Effects of Educational Inequality on Native American Communities


On average, Native Americans are the poorest communities in the country. While the US’ poverty rate averages at 10.5%, that of the indigenous people is at least 25.4% (Dawley 2020, 279; Him et al. 2019, 81). This is higher than those of Blacks and Hispanics which are 20.8% and 17.6% respectively (Gleason 2017, 7). The destitution is closely associated with poor housing and inadequate healthcare. Helplessness and hopelessness escalates the stress levels and subsequently precipitate domestic violence (Adams 2020, 83). Therefore, lack of the means of sustenance has multiple ramifications including the lowering of the degree of someone’s comfort, health, and participation in life events.

The root cause of the social and economic problems facing Native Americans is inadequate education. Parents in these communities have a low opinion of schooling, and this is partly due to the experienced they had while growing up (Silverman 2020, 521; Sykes et al. 2017, 218). Their children tend to be stressed and anxious when it is time to resume learning. This is because of the negative experiences they have had while attending classes (Heinzmann, Simonson, and Kenyon 2019, 25; Ransom and Winters 2021, 323). It is pessimism and inadequate governmental support which have led poor education among indigenous people and consequently the socioeconomic challenges.

Historical Origin of Illiteracy Among Native Americans

The government was mistaken to attempt forced assimilation of the indigenous communities into the mainstream society. This was done through relocation of families as well as compelling Native Americans to attend boarding schools between the 1860s and 1960s (Kosc 2020, 437). There were hardly any opportunities contrary to what the authorities had promised, and yet significant destabilization of their way of life was manifest (Lopez and Bobroff 2019, 123; Martín and Danner 2017, 185). The natives ended up associating formal education with maltreatment, and these views have been passed on to succeeding generations.

Unethical Practices Aimed at Native American Students

The idea behind boarding schools for Native Americans may not have been to facilitate their education. For example, there were no systems to account for what was going on in these institutions, and it is also difficult to determine the rate at which individuals successfully graduated (Beltrán et al. 2018, 113; Tom 2016, 715). According to Tsosie and Claw (2019), the aim was to contain the members of these communities such that they stopped being a threat to the mainstream culture (137). Had the objective been ethical, it is possible that the assimilation of the targeted group into the civilization that was being normalized would have been more successful than it turned out to be the case.

Historically, formal education has been traumatic to the members of the Native American communities. Sykes et al. (2017) argue that a significant number of students were tortured, molested, and punished brutality on flimsy grounds (110). Even though such kind of extreme treatment has stopped, the indigenous still feel that classrooms are not designed in their favor. For instance, the curriculum is designed in complete ignorance of their backgrounds and interests and hence they feel unwelcomed (Jason et al. 2019, 1927; Ransom and Winters 2021, 331). This is equivalent to giving them an ultimatum where they must abandon their culture or quit schooling.

While the federal and state governments supported the polices of displacement and boarding schools, the funds availed towards their realization were inadequate. As a result, schools were over populated and understaffed (Him et al. 2019, 73). The children lacked proper clothing and the resources necessary to for learning (Pearson et al. 2019, 30). The teachers were insufficiently trained, ill-equipped, and underpaid and hence they were unmotivated to address the unique obstacles the students from these communities faced (Martín and Danner 2017, 179; Stanger and Claxton 2018, 317). Therefore, this was a system where both the learners and their teachers were let down.

Historical Prejudice in Schools

It is also common to find photos of heroes from other communities hanged in classrooms, but images appreciating American Indians are hardly displayed. This is significant because the natives have no chance of talking about the champions from their own community with their peers (Beltrán et al. 2018, 110). In essence, worldview presented at school vary broadly with the perspective of Native Americans (Tsosie and Claw 2019, 139; Wellington 2019, 115). Everyone else seems to be accommodated, and only individuals from this appear to have been neglected.

A classroom is often a place that leaves Native American children in a dilemma between the need to identify with others and the attempts to safeguard their integrity. The problem leaves many of them depressed and unable to match the performance of their peers (Pember 2019). Instead of finding ways of helping these students, learning institutions have the tendency to blame the victims over their own failures (Connolly and Jacobs 2020, 6; Heinzmann, Simonson, and Kenyon 2019, 20). Dennis and Momper (2016) argue that there is a connection between the feelings of defenselessness and absenteeism, low achievement, and even dropouts (22). Lack of or inadequate education perpetuates the cycle of destitution.

