Through personal experience and observation, Mr. Wilson Gorman, an adult educator from the Navajo Nation, has developed a model for understanding Navajo attitudes. This model is to be considered a "work in progress" serving both to inform instructors and students and stimulate discussions about Navajo attitudes. He has created five categories of Navajo attitudes and beliefs: Staying, Optimists, Undecided, Pessimists, and Leaving.
Each of these groups is described by their relationship to their dwellings, parents, land, livestock, language and music as well as other characteristics. All of these categories are discussed from Mr. Gorman's perspective.
Staying: Dine, who are perceived as S taying, live in a house or hogan located on a large area of land on their reservation and have livestock including cattle, sheep and horses. Their parents are traditionalists. They speak Navajo and little or no English and listen to Navajo music. Traditional ways of living are practiced; a family member may be a medi cine man. Individuals are active in community development, have some formal education, take care of aging parents, and are middle aged or older.
Students in the Staying category are students with whom teacher-created materials are going to have a significant positive impact. For this group, curriculum materials will help fill the "potholes" and smooth the previously mentioned curriculum road.
Optimists: These people live in houses or trailers on small pieces of land, have live stock, and probably work somewhere as well as maintaining livestock. They speak prima rily Navajo (80%) and understand and speak some English. Musical preference runs to ward country and western. Optimists are committed to the traditional Navajo way of life, believe in tribal government and law, are responsible for parents, see potential opportuni ties for making a living on their reservation, and are going to inherit family property.
Undecided: These members most likely live with their parents or other family mem bers, do not have Navajo language, land or livestock. Their parents are probably a mix of the five category possibilities. The Undecideds ' musical tastes cover a variety of styles. These are often middle-born children who have problems with the family, law and community.
They feel they cannot measure up to family expectations and are labeled as failures. The Undecided group consists primarily of young people who do not know who they are, or how they want to live their lives.
Pessimists: These individuals have no home and live with their parents or other fam ily members. Pessimists may have the promise of family land in the future, or already have land. They work in the dominant society's economic system and/or have some formal education, and are 50/50 speakers of Navajo and English. Their musical interests run to ward country and rock. Pessimists want to stay on the reservation, but believe education is better off-reservation. They doubt the value of tribal government and laws, have mixed feelings about Navajo culture, may inherit family property in the future, and are young.
Leaving: Individuals who are leaving may rent or live with parents. They have no land or livestock, and their parents tend to be well educated. Leaving people speak 100 percent English and listen to contemporary music. They have received some high school education off-reservation and do not recognize Navajo culture. They are young and like the life-style of the dominant society. Their parents acknowledge better opportunities outside of the reservation, and these young people will seek careers outside of the reservation.
What Does This Say to Adult Educators Working with Navajo Students?
Information about Navajo students' attitudes can assist adult education instructors to work more effectively with them. It appears that Staying students may benefit most from adult education instructors who know the Navajo way, speak fluent Navajo and also, to some degree, understand the dominant culture. Due to their world view, Optimists and Leaving students are more likely to enroll and complete the GED with less conflict or diffi culty than the other groups mentioned.
Of the five groups, Pessimists and Undecided students provide the greatest challenge for adult educators because self-concept is often a serious problem. Students in this group may have mixed feelings about their personal identity and how they are going to live their lives. For these students, adult educators can provide cultural information and activities that may help the students make decisions about the directions they want to take in the future. A Navajo adult educator observed that young people on the reservation do not have enough responsibilities and do not learn responsibility to themselves, family and the tribe.
Adult educators can help Navajo students who need assistance work toward stronger self-concepts by helping students build self-esteem, accept responsibility, and work toward their educational goals in a culturally relevant context.
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