first student and the first class was spent by the students in getting settled in the dormitories and in making visits to the city of Fairbanks. In general, the students were glad when classes began for they were beginning to find the great amounts of free time frustrating. They made arrangements to organize a recreation committee to help utilize some of the free time. Excess free time was no longer a problem after the first class meetings.

During the first week of the program the pressures of college life began to develop and related problems began to appear. The following is a summary and description of these aspects of the program which seemed most pertinent to the realization of the objectives for the program.

The first week of the anthropology class was devoted to the development of ideas related to the origin of the discipline of anthropology. This included an emphasis on the theory of evolution and the evidences of the evolution of man as substantiated by archeology.

The anthropology course met in the mornings and the week began with a reading assignment for the first part of the course. Student reactions to this assignment were varied. These reactions will be mentioned as they were encountered during the course of the week’s activities.

At the first orientation session the students were asked to write an autobiography, which was subsequently used during the program as a part of the background information utilized staff members in individual counseling sessions. The auto- biographies were well written and certainly afforded a mechanism for learning something of what the student thought of himself.

One of the main concerns of the students at the beginning of and during the program was the use of their leisure time. There were times during the day and during the week which presented a problem to them from their point of view for there was no one to organize them and tell them what to do. This aspect of college was new and startling to most of the students. The first thing they wished to do was to organize a recreation committee which would plan activities for the group. The committee was organized, met and planned a week-end dance for the first week. In addition to this, some of the members attended a meeting of the Fairbanks Native Association and were asked by this organization to participate in some of the summertime activities.

In addition to the previously explained Relocation Program, the BIA provided a loan program for American Indians and Alaskan Natives to attend college. Unfortunately, officials in charge of the program had a reputation for incivility toward Indians and Natives. Often, they approached each college student with the attitude that communicated: I suspect you will take this money and not pay it back. We are going to watch you carefully until you repay the Government. If you don’t repay, we will make your life miserable. In effect, the BIA loan officials tended to come across as traditional, hard-nosed, bill collectors, rather than as personnel interested in encouraging young people to complete their education.

The peculiar combine of the BIA College Loan program with the Relocation Program obtained to make it difficult for Native students to go to college, even for those who were, highly motivated. The Fairbanks Relocation Officer, knowing well enough the college orientation purpose of the Summer Program often quietly scheduled the students for interviews in the downtown BIA Offices even when such scheduling meant their skipping classes at the University. He looked upon the Summer Program as a great recruiting opportunity already paid for by the BIA Education Program; sited on his door step, rather a gift of high caliber candidates for “his” Relocation Program. Nevertheless, some of the summer program students chose instead to attend college, eventually earning their degrees; one from that summer eventually earning a Ph.D.

Shortly after returning to Mt. Edgecumbe in September, 1963, I was contacted by Professor Lee Salisbury of the Speech-Drama Department of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Lee phoned to say he wanted to develop a proposal for the (then) U.S. Office of Education. He wanted to borrow from our summer program concepts, and to build them into his program. Lee flew to Sitka-Mt. Edgecumbe and to spend time with Vinita and me to discuss the subject of a “College Orientation Program for Alaska Natives (COPAN).” Ultimately, Lee was funded for COPAN. COPAN continued, 1964 – 1967; though Lee actually included the 1963 Summer Program making it a 1963-1967 years long program (Salisbury 1971). Salisbury reported some excellent data on Alaskan Natives and higher education, and some specific comparitive data on COPAN students, and non-COPAN students. Over time, COPAN students demonstrated greater tenacity and resiliency of staying-power in College (see pp. 110-111 of the final report.)

Student Pride in Mt. Edgecumbe

In the only available scholarly study of American Boarding Schools, James McLachlan (1970) notes that former students either hated or loved their schools. The same might be said of Mt. Edgecumbe students. (The BIA operated Mt. Edgecumbe School, from 1947 until 1983, when it was turned over to the State of Alaska.) During my time at Mt. Edgecumbe I was aware of the pride some students took in aspects of Mt. Edgecumbe School. For example, the annual Senior Play was a highlight for the Senior Class. Those students who took part in the plays, directed by the Senior English Teacher, Eleanor Provance, worked hard at delivering a performance play of exceptional quality. We often tutored more than one student actor in our home. The Debate Team came to be popular among students. Annual participation in the competition in the Southeastern Alaska Interscholastic Association became a source of pride to all students. The “ TAHETA” Student yearbook was a treasured by all students. I have copies of the books from our years at Mt. Edgecumbe. Some students formed a dance band which succeeded well enough to have been selected to play for the Sitka Public High School yearly prom. The student body took great pride in the School’s Basketball Team. The students enjoyed the regular school-wide dances, the School Store; the School intramural sports program; the Annual Senior Picnic; the many School Clubs. A number of other school activities, large and small, of which I have listed but a few awakened student body pride and interest.

Shortly after arriving at Mt. Edgecumbe I completed my Masters thesis on the history of Alaskan Native Education. I also compiled and/or composed the , “ Edgecumbe Teacher Handbook,” (USBIA, 1959), completed in 1959. The Handbook was updated annually and became an indispensable aid to the School Administration and Faculty. I still have a dog-eared copy of the 1959 edition. The Handbook, provides a good detailed description of the school’s program. In February, 1961, the BIA Juneau Area convened a “Supervisor’s Training Session” at Fairbanks. It also fell to me to compile the Report on this session. And, there are the two University of Alaska Summer Programs of 1961 and 1963. Reports on the Summer Programs were excerpted and published in the fortnightly BIA Education publication, Indian Education.

The BIA’s Master Teacher Program made possible the promotion of teachers from the GS-7 grade to the GS-9. The GS-9 represented the usual pay increase as well as a higher pay ceiling. I was the immediate supervisor of 17 – 21 teachers, many of whom would qualify to be considered for the Master Teacher position. My job was to observe the teachers to be so considered, at least three sessions, write up my observations, and, finally, write a comprehensive summary, recommend that the teacher be promoted or not. This task, to be performed fairly, required a tremendous amount of writing. Writing is still necessary and valued skill that all Civil Servants use as often as ever, or so I am told by my two sons who are career Civil Servants.

* A quote from the “Introduction” to The Age of Belief, A. Freemanntle, G. Braziller Inc., New York, 1958.

Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution and is a part of the University of Alaska system.


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified March 20, 2008