Effects of the Problem

Native Americans’ extent of common knowledge is far below the national average. This has the consequence of making it hard for them to acquire the basic things people need in their daily lives (Green and Waldman 2018). For instance, unemployment is the highest in their communities, and so is the level of poverty (Torres 2017, 335). Many of them lack decent housing, and they also face unprecedented challenges accessing quality healthcare (Lopez and Bobroff 2019, 124; Stowe 2017, 245).

Pleasant et al. (2018) argue that these problems could be what causes more incidences of domestic violence among the indigenous than is the case in any other racial group in the US (421). Moreover, it has been noted that American Indians’ participation in democratic processes is low (Hodges et al. 2019, 129). That translates into their inability to influence government policies in their favor.

Effects of Inadequate Education on Unemployment and Impoverishment

The members of the Native American communities have hardly benefitted from the economic prosperity of the United States. On average, over a quarter of them live in abject poverty (Connolly and Jacobs 2020, 7). There are some cases, such as in Blackfoot Reservation, where at least 69% are destitute (Krupat 2018, 55). It is also noteworthy that three among the five poorest US counties are constituted of the Sioux reservations located in the South and North Dakota (Gram 2016, 251). All these indicators demonstrate that the indigenous face challenges which are unique in nature.

The main reason why there is a significant number of poor people in the Native American communities is because they lack the skills needed to establish well-paying careers. In a highly industrialized economy, the untrained have challenges finding employment (Pearson et al. 2019, 35). The opportunities which are available for such individuals are low-paid, and hence many people are unpersuaded to take them (Arias 2018, 619). The situation is likely to worsen as blue-collar jobs continue to disappear (Bialostok 2019, 14). While the government has been encouraging the citizens to pursue expertise in information technology, the indigenous who lack basic education may never acquire them (Britten 2021, 140). A different solution must be sought in order to empower the natives sufficiently enough for them to complete with everyone else.

Influence of Inadequate Education on Poor Quality of Housing

A notable number of Native Americans live in dilapidated and overcrowded houses. It is a typical sight in Indian reservations across the country, and Him et al. (2019) argue that they live in a manner that is comparable to those in poor countries (93).

The number of homeless and the under-housed has continued to rise (Torres 2017, 345). Those most affected blame their own governments as well as the federal authorities for failing to avail adequate funds to renovate and/or build new homes (Tom 2016, 720). It is, nonetheless, impossible for the state to meet the needs of everyone, and this is because resources are always limited (Adams 2020, 49). The real cause of poor housing among the indigenous is lack of education which results into high unemployment rate. Solving this and other problems effectively necessitates the facilitation of quality education.

Contribution of Inadequate Education on Violence Against Children and Women

Lack of education has left significant portions of Native American communities without protective and social networks. This situation has exacerbated stress levels among individuals, and in turn increased incidences of domestic violence against children and women (Kosc 2020, 460). Over 83% of indigenous people report to have experienced serious abuse, especially from their husbands and fathers (Gram 2016, 260). On their part, 73% of men have suffered psychological aggression from their intimate partners, and this is thought to have contributed towards the physical abuse of the latter by the former (Krupat 2018, 23). Those who are frustrated and helpless tend to victimize others at a much higher rate than individuals perceiving their lives as satisfactory (Dawley 2020, 295). Quality education would bring contentment in life as one would have the potential earn a decent living.

Inadequate Education as a Causal Factor of Poor Healthcare

A significant number of Native Americans have limited access to quality and effective healthcare. This has led to disproportionally high rates of HIV/AIDS, obesity, and diabetes (Britten 2021, 131). Illiteracy causes individuals to have serious misapprehension about well-being, and there are instances where people perceive ailments to have been caused by curses and other supernatural events (Bialostok 2019, 16). Consequently, the sick tend to avoid proper medical attention and instead resolve to seek divine intervention.

There is a disproportionately small number of medical professionals who are Native Americans. The federal government has established the Indian Health Service (IHS) with a significant budget of about $6 billion (Arias 2018, 620). However, it may never work effectively without including individuals from the indigenous communities (Gleason 2017, 11). The only way this could be achieved is by ensuring that they have quality basic education in order to have the basis for completing medical courses in college.

