Many factors for female students success

FROM THE READERS, Jan. 19, 2012

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Re: "Lost boys" (Dec. 1, 2011): As a retired educator (14 years teaching elementary, 17 years as principal, all in southern San Juan County, Utah) I have some observations to contribute to the topic of why Navajo females in school, college, and the workplace do so much better than Navajo males.

This is truly the 800-pound gorilla in the Navajo Nation living room.

1. I want to validate your cultural comments and your interviewee's comments about auditory seat learning, time, and abstractness.

2. Girls are typically about a 1 to 1-and-half years ahead of boys in cognitive development by the time they start kindergarten.

3. In my days, children entered school speaking limited-to-good Navajo, or none at all.

Many children were not expected to respond verbally to instructions given in any language, only physically. Conversation was an adult thing.

Many children entered school with very little verbal background in any language, and had to learn English in school. This proved more difficult for the boys with their cognitive development difference.

4. By late first grade, children are expected to read for meaning. This requires an integration of the functions of the brain's hemispheres: The right brain is full of images, the left contains the language coding/decoding functions.

In integrating these functions, the brain translates coded images into visual images, creating meaning. Done abstractly, visual images are literally created through text by association with other visual images.

The connective tissue between the hemispheres is called the Corpus Collossum. In the female brain, the Corpus Collossum averages 50 percent thicker in cross-sectional diameter than in males.

Function reasonably follows form, giving females the big advantage in the ability to see abstract symbols and translate them into visual images.

By 2nd grade, meaning is critical to reading. Boys, who often tend to be hanging on to early learning by their fingernails anyway, tend to "fall off the bus" here.

5. While all humans are predominantly visual, many professionals in brain science say the female brain is more disposed to auditory activity than is the male.

And social factors include:

1. Returning from the Long Walk with a society disrupted and a reservation life expected, the female roles changed little - farming, livestock, birth and children, and domestic issues.

The men were left without most of their traditional roles - raiding, trading, defense.

The medicine man, rather than a family role, became a community role for hire.

Men were expected to take up farming and a larger role in livestock. The big culture shock was school.

2. The 60s was a time of transition for Navajos. The nation was getting too crowded for all or even most to continue the subsistence livestock/farming lifestyle.

Many adults had little or no schooling, which limited employment, so the Great Society was born, with its welfare system in which a woman got a lot more money and benefits if there were no able-bodied man at home.

My friends who were social workers during this time have heart-rendering tales to tell of children imploring their mothers to let Dad go back to his family so that they, the children, could have the kind of things their fatherless friends had.

3. The rise of feminism in the mainstream culture further devalued the male. While it might have been a benefit in the mainstream culture, the Navajo male was getting "kicked while he was down" by feminism.

4. Affirmative action laws with teeth - we would expect these to help the Navajo male.

Confluent with the rise of feminism, however, the minority female became the "gold standardæ for employers, as they could work toward their racial and gender quotas with just one hire. (Don't let anyone tell you there are no quotas in hiring or college admissions.)

In summary, the Long Walk aftermath socially displaced the Navajo male in his occupations much more than the Navajo female in her occupations.

The Navajo entry into the 20th century in the 50s and 60s was closely followed by:

1. The Great Society with its rewards for fatherless families.

2. The rise of feminism in the mainstream culture, and

3. Tough affirmative action laws in workplaces and universities.

Navajo males have struggled to find a place in the modern world. Many have succeeded. Many have not. Social policies have consequences, often unintended.

The term "lost boys" also refers to the male children of polygamous societies, who are typically expelled when they reach the age to support themselves. Perhaps these people have already determined that there are too many males anyway. Hmm, connections?

Al B. Clarke
Blanding, Utah




DUI article counter to children's teachings

This letter is in response to the article printed by Cindy Yurth, "Diné College official sentenced for DUI" (Jan. 12, 2012).

Enough is enough! What are you trying to do to my community of Tsaile and Diné College? I've lived here all my life and I am saddened and upset by people like you putting our community down, putting the college down, and our great assets to the college down.

Our goal here is to help our children to be successful, to be close to home, and to learn all they can. I tell my children to be kind to one another, treat others the way you want them to treat you. I teach my children that everyone has feelings. I encourage them to gain knowledge from others as well as pass on their knowledge.

I don't teach my children to talk bad about other people. What kind of example are you setting by talking bad about a person in your writing, for what reason, and why do you do it time and again?

You don't live in my community. You are not the one who is here to encourage our children to be successful. There are high rates of bullies in the education system and here you are encouraging bullies to be bullies with your negatively focused writings. Stop this childish behavior among adults.

Everyone in their life one time or another has made a mistake. We learn from our mistakes and make improvements from them. Why are you bringing things up that happened in the past and certainly do not have anything to do with Diné College and the success of our students?

I don't know what your intensions are, but I know I am not alone in feeling this is downright inappropriate. How can you sleep at night knowing that you talk bad about someone? This is not the teaching we instill in our children.

Abraham Bitok is a good person. He does a lot of good things for the college. He is here for our children and has high standards for our children's education. He works hard with and for our students, with the staff, and the community. He also works with our public school here in Tsaile and has consistently supported our community parents.

The article you printed is a personal matter and it should not have been brought to the public's attention. Is this selective discrimination? The negative images you paint portray our community like it's a bad place, and the negativity is not helpful to our students or our nation.

Anjeanette Beyale
Tsaile, Ariz.

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