In 1971-72, 23 village freshmen entered Bethel to go to high school. Two years later, 17 of these 23 students had developed school-related social and emotional problems during their freshman or sophomore years. Eight of the original 23 students remained in Bethel, and none wanted to stay there. Of these eight students, six wanted to go to high school at home if a high school were built there, and two wanted to go to high school in a different place. Over their 2 years in high school, the eight remaining students had gained on the average 0 years in reading achievement.

The study of what happened to the 23 students who went to high school in Bethel provides insight into the fundamental causes of educational problems in regional high schools. On the surface the Bethel Regional High School had many educational advantages. Bethel had, to some extent, community control. It had a new $8-million regional high school and dormitory complex. The dormitory director hired by the local school board at the beginning of the year was one of the most talented and experienced in Alaska. The new high school principal, who had a doctorate in education, had arrived in Bethel a year early in order to become familiar with the community and the background of the students. The curriculum for the regional high school was developed by a local steering committee composed of the principal, teachers, and community members. The curriculum was built around the latest educational methods—an open school, individualized instruction, behavioral objectives, and Native heritage courses. What happened in Bethel?

Influences of Town Environment

The severe problems village students developed in Bethel resulted not so much from what happened to them in school but rather from what happened to them outside of the school in the town of Bethel.

One of the students in our groups developed severe social problems in the town before school even opened. According to the boarding home program coordinator:

As soon as she entered Bethel, she got involved in heavy drinking. She raised hell in the hotel. There was a knock-down, drag-out drunken fight. The police took her out. She felt bad about the drinking because "my daddy told me not to."

The probation officer said of another student in our group:

She's seeing me now because of all the drinking, and she was involved in two attempted rapes. A Bethel man tried to get into bed with her in her boarding home, and that blew her mind for a week after.

While our information is limited, in every case we were able to follow, village students' problems dramatically decreased when they went home or transferred to a different school. One student in our group, who had committed serious criminal offenses in Bethel, was reported by his probation officer to be doing fine in the village. Another girl in our group, whose sojourn in Bethel included stealing, sexual promiscuity, drinking, and chronic truancy from school, had none of these problems after she was transferred to a nearby village which had a ninth grade. She wrote that she was happy, liked her boarding home parents, and had never been absent. A group of village students who had terrorized the Bethel dormitory by forming a mini-Mafia did not cause trouble at home. The village teacher wrote that those returnees "did well in school here even though records indicated that they had caused many problems in Bethel."

In their evaluations of their high school experience, the village students almost unanimously held the view that their problems were caused by what happened to them while living in the town. One student who went home to the village to "get my head together" said:

The Bethel High School wasn't bad but the Bethel city because there was lots of liquor around, and I felt so tempted that I can't leave it alone.

The village students' belief that pressures in the town were the basic cause of their problems is supported by research in social psychiatry concerning the causes of mental health problems.1 The social environment in which an individual is placed can be a central factor in the development of social and emotional problems. As common experience suggests, a person's psychological health depends not only on his personal strength but also on the degree of external problems and pressures to which he is subjected. Given strong enough pressures, most people would probably develop serious social and emotional problems. Village students in Bethel were often under very strong negative pressures. As one student in our group explained:

In Bethel, they would be mad at me and tease me a lot because I'm not drinking. Like my first cousin say why don't you drink with me and be happy. But I like to obey my parents as long as they live. They tell me what's good and what's bad. Oscar, you know, he's been my friend so long and he's been forcing me to drink. He was looking for me with a rock to hit me if I didn't drink. Some people say they used to be like me and never touch liquor. They tell me it's fun. You'll be doing that after a few years.

A type of environment especially likely to cause social and emotional problems is a "socially disorganized" community. This term refers to a community where institutions, especially those of social control, have broken down. Typically, there are high rates of many types of social problems such as alcoholism, suicide, and homicide. Social disorganization frequently occurs in towns undergoing rapid social change. Bethel and other regional towns in Alaska, with their rapidly expanding population and high rates of social problems, exemplify such socially disorganized communities.

