Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chugach Programs successful?

It is a well known fact that the high school graduation rate in Alaska is below average compared that of the lower forty-eight. In Anchorage a group of high school students discussed what they are thankful for; many said “Opportunities.” These students are part of the Chugach School District’s Voyage to Excellence Program, formed by the Chugach Alaska Corporation. This is a wonderfully beneficial program that brings Alaska Native, as well as rural, students from all parts of Alaska to Anchorage where they are taught about life, how to plan their future, and prepare for graduation exams. In its 10th year, this program has achieved great success, with a phenomenal 98% high school graduation rate. Compare that number to the 2006 statewide graduation rate for Alaska Natives of 45%, the lowest percentage of any ethnic group in the state, according to the state Department of Education, which is already below Alaska’s overall graduation rate of 60%.
Unfortunately, because the program has limited funding provided by the state and grants, the program can only take 150 participates each year. Why is this? If the program has such a high success rate, why is there not more money going into it? As sociologists, do you think it is because they are a minority, so most of the state money and grants go towards privileged students? Is it that those in charge have expectations of failure for Alaska Native students, or hold negative stereotypes of Alaska Natives – having children at a young age, or the tendency towards consumption of alcohol that forces them to drop out? Or is it something else?
Some might think that this program is taking away Alaska Native culture, because it forces them to leave their villages and travel away from their traditional homes and ways of life. But this program does the opposite. It provides Alaska Native students the opportunity to succeed where they have not been so successful before, in education. Culture norms and values are passed down from generation to generation. However this program is not about taking away their culture but help educate the next generations with skills that can be used both in cities and back home in their villages.



  1. As a rich state, I think Alaska has enough money for the program; especially it is a program for the future of Alaska. But to answer the question why there isn’t enough money going to the program, I can think of: discrimination against minority groups which can be count as racial discrimination. We have to face the existing structure of the society, as you said in the post, much of the money flows to students who are more privileged with their race and social status. The negative images of Alaska Native are playing one other important role here. Some say that why waste money on them when they only drink all day and live on welfare for their life. We can not just break down the systemic oppression and look at one piece at a time. The interrelated discriminations prevent us to try to solve one problem without considering all other ones. Trying to get money for the program may help for a while, but to solve the problem from the root, to provide equal opportunities for ALL students, we have to change the unequal society from its root.

    As to the continuous of culture, I do think that one need to look at the world to understand the self. We are social beings, what and how much our culture values depends on how the outside world receives us. To connect with the world through education is to build a bridge for the outside world to see the Alaska Native culture, that’s when the culture is evaluated.

  2. This proves to be a very interesting topic. Over the years I have watched many videos in sociology classes or have been able to relate to them with a sociological mindset. The images that always have the most sociological influence over me are the ones that have to do with the acculturation of young kids and their education. In reading this post, the very end struck me as odd because in the videos I have seen, this is how the acculturation starts and continues. The dominant white society thinks that they know best and are helping to educate those that are not like them, when perhaps it is a privilege of the oppressor not to see what is really going on. In my Psychology (YES PSYCHOLOGY) seminar class there was a video where someone, whether he be a priest or other religious leader I am not sure, was giving a seminar on ALASKAN (IM SORRY I CANT SEEM TO TURN OFF MY CAPS BUTTON… I APPOLIGIZE FOR THE BOLD LETTERING) CHILDEREN AND THEM BEING TRANSPORTED TO THE MAIN CITIES FOR THEIR EDUCATION. THE PILOT CLAIMS THAT THE CHILDREN CRY ON THEIR WAY TO SCHOOL BECAUSE THOSE NATIVE TO THE CITY CONSIDER THEM OUTSIDERS BECAUSE THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY CONSIDER TO BE THE PROPER CULTURAL ETTIQUTE. THEN ON THE FLIGHT BACK HOME AFTER THE SEMESTER IS DONE, THEY CRY AGAIN BECAUSE THE PEOPLE IN THE VILLAGES ALSO CONSIDER THEM OUTSIDERS BECAUSE THEY HAVE ABANDONED THE WAY OF THE VILLAGE. I WOULD BE CURIOUS TO KNOW AND UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THIS CHUGACH PROGRAM, IN A LEGAL SENSE. IF THERE IS ANY SORT OF BACKING FOR THE LACK OF MONEY BEING AWARDED TO THE PROGRAM. WHERE EXACTLY DO THESE CHILDREN FIT IN? WHILE INSITIUTIONS IN THE CITY THINK THAT THEY ARE TRYING TO HELP THEM INCREASE THE QUALITY OF THEIR LIVES, THEY GET REJECTED BACK IN THAT PLACE THEY CALL HOME FOR SUPPOSIDLY PUSHING ASIDE THEIR TRADITIONS. I WOULD ALSO BE VERY INTERSTED TO SEE WHAT KIND OF CULTURAL TRADITIONS ARE BEING INTEGRATED INTO THESE PROGRAMS IN CHUGACH FOR THE CHILDREN THAT ATTEND IT.