Challenges in Exercising Voting Rights

It necessary for Native Americans to enhance their participation in the political process. That way, they would succeed in influencing policies on water and air quality, status of their communities’ health, housing, and economic opportunities (Silverman 2020, 522). They could also guard their sovereignty a lot better than when the national leaders with power to erode the status of reservations are elected without indigenous people’s voice (Hodges et al. 2019, 130). At the moment they hardly participate and a lot of issues are determined by people they did not elect (Connolly and Jacobs 2020, 4). It is important for the government to redress challenges affecting American Indians’ education so that they can attain the competencies which would enable them participate in national affairs.

Past Solutions

The indigenous people are the most ignored minority communities in the US. Americans are used to hearing about the problems experienced by Blacks, Latinos, and immigrants (Lopez and Bobroff 2019, 122). Nonetheless, only a handful of them are aware of the fact that the Indians suffer a lot more than any other group as a result of economic injustices, inadequate housing, and health disparities (Pleasant et al. 2018, 423). Their educational needs have traditionally been ignored, and other stakeholders have tended to shift the blame on to the students from this group.

Government policies are oftentimes influenced by political considerations and because Native Americans are a small minority, their interests tend to be overlooked. For instance, they are about 1% of the population, and they are widely dispersed in reservations across the country (Sykes et al. 2017, 208). That means they have insignificant sway even at the state level (Ransom and Winters 2021, 325). Consequently, they tend to be forgotten with relative ease and it usually seem as if they are contented with their situation as they hardly protest like the members of other communities do.

Affirmative Action in Schools

While the authorities have come up with measures to increase the numbers of indigenous children studying in White majority schools, these institutions have done little to accommodate the interests of their new clients. For instance, few teachers are familiarized with the culture of American Indians, and this creates conflicts as the two parties interact in class (Wellington 2019, 111). Indeed, there has been several instances where students were disciplined and/or suspended over what the administration termed as waywardness (Tsosie and Claw 2019, 138). An example includes not raising their voice as the educators would have expected.

For affirmative action to succeed, it is imperative to ensure that the kids feel supported. Jason et al. (2019) argue that when individuals think they are being excluded or treated unfairly, they are likely to underperform academically (1926). Chronic absenteeism has been observed among Native American children (Stowe 2017, 247). It is apparent that teachers, parents, and other stakeholders need to cooperate in addressing the underlying causes of such disengagement (Beltrán et al. 2018, 113). If the problems persist, they end up dropping out and perceiving schooling as irrelevant in their lives.

Deprioritizing Test-Based Performance Evaluation

In response to the underperformance of Native American children, schools have often eliminated test-based performance evaluation. Those which did not tended to downplay their importance in the hope that it would ease pressure on the learners (Green and Waldman 2018). Some teachers have indicated that it is impossible to test someone’s knowledge through examinations (Pember 2019). Besides, they lead to a comparison among the students and in several cases, the indigenous learners have perpetually scored worse than any other racial group (Dennis and Momper 2016, 23). Teachers have argued that individuals are less likely to lose confidence if they are not being evaluated in such a manner.

Nonetheless, examinations are beneficial as a tool for teaching and learning. For instance, they facilitate a framework through which one can analyze their abilities (Stanger and Claxton 2018, 317). On their part, teachers may easily detect any flaws in their approaches and identify areas which may need to be elaborated differently or re-taught (Heinzmann, Simonson, and Kenyon 2019, 23). In addition, the kind of confidence that develops as a result of good performance is sustainable (Martín and Danner 2017, 175). By eliminating testing, therefore, schools have missed an opportunity prompt the inner drive that could have propelled the students to self-actualization.

Proposed Solution

The federal government has a responsibility to plot a strategy that is clear enough to improve the educational experiences Native American students have. By encouraging them to attend and remain in school until the end of their programs, the inequality gap would be narrowed significantly. Sykes et al. (2017) argue that jurisdictions which have instituted well-thought through policies have systems which offer learners the best outcome (210). Canada used to have the same kind of problems the indigenous in the US are experiencing, but they have since been addressed.