These towns are very poor places to locate high schools for village children. Yet, most new high schools enrolling village children have been placed there because these towns are expanding population centers. Ironically, boarding schools for middle class children both in other states of the U.S. and in England have traditionally been placed in rural areas because it is believed that children should be removed from the "vices of the city" until they can be taught, if not to sin at all, at least to sin in moderation. Yet, in Alaska, the absurdity is that Native children are taken from small villages and placed in regional towns, which usually have much higher rates of social problems than the surrounding villages.


Bethel is a town of 2,416 people, of which 77 percent are Eskimo. The high income and high status jobs in Bethel are usually held by whites who are employed in government agencies or who own local businesses. A survey of Bethel residents found that 40 percent of the Native adults had incomes under $1,800 per year, and an additional 6 percent earned virtually nothing during the year.2 Most adults are involved to a limited extent in subsistence hunting and fishing.

Social environments in Bethel differ substantially depending upon which social group residents belong to. According to many Bethel residents, there are three major social groups.3 First, there is a small group of old, established Eskimo families. These people tend to be community leaders who are highly involved in agency activities, Native organizations, and civic projects. They view Bethel as a dynamic town where constructive social change is occurring. They are very busy people who are often away from Bethel attending meetings and carrying out agency business. Their lives rarely intersect with the lives of the village students who go to Bethel for high school.

Second, there is a group of whites who work in government agencies (for example, teachers and medical personnel). While some of these whites involve themselves in community activities and stay for many years, most are transients and stay within their own group. Typically, they are appalled by the severe drinking and violence in Bethel. One teacher said,

I get shocked that I am no longer shocked about what is happening here. You take it as a matter of course, the murders, the wife beating, the finding of a body at the bottom of the beach.

Most of these professional people view Bethel as a way station, a transition point, a town in which they wish to invest little.

Third, there are the village people who have recently come to the community. These include stable families and college students who have obtained good jobs. These also include families with severe social problems, persons who reportedly have been "exiled" from their home villages for causing serious disturbance, and unemployed young men who drift about town and become involved in drugs and drinking. It is with this village group (many of them unstable) that the village high school students come into most contact and who have the most influence on them. These are the people they know from home, the people who have time for them, and, in the case of the girl students, these are the attractive older men whom they date.

Influences of Disturbed Companions

Many problems of village high school students in Bethel resulted from their contact with the group of disturbed young men in town. These young men supplied students with liquor and, in some cases, with drugs. The rate of village high school students using drugs was higher in Bethel (about one student in six) than in any other school studied. As a counselor described the working of these processes on one student in our group:

Her first cousin was heavily involved in drugs and they fell in love. She got into marijuana, but he was on hard stuff. There was nothing you could do with her. She dropped out and came back three times. Every time I'd face her with something she had to do, she'd make a vague suicide threat like "How do you know I'll be around in five years?"

The girls in Bethel developed the most severe problems because they fell under the influence of these young men. As one teacher described a confused student:

The social life in Bethel has thrown her for a loop. She can't decide whether it's more important to be out every night or to attend school. She is pressured a lot by the older boys.

Many of these unemployed young men hold indiscriminately anti-white attitudes. Some village students adopted these attitudes from their friends or boarding home parents. One boy in our group learned to hate whites under the influence of a radical white boarding home parent just as he adopted his boarding home parent's habit of smoking pot. Some girls acquired such attitudes from their older boy friends. As one boarding home mother said:

She came home dirty and said she wanted to change clothes before going out for a date. The guy (a University of Alaska student who had flunked out and returned home) said to her, "What are you, a gussuk?" The boys say to girls, "Why should you study all this garbage? We were better off before the gussuk came." Or one time, I asked a girl to send her date home because he was drunk, and the boy said, "You're going to do what a gussuk tells you."

Some village students got into trouble in Bethel when their parents or relatives came to town to party, and the students joined them. The village students were sometimes disturbed by seeing a side of their parents that most parents are able to keep hidden from their children. In the case of one student in our group:

His mother has been terribly disturbed since his father died. She came into town, and when he went to see her he found her drunk and in bed with another man. She tried to kill herself. He had accepted her religious morality at home and this got him terribly upset. He got too drunk to handle and the police were called. He was sent to jail and then the sleep-off center.