  3. I had never heard of this program before and I think it sounds amazing. Any school that can get a 98% graduation rate, even at its small size, is worth looking into. I would be especially interested in the social networks and support that the students are provided to encourage their success- something perhaps that other public schools in Alaska could learn from? I’m not convinced that the sole reason the school isn’t getting funding is due to discrimination- I would be curious to see what sort of community support there is for the school itself. How popular is it among the families that are sending their children there? Some families may be wary of sending their children to Anchorage, as I imagine many parents would be if used to a smaller, more close-knit environment. It’s too bad that this sort of a program couldn’t be implemented in locations closer to student’s homes- in recognition of the fact that city life may not be consistent with one’s traditional way of life. To move from somewhere remote like a smaller Alaskan village with all of its cultural and social intricacies to a city like Anchorage may not be as helpful to some as it is to others. I think that we need to look at what the social/cultural/educational differences are that are causing this huge rift between the 98% rate and the 45% graduation rate.

  4. While discrimination may be an underlying factor here, I agree with Subterranean that it may not be only issue. Public schools are largely funded through local property taxes. The chugach program is funded through grants and state money. This program may also be far more expensive to maintain, but it goes far beyond what a average high school education provides. Only 150 students are allowed in the program per year, so it would be interesting to see how many students are applying to be in the program (if that is how the process works). Perhaps by keeping the program small, it provides a better atmosphere and better quality of education for the students involved.

  5. Reading this article, I am torn. I understand bubble's need to ask the question of why a seemingly worthwhile program is not receiving adequate funding for producing the staggeringly successful graduation rate of 98%. My first deduction is that those in power wish to maintain the status quo; that is, keep those in the lower echelons exactly there, so they do not challenge or take the positions of those who already have them and "deserve" them.
    However, what my mind ponders most is what is suggested at the bottom of bubble's blog. Although some would say that this program is bad because it takes mostly Alaska Native children away from their homes and villages, it is not because it allows them to be more "successful" in an arena where they have had difficulties achieving success before.
    Who decides what success is? Granted this program does teach skills that are essential to most individuals who choose to participate in the economy and general way of life as understood by those who live in the Lower 48. But a lot of these skills are not necessary for those who choose to live in the village. White society has decided that the proper way to live is to go to school, graduate high school, go to college, and become a "productive member of society." One can argue that this is not the course that many people in Alaskan Native villages choose or even need to take. The cultural way of life for those who live traditional and subsistence lifestyles is vastly different compared to the United States' capitalistic economy and generally understood choice of lifestyle. Who says because people in villages choose not to become educated in the ways that White America has deemed to be the right ones, that they are unsuccessful? They ARE, in fact, successful - in the ways they need to be in order to survive where their cultures have thrived for thousands of years. It's very ethnocentric of American society to judge Native Alaskans, and all those who choose to live in the village, as unsuccessful. Although I admire, and value what this program is doing, I take issue with the idea that it is helping these students to be "more successful." I would value this program even more if it taught not only the skills listed in the article, but also had a strong focus on Alaska Native culture - its preservation, and a desire to instill a strong sense of pride in those few who are fortunate enough to attend.

  6. #9. Students will possess the work ethics that enable them to be self-directed, determined, dependable, and productive.

    6 of the 9 ethics mentioned in the goals for their students are already a normative lifestyle for the children who were raised in the village for this era and going to a city school. So I can understand the 98% success rate.

    As far as the funding goes, I understand that the districts have to ration out a certain amount of money for each school.

    Unfortunately, the politics of each district receiving funding for their schools have to follow a certain path to keep their working order in balance, which eventually keeps those minorities oppressed whether it be native oriented schools or small public schools.

    Anchorage is a very conservative city where many corporate giants are located and many of their head honchos have families where their children attend public and private schools. The funding goes where the other portion of the costs are being donated (corporate donatiosn) to keep the system from crumbling.

  7. I agree that this sounds like this program is beneficial. Riding off of Shopaholic, I don't think discrimination is the issue. I would raise my eyebrows if the students were African American, Hispanic, Caucasian. etc. This program is for a short duration with amenities that you don't find in the public or private schools. I would be interested in seeing a financial report that outlines the financial obligations associated with housing, transportation and day to day activities as well as the selection process for canidates.

  8. I don't understand how drama mama thinks that discrimination is not an issue in this case, but would be if it were African-American, Hispanic, or even Caucasian students. Native Alaskans still continue to suffer intense racism and discrimination in this state. Unfortuntaely, although stereotypes of all minority groups continue to be prevalent, living in Alaska, I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone make a racist Native joke or reference without anyone so much as batting an eyelash in reaction. Although some progress has been made about combating racist stereotypes in our institutions - educational, political, etc. - it still seems to me that the oppressive dominant groups have a strong interest in maintaining the inequality of the status quo. I do not think it is too absurd a claim to say that it is very likely that discrimination is at play here. Those in power do not want to give up their position, so they must continue to feed the public a (incorrect) perception about certain minority groups, in this case Alaska Natives. A perception that many of us are all familiar enough with that I do not need to enumerate it here... I do not necessarily argue that discrimination is the main issue at the heart of this matter, but I think it irresponsible, as sociologists, to discount the idea.

  9. Sociologig, please re-read my comment as well as Shopaholic's. I said I don't believe that discrimination is THE issue. I never said that it wasn't AN issue. My point is based on the amenities, durations and avaliablity of space. I would raise my ebrow at the program regardless of what race or ethnic group attended the program. Hence, I would be interested in financial documents.

  10. Some rousing discussion here! Thanks for participating. This comment section is now closed.