British Columbia resolved to develop a plan that catered for the needs of the community. Among the factors considered included people’s culture and individual aspirations (Tsosie and Claw 2019, 139). So far, Aboriginals in this province are performing a lot better than those residing anywhere else in the country (Wellington 2019, 121). The United States’ government must come up with ways of instituting culturally relevant and responsive teaching in order to enhance the level of interaction with the course materials.

It is imperative to have teachers who display cultural competence as this makes Native American students feel appreciated. This practice is particularly helpful for students in lower grades, and the motivation they acquire may propel them to continue with their remarkable performance while in college (Silverman 2020, 523). The education process ought to be validating and affirming, and this facilitates the acknowledgement of the students’ diversity and individual strengths (Stanger and Claxton 2018, 320). In essence, a majority of the students attending class should leave feeling that it was worth the effort. That way, they would always look forward to the next sessions.

The teaching process should also be multidimensional, which means that it ought to encompass various areas of interest to the learners. For instance, in addition to gaining academic competence, teaching and learning ought to empower the students into gaining confidence and the desire to continue pursuing their dreams (Jason et al. 2019, 1930). There are a lot of temptations to drop out of school, but they can be mitigated if the individuals are persuaded to see the exercise as personally beneficial.

Instituting Rigorous Standards and Including the Teachers During Policy Formulation

The government must come up with a framework that facilitates rigorous standards for teaching and testing. Instead of downgrading standards, low performing schools as well as individual students must be held to the same criteria as the achieving ones (Stowe 2017, 245). Besides, the job market does not discriminate, and hence failure to ensure that learning is comparable sets some of the learners for failure in the future (Adams 2020, 54). Torres (2017) argues that countries which have standardized programs across the board have a much broader cross-section of their society outperforming those where common measures do not exist (331). Indeed, evaluation has a positive impact on excellence as long as all stakeholders learn from and improve on the results.

No matter where the student comes from, they should be assured that the government is doing everything possible for them to receive the same kind of treatment as everyone else. A sound and standardized education police is indispensable, and teachers have a major role to play in realizing this goal (Heinzmann, Simonson, and Kenyon 2019, 25). There should be a system where the educators on the ground routinely inform their superiors of the challenges they are facing and the opportunities they recognize (Tom 2016, 721).

There should be an interaction between the two parties on how reform should be undertaken. There are many instances where superiors issue orders without the consideration of the viability of their implementation (Martín and Danner 2017, 185). This has often resulted into frustrations, and it is partly the reason why there is a high turn-over rate of educators in schools whose student body is predominantly Native American.

The debate about minimum wage is usually polarizing as it pits the conservatives against progressives. The President should encourage a bi-partisan initiative where the traditional bickering is avoided. Teachers in charge of schools that are majority Indian are already faced with unique challenges. Apart from their regular work, they are compelled by the needs to invest significant amounts of time and effort to learn a different culture (Beltrán et al. 2018, 113).

Additionally, they must come-up with a special way of delivering instructions. The US as a whole is already facing shortage of educators (Pearson et al. 2019, 33). If those working in institutions where there is the demand for extra effort are not adequately paid, their motivation wanes and they decide to leave. To mitigate this crisis, they should be paid competitively and supported any other resources they need.

Raising Awareness and Supporting Families Financially

Some families are so poor that children often lack meals and clothing. Others live in overcrowded dwellings such that a learner lacks the space needed to complete homework and to relax (Green and Waldman 2018). The federal government should conduct community outreach where those in dire need are identified and supported with basic needs. Although this is an effective way of reducing educational inequality, it is a suggestion that is ideologically opposed to the views of some powerful leaders (Him et al. 2019, 85). Therefore, the President must appeal to both sides of the political divide, and this may be possible if enough details are availed to the stakeholders in time.

In addition to financial and material support, the authorities should raise awareness on the value of education. Pember (2019) argue that most Native Americans doubt the significance of schooling in their lives. This could be because they hardly see anyone from their communities establishing a successful career (Dennis and Momper 2016, 25). However, learning transforms lives of Americans from diverse communities. There are scientists and a few Members of Congress who are of Indian origin (Ransom and Winters 2021, 326). Their success in life is attributed to the achievement they had while acquiring basic education. Therefore, it is erroneous to assume that schools are meaningless.