Bethel is a political, educational, medical, commercial, and amusement center for about 57 widely diverse villages in the region. The children these villages send to Bethel High School also differ widely. Many of the villages are dry and well-organized while others have severe alcohol and other social problems. Many of the villagers maintain a dry home town by going to Bethel to party. A large proportion of the arrests made in Bethel and a large proportion of people who spend the night at the sleep-off center are not Bethel residents but people from neighboring villages. Thus, the people from villages in the area view Bethel as the place you go to have a good time and blow off steam. Since this is what happens in Bethel, most parents do not want their children to go there. As one social worker put it:

People call this the 'sin city of the Kuskokwim.' Bethel is where people come to do things you can't do in the village—get drunk or carry on an affair. Parents are horrified to send their kids to this place.

Boarding Home Families

During 1971-72, village students in Bethel lived with boarding home families in the community. When village students were placed in good boarding homes, they were protected to some extent from the social problems of the town. Two students in our group who did quite well in Bethel, for example, had brought the village and its standards with them in the person of an older woman sent in by the village to take care of them. Ultimately, however, this woman's family became involved in trouble in Bethel, and the woman did not wish to return.

In many other cases, however, village students became involved in the drinking and violence which occurred in unstable boarding homes. One student reported:

I was living with my first cousin. Then there was this trouble. They go out, sometimes three times a week, and then when they come home they start fighting and drinking. And I didn't like that. I couldn't study. Then I got into it because I didn't want my first cousin to get bruised. And then he took some weapons out and he wanted to kill himself and I got scared.

The boarding home coordinator could not be selective in choosing boarding homes because there were too many students who had to be placed. The coordinator rated only about a third of homes used for students in our group as "very good" (see Table 2-1). If either the parent or the student became dissatisfied with the home situation, the student was transferred to another home. This happened often; almost half of the students in our group transferred during the year.

The problems of village students in Bethel homes, where the majority lived with Eskimo families, were as serious as the problems of village students in Anchorage homes, where the majority lived with white families. The problems were just different.

Students in Bethel suffered fewer problems related to cultural differences in such things as time schedules and eating habits. In one Bethel home visited, the boarding home student came in after the family had eaten dinner and casually helped himself to the food left on the stove. The same event could have provoked a serious parent-student crisis in Anchorage. But students in Bethel were more likely to be placed in homes with severe drinking problems and fighting.

Table 2-1. Boarding Homes in Bethel During
Sample Students' Freshman Year 1971-72

(Number of Students — 22)


Percent of Total

Number of Boarding Homes Used per Student


1 home



2 homes



3 or more homes






Ethnic Group of Boarding Home Families Used














Boarding Coordinator's Rating of Home


Very Good









Less than Adequate






Number of Students Who Planned to Return to Live with Some Boarding Home Family for Sophomore Year (based on available re-application)

2 out of 10



Although some of these homes were hard on the village children, the students were in some cases just as hard on the homes. In Bethel, the village students were considered adults, and many boarding home mothers worried that a sexually attractive young woman in the house would disrupt their marriages. The boarding home students' exploits often caused great trouble to the families. One student in our group, for example, tore up her boarding home when she was drunk. Another student, in an encounter with the family children, held them off with a knife. Since Eskimo families in Bethel, like village families, may not have a tradition of controlling the behavior of adolescents, the boarding home parents frequently did not know what to do when control was needed. In these instances, they called the coordinator to get the student out. As one boarding home parent wrote the coordinator:

This boarding home student has been drinking and carrying on. Take him out of here. He should spend the weekend in jail. He's a bad boy. We don't want him anymore.

In short, while the social problems of the town caused trouble for village students, the large numbers of adolescents, in turn, increased the problems in the town.

