Teaching for the Test
How hard could it be for a top teacher at an elite high school to win the coveted National Board certification? You'd be surprised. He sure was.
"Do you think they're ready for the quiz, Ms. Bain?" I deadpanned.
"Sure," replied my partner, Jen Bain, a history teacher with whom I shared this class of 50 kids. The students' nervous smiles froze as we walked around the room, distributing quiz papers.
No one did too well, of course, which was the point. In a school year marked by the regional observance of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, North America's "first" settlement, none of our students knew about the people who had lived here for centuries before the European colonists arrived. To be honest, their teachers didn't know much, either.
Together, we learned as we went. We discovered that there are eight recognized groups of Native Americans in Virginia, but the reason most of us only vaguely recognize tribe names such as Pamunkey or Mattaponi is that Walter Plecker, Virginia's state registrar from 1912 to the mid-1940s, had essentially wiped them from the census by vigorously applying to Native Americans the "one-drop rule" originally designed to deny voting rights to blacks. One drop of Indian blood, and you didn't exist.
To kick off the canoe project, we invited an expert in primitive technology, who strode through the halls clad in Davy Crockett buckskins. After he made fire in the school courtyard four different ways without a match, one student wrote in her canoe notebook, "Maybe Native American technology wasn't so primitive after all."
Now we know why Virginia's tribe's are seeking federal recognition. It isn't because they aren't true Indians. It's because their status as Indians was voided by prejudiced white men.