Proposed Legal Reforms

Every Student Succeeds Act should be reformed as some students are yet to benefit from the initiate. Its core pillars should, nonetheless, be retained including the demand for improvement in test scores and using scientifically proven teaching methods (Pleasant et al. 2018, 417). In addition to giving parents a stronger voice, nonetheless, the government should assess their financial statuses and support them accordingly (Lopez and Bobroff 2019, 121). In absence of such an approach, Native American students may fail to concentrate in class, and they could face challenges completing their homework.

The proposed solutions are cost intensive, and hence the President should petition the US Congress to allow for an expanded discretion on how to spend on education. Nevertheless, those tasked with the responsibility of facilitating learning must be responsible not just for the resources allocated to them but also the performance of the children (Kosc 2020, 441). Consequences for nonperformance should include the ultimatum to undergo re-training. This measure has been implemented in British Columbia in Canada, and it has facilitated the realization of the desired results (Gram 2016, 261). Stakeholders in the US should learn from other jurisdictions where success has been attained. With Every Student Succeeds Act, progress is being assessed on a yearly basis (Hodges et al. 2019, 134). The President should now start an initiative where evaluation is done half-yearly.

Expected Outcome

While schooling is oftentimes challenging for children, it is still important as it increases the chances of not just finding but also keeping a well-paying job as well. Indeed, there is a strong correlation between an individual’s level of education and opportunities for advancement in the job market (Gleason 2017, 12; Pleasant et al. 2018, 417). By ensuring that Native Americans are acquiring competitive skills, therefore, the government would effectively be redressing the significant rate of impoverishment in these communities.

Having a good job boosts an individual’s level of confidence and self-esteem. The sense of purpose employment creates makes one to have a sense of self-worth, and they are also satisfied with life (Krupat 2018, 45). Consequently, incidences of domestic violence against children and women in Native American communities would be reduced if individuals get proper basic education and acquire competitive skills (Dawley 2020, 289; Hodges et al. 2019, 134). Moreover, the indigenous would be less likely to abuse alcohol as this usually happens due to frustrations with life (Connolly and Jacobs 2020, 6). Whenever an individual has something to look up to, there is a reduced probability that they would engage in self-harming behaviors.

A significant number of Native Americans are currently living paycheck-to-paycheck. That leaves them with nothing to save, and this is partly the reason why their homes have fallen into disrepair (Arias 2018, 621). Indeed, they do also forego things that individuals from other communities would regard as basic needs (Britten 2021, 131; Jason et al. 2019, 1933). If they had well-paying jobs, they would have the resources needed to improve their lifestyles. While Bialostok (2019) suggests that they need to be trained on how to track their spending, this is actually not the cause of their financial problems (18). The basis of their predicament is the low pay relative to their needs.

Having Native Americans adequately involved in public health is imperative because a professional from these communities would have a unique understanding of the issues their fellow members go through. Although the launching of IHS was a good idea and the agency should continue, it has so far underperformed because (Heinzmann, Simonson, and Kenyon 2019, 35). An overwhelming majority of its staff members are White, and Martín and Danner (2017) argue that these medical practitioners are without the background information necessary to make an appropriate intervention (185). Proper education will facilitate improvement in healthcare and bring about the feeling of togetherness among the indigenous.

Education is the basis upon which democracy survives and succeeds. Without it, people would find it challenging to interact with their leaders and express their views (Beltrán et al. 2018, 113; Pearson et al. 2019, 35). Indeed, illiteracy has been cited as one of the main reasons why Native Americans hardly participate in the political process (Lopez and Bobroff 2019, 122). Good education will increase their common knowledge, and this will enable them to highlight their needs and aspirations effectively.


Native Americans have traditionally suffered as a result of being forced to go through an education system that contradicted their way of life. Initially, boarding schools were actually being used as a tool to divide their communities and to compel them to integrate into the mainstream society. Because the goal was not to impart knowledge, the institutions failed in helping the indigenous to improve their livelihoods. For instance, even those who went through the entire system remained inadequately prepared for the job market, and hence they could not secure and keep decent jobs. The proposed solutions will enable the members of these communities remain gainfully employed and hence afford their basic needs with relative ease.


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