The Bethel Regional Dormitory

In 1972-73, a dormitory opened in Bethel next to the new Bethel High School. The dormitory is a modern facility with rooms designed for four students, a student canteen, a well-furnished recreation room, and student lounges. The dormitory was under the control of the Bethel Regional School Board, through a memorandum of agreement with the state Department of Education. The community school board hired the dormitory director and had final authority and policy-making power. The professional staff consisted of the dormitory director, recreation director, counselor, nurse, and food service director. Due to the housing shortage in Bethel, the professional staff lived in the dormitory with the students. The dormitory attendants were predominantly Eskimos who lived in the town.

Of our original group of 23 village students, 14 returned to Bethel as sophomores and 11 entered the new dormitory. Living in the dormitory, however, did not reduce students' problems in Bethel. School-related social and emotional problems stayed at the same level for the remaining students in our group, even though the remaining students tended to be stronger than those who had dropped or transferred to a different school.

The following study of Beltz Dormitory deals specifically with the causes of problems in dormitories. We will summarize what happened in the Bethel Regional Dormitory to point out that basically similar events took place that year in both dormitories despite different personnel, different types of control, different facilities, and different students. The same problems occurred because the causes of these problems lie in the fundamental social structure of these types of large dormitories.

An initial policy of student freedom combined with the presence of a minority of disturbed students allowed the minority to set the tone, demoralize the staff, and cause serious problems for the rest of the group. The educational philosophy of the dormitory staff at the beginning of the year was based on the freedom in education movement—the belief that freedom would teach self-responsibility. One staff member said:

These students are responsible adults, and they will act like adults if you treat them like adults.

However, some students entering the dormitory were initially disturbed, and such a policy allowed them to terrorize the rest. At one point, a group of students who had seen "The Godfather" organized a Mafia-type organization in the dormitory and abused other students.

Many other students succumbed to the drinking pressures of the town, and the result was widespread drinking and fighting in the dormitory. The students, despite their drinking, felt that drinking was wrong and that if the staff did not try to stop them, the staff "don't care even we drink."

Of the eleven dormitory students in our group, five left the dormitory, with three going home and two moving to the boarding home program. One explained:

I could never get any sleep. I didn't want to do any more scolding of my friends, so I left.

Dormitory activities became blown-up by gossip; the town and the students' parents became alarmed at the word-of-mouth stories of drinking, violence, and sexual exploits in the dormitory. Everyone in Bethel, whether or not they had ever walked into the dormitory, seemed to know exactly how many drunks were lying in the hall, how many times the police had been called, how many bottles the trashman had taken away, and how many cases of venereal disease had occurred.

The town had also stigmatized and stereotyped the boarding home students the previous year. It was always the boarding home students who were the troublemakers and low achievers who were bringing school standards down. However, the dormitory consolidated the village students and made them more visible, so the town's stereotyping of dormitory students became much worse. Some students in our group, reacting to the stereotyping, began to take pride in their identity as drunk toughs. As one joked:

This dorm is great—a bar at one end and a whorehouse at the other.

The problems in the dormitory, made worse by continual gossip, alarmed village parents. One village board member said:

We send in our kids to learn. We want them to learn. Our sons get drunk. And our daughters get bothered by drunk boys.

Many parents sent for their children, especially the girls, and the remaining students felt they might also go home. A girl in our group commented:

Once my sister gets home and tells my parents what is happening, I guess I'll be going home too.

The reaction of the town leads to a new law and order policy which antagonizes and confuses both the students and the staff. After the first director resigned, due to health problems (to which the pressures of the dormitory contributed), the school board selected a new director committed to a law-and-order philosophy. The new director, in explaining his policy, stated:

Before, it was an ultra-permissive situation. We have now moved our drinking problems (students with drinking problems) back to the boarding home program. There are going to be more rules and they will be enforced.

The expulsion of their friends from the dormitory, together with this abrupt change in policy, antagonized the students. They complained that they were not wanted in the dorm, that there was a lot of subtle pressure to make them leave.

The dormitory staff, which had been hired by the old director, similarly distrusted the new regime, and some even cooperated with the students in evading the director. Staff attitudes were exemplified by one staff member who bragged:

He came back from Anchorage and I didn't even lift my head to say 'hello.'

