October 14, 2007

Sowell the cultural critic

Navajo culture "frozen" because kids can't locate Pittsburgh


Anonymous said...

I found this in Indian Country Today, it's a letter from the teacher whom Sowell "apparently" spoke with.


Educating Sowell

Posted: July 18, 2007
by: Letters to the Editor

This comment is in reference to Suzan Harjo's article, ''Cultural heritage and family duty'' [Vol. 27, Iss. 4], about Thomas Sowell.

First of all, I am the ''white teacher'' Thomas Sowell was referring to in his article.

Secondly, I am irate over his gross mischaracterization of his five-minute encounter with us which, by the way, was not even on the rez, but was at Imperial Point at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a World Heritage site. These 12 14-year-olds had just finished an eight-day, 230-mile bicycle ride across some of the most rugged front and back roads and trails anywhere, in one of the hottest times of the whole year. If he really did ask one of the children about Pittsburgh - because I sure don't remember it, and I was standing right there all that time - it would have been completely oblique to the context of our being there, which was savoring the heady success of such a ride at the edge of the Grand Canyon itself.

Third, this two-month, 1,200-mile ride, called the Tour de Rez, is in its 17th year. It includes several groups of children, about 90 in all this year, and is a partnership with Youth Empowerment Services of Dine' Bikeya and many, many local chapters, agencies, schools and individuals. On one count, at least, Sowell is correct: We do promote Navajo culture as the vital foundation for personal growth. Our paths would not have crossed at the sheep camp we had just spent two days at that week, or the night this week where we stayed at another sheep camp high in the Lukachukai Mountains. Too bad, because as a public school teacher, I can definitely attest that the kids learn more about correct living from here than in Sowell's so-called modern society.

Lastly, I can definitely say that Harjo's characterization of his writing as speculative is totally true. Sowell's piece is about 10 percent correct and the rest is unfounded B.S.

Thanks again for setting the record straight, Ms. Harjo. I don't feel quite so used anymore.

Jim Crittenden

Kayenta, Ariz.

Rob said...

I hadn't seen this letter, so thanks for pointing it out.