The North Carolina advisory board has rejected a previously approved charter for the Old Main STREAM Academy. According to The News & Observer, the Native American charter school was intended to service indigenous people. The board rejected the charter based on its focus on “red pedagogy,” a term that was popularized by professor Sandy Greene in his book, Red Pedagogy: Native American Social and Political Thought. Red pedagogy emphasizes the mistreatment of Native Americans by the United States government.
While the advisory board acknowledged this was indeed an unfortunate part of US history, its concern was that basing a curriculum around this philosophy of the book would be divisive instead of inclusive. Board member Lindalyn Kakadelis commented upon her review of the book, “I’ve got to say that everything I found was divisive instead of bringing unity.”
Old Main’s leaders argued something different was needed to reach Native American students who have lower test scores and higher suspension rates, on average than their white counterparts. Brenda Deese, an Old Main board member asked that the needs of the students be considered, “What I can tell you is this: There are abilities among American Indian children. … Historically this state and the United States have not met those needs now. All we’re asking for is a chance.”
While proponents for “red pedagogy” influenced curriculum feel it would be relevant and possibly reach marginalized Native American students, the board felt it would be isolating for students of differing backgrounds. “What are you going to do if a white child comes?” Kakadelis said. “Or a black child comes? Or a Hispanic child comes? I know your heart would be to grow them as leaders, too, but that’s not what your mission statement says,” The News & Observer reported.
Deese responded that Old Main would not discriminate, “I work in the public schools. I would never discriminate. But I also understand that if we don’t do something different, the schools are going to continue to fail.” The advisory board suggested that Old Main revise their application. They suggested the removal of the emphasis on “red pedagogy” to provide a more inclusive experience for any student that might attend Old Main as a public charter school.