Both staff and students glorified the old dormitory director and begged him to return.

Everyone gave up trying to solve the problems and just attempted to hold on until the end of the year. Two tragedies occurred. First, a dormitory student who had been drinking with friends died after falling down and passing out in the snow. The official reason given for the death was heart trouble, but doubts remained among many students and staff members. Second, the new dormitory director shot himself to death in the dormitory. One of the most disturbing aspects of this suicide was that the dormitory students did not seem to be disturbed. After all, suicides were common in Bethel. Instead of worrying about why it had happened, the students were interested in such questions as who would take over the dormitory and whether the food would improve.

The staff members who had arrived to take charge following the emergency were puzzled but relieved by the students' response and asked the students to help them survive the remainder of the year. Recognizing an actual need to behave responsibly, the students did just that. Drinking problems dropped substantially; morale improved; and the year ended without additional problems.

The School Program, 1971-72

In 1971-72, Bethel was a traditional high school which had many of the characteristics educators believe to be central to problems of cross-cultural education. The principal of the high school had just arrived from out of state and knew little about Native culture or the community. The curriculum was standard, consisting of such courses as English, world history, math, and shop.

An atmosphere of impersonalism and lack of purpose pervaded the school. The school staff often did not know who students were or where they were. Indeed, when we asked about the students in our study group, the staff sometimes told us that certain ones had left school or had even died. Later, we often found these students wandering around the hall and learned that they simply hadn't been to class for some time.

According to peer group values, it was "cool" to cut class and cool to refuse to cooperate. These peer group attitudes were obvious in our testing program at the end of the school year. Only in Bethel did students stamp their feet, giggle, and fart to disrupt the test. Others walked out during the test. The Bethel teachers who assisted with the testing were resigned to such problems and said nothing could be done.

Our observation of classroom after classroom showed the same pattern—a lack of academic standards and apathy on the part of teachers as well as students. Many students were absent or came to class long after the bell had rung. When there was an assignment, few had completed it. The teachers made few demands on the students, either for higher-quality academic work or more prompt attendance. They were concerned mainly with filling up allotted school time, which they did by assigning their classes to watch movies and listen to records. In a typical freshman class attended by the village students in our group, students straggled in 15 or 20 minutes after the class had begun. Of the ten students in the class, six were present, and two of these had done the assignment. The lesson began with the teacher tentatively showing the class some pictures and asking them to make a one-sentence statement about each picture. There was little response. The teacher explained to me that she was using the pictures because the students were afraid to talk and she hoped to get some response from them this way. Their next assignment was to write in their journals. She promised the students an A if they wrote something and an F if they did not.

While this pattern was typical, it is important to note that a few effective teachers did conduct excellent classes despite the prevailing apathy in the school. These successful teachers seemed to have several practices in common. They knew the students personally outside of the classroom. They demanded attendance, and when students skipped their classes, they would personally find out why by stopping the students in the hall and asking where they had been. In such classes, student interest was high. For example, in biology, the class was conducting an experiment with fruitflies. The class period was spent showing students how to sex type the fruitflies. The students were fascinated and asked many questions. The teacher joked with them, often making reference to their personal lives. The teacher had seated his class at three tables, with each group working in a different way because he felt that certain students did better with certain types of instruction. The teacher explained that he gave homework and that the students liked it because they felt that they were accomplishing something.

In sum, the village students were comfortable in Bethel High School. Rarely did we see the fear and tension and the rigid posture and hiding in the back of the room so frequently seen in Anchorage. However, both teachers and students felt that the students were learning nothing.

Our statistics on achievement gains during the year suggest that they were right. On the average, village students in Bethel High School made almost no gains in reading achievement and gained only half a grade level in language achievement.

We feared that the students' disruptive attitudes during our testing program may have invalidated our test results. Consequently, we obtained the results of the State-Operated Schools' testing program. These tests had been administered in the classroom, and teachers reported no special problems. However, these tests results showed that the village freshmen did even worse.

The Bethel Regional High School, 1972-73

With the opening of the new Bethel Regional High School, everything was expected to change for the better. As one school board member described general expectations:

The opening of the high school was second only to the second coming of Christ.

There was a modern school plant and a new high school principal, who had spent the previous year in Bethel planning the school program with a committee of both teachers and community members. The principal had succeeded in unifying the formerly apathetic teachers into a team with high morale committed to an innovative education program. The dormitory director said:

Those teachers at the beginning of the year were like locomotives waiting for a race. I have never seen teachers do anything so together before.

As an example, the Bethel faculty, disregarding professional privileges, waded knee-deep in the mud to move the furniture into the new school. Still, the new school had its problems, such as not receiving the library books they ordered and having to shut down a month during the middle of the year because of freezing pipes.

The New Program

The program developed for the Bethel Regional High School consisted of the newest concepts in open and relevant education:

Failure of the Program

At the end of the school year, this innovative program had fallen apart. The modular scheduling, together with the philosophy that students should be free to come to class if they found the class interesting, resulted in an absenteeism rate approaching 50 percent. The dormitory director explained:

With the modular scheduling, the kids can't tell you what classes they're supposed to go to. They are scheduled differently every day of the week. They have large blocks of free time in the middle of the day and they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. The kids never study. I wanted to have a compulsory study hall for kids who were failing but they had nothing to study.

The school administration substantially increased school attendance simply by telling students they were expected to attend class. At this point, absenteeism returned to its previously high but not outrageous level.

The innovation of giving students credit for work completed rather than course grades was not working. Too many students were obtaining too few credits to progress to the next grade. The principal said of one student, "At this rate, it will take him 20 years to get out of high school."

The open-entry, open-exit individualized program did not meet the approval of the school liaison and village parent evaluation committee. The group recommended homework and said the teachers should devote more of their time to directing teaching activities with children and rely less upon materials and teacher-developed learning packages.4 Some students in the individualized program were also dissatisfied about the lack of friendly group life. One said:

I don't like it very much. They never have you in groups.

Many students and village parents also complained about the irrelevance of the Native culture program. One student in our group asserted that he needed to learn how to survive in college, not on the tundra, and furthermore, if he went on the tundra, he knew enough to take along a compass. Another student in our group said that the Eskimo arts program was nothing but basket weaving. What he liked about the Bethel High School curriculum was the printing program. Many village parents and Bethel parents complained that the principal had put only the radicals on the curriculum committee. A Bethel mother said:

The silent majority wants subjects taught, not survival and Native arts and crafts. When I go back home (to a neighboring village) and people tell me, 'What am I going to do? I send my daughter into Bethel for high school and they send her back only a basket weaver?'

The new principal was demoralized, both over the failure of his program and the difficulties he and his family were having living in the town. He primarily talked about how he had sent out over a hundred job applications and stated:

I am getting out of here next year if my family has to live on food stamps.

The teachers were shaken and puzzled as to what had happened. The school board was upset, and one member said:

This is an experimental school. They've been experimenting on our kids.

The students were disgusted and complained that they were not learning anything. One student in our group said "they hardly teach here." Another asked us to help him transfer because "I can't get to college from here." We found it difficult to learn much about achievement gains because of the high absenteeism and drop-out rates. Only seven students were available for testing.5

Bad Teachers Are Not the Problem

Most observers blamed the problems in the Bethel High School on "bad teachers." The teachers, they said, were in Bethel only for the money and did not care about the students. This was not really true, however. At the beginning of the year, the teachers had been committed to the new program and had spent many hours planning their classes. But as the year progressed, many members of the school staff became victims of town and school environment just as the students had.

Our interviews with teachers (and other research6) suggested that salary was only a minor consideration in the teachers' decisions to teach in Bethel. Most teachers were motivated by the adventure of teaching culturally different children as well as by the desire to escape larger cities for an exotic wilderness where they could hunt and fish. Bethel, however, provided none of these satisfactions. The students' absenteeism and lack of progress did not reward teaching efforts and many teachers gave up. Nor did Bethel fulfill many teachers' visions of an exotic wilderness. While the village children in the area liked the flat landscape where there were "no trees to block your view," many teachers "hated the mud flats and the days of clouded-over gray." Bethel with its stores and cars seemed to the teachers much more like an ordinary American town than an interesting village. Yet, it had few of the conveniences and entertainments of an ordinary American town.

Teachers were also angered and demoralized by being under constant attack by Bethel's radical faction. One teacher recalled:

At that first orientation meeting, this guy got up and said, 'Native people can hire and fire. If I see you downtown before school is out, I will fire you. If you pressure our kids, I'll have your ass.'

Such attitudes may have been part of the reason teachers made few academic demands on the students. While the teachers denied it, several Bethel students told us that their teachers were afraid of the Native leaders' children.

In addition, the town's health problems sapped the teachers' energies. One teaching couple expressed a common view:

Usually we are healthy, but now we are sick enough to stay home at least once a week. When we came out here, we had great ideas about helping people, but now we just want to stay healthy and get out.

While many exceptional teachers and students survived the destructive pressures of Bethel, many others were discouraged by their lack of teaching progress, continual attacks by town residents, health problems, and lack of amusement. According to the school staff, until the teacher surplus made transfers difficult, about 70 percent of the teachers transferred each year. The high school had six principals in 6 years.

A number of teachers in Bethel believed that the problems in the town, especially over the long winter, lead to a "Bethel paranoia." One teacher said:

Whites deteriorate in Bethel. They get depressed and weepy and irrational and start writing their memoirs. Some teachers were disturbed about the destructive personality changes they saw in themselves and felt that they were losing their sense of values. Our requests to school staff to evaluate village students' adjustment over the year supports this view. Even after giving a long account of the problems village students had experienced during the school year, the Bethel school staff frequently rated the students' adjustment as "good."


Using very modest criteria of success,7 the Bethel High School program failed 96 percent (22 out of 23) of the entering 1971-72 village freshmen. Only five boarding home program graduates of the 19 village students graduating from Bethel from 1970-1972 entered college, and only one of these succeeded.8 At a cost of considerably over $5000 per student, the major result of the Bethel High School program was to create social and emotional problems, not educational achievement in village students.


1 See A. Leighton, "Is Social Environment a Cause of Psychiatric Disorder?" In Russell R. Monroe, G.D. Klee, E.B. Brody (Eds.) Psychiatric Epidemiology and Mental Health Planning. Washington (1967) 337-345.

See also C.C. Hughes, M.A. Trembley, R.N. Rapoport, and A.H. Leighton, People of Cove and Woodlot: Communities from the Viewpoint of Social Psychiatry. Vol. II. The Stirling County Study of Psychiatric Disorder and Socio-cultural Environment, New York, Basic Books, 1960.

2 Michael Rowan, Rowan Group Report, 1972.

3 The social structure of Bethel was vividly displayed in the school assembly in the cafeteria during the 1971-72 year. At the top of the bleachers sat the high-status Bethel Eskimo students from old families together with the white students. The others milled around at their feet with the village boarding home students huddled close to the door.

4 Leo St. John, "Educational Needs of Students Within the A.V.C.P. Corporate Regions, as Determined by Recent Assessments: A Preliminary Summary and Implications for the Bethel Southwestern Regional High School's Continued Development," Unpublished Paper, Bethel Southwestern Regional High School (February 18, 1973) p. 10.

5 These seven students gained on the average a .58 grade level in reading achievement, but most of the gain was attributable to an unusually high score made by one student. With such small numbers, these results provide little information.

6 See W.G. Ross and A.G. Westgate, "Northern Teaching: Incentives and Motivations," Arctic, 26:2 (1973) 160-162.

7 Our criteria of success of a high school program for a village student was that the student (1) stayed in the program, (2) did not develop severe or moderately severe school-related social and emotional problems (mild school-related problems are not considered school failure), (3) gained at least half the expected amount in reading achievement.

8 Our criteria of college success was completing 7.5 credits while maintaining a 2.0 grade point average. See Karen Kohout and Judith Kleinfeld, Alaska Natives in Alaska Higher Education, Institute of Social, Economic and Government Research. 1974. (forthcoming).


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