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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Kayhi Needs a Tlingit Class
By Peter Stanton


March 25, 2013
Monday PM

I would like to make a serious, concrete suggestion for Ketchikan High School: Get a Tlingit class. It could be just one period, but Kayhi needs a class teaching the Tlingit language.

Admittedly, there are a number of obstacles to providing a class in Tlingit at Kayhi. The first is finding a will among the superintendent, school board, and community members. Given the recent bickering about school funding seen here on SitNews, that would seem like an impossible task, but in fact, I very much believe this is an idea that can bring our community together. Most importantly, once we have the will to achieve this, everything else will be easy.

The second potential obstacle is finding a teacher. I don't know of anyone to recommend, but ours is the second largest community in Lingít Aaní, and I believe there must be an elder in our city with the fluency and commitment to teach a part-time class. The last obstacle is finding the resources to support the class, but that should not be as difficult as one might think: The school district should be able to apply for different grants and find various funding sources, and compared to the totality of the district's budget, a single part-time teaching position is not very expensive at all.

Next, let's examine the benefits of having just a single Tlingit class benefits that far outweigh the difficulties or costs. Having a Tlingit class at Ketchikan High School signifies that the whole community has taken a positive step toward recognizing and valuing its Tlingit heritage. It provides students of all backgrounds with the opportunity to learn more about their home than they ever could have before.

A Tlingit class will give many students a very challenging and interesting class to come to school for a class that could be the most important single class those students take, since they will be actively participating in the revitalization of an entire language. That's not something many schools around the world provide children with an opportunity to do. Not to mention, scientific studies prove time and again that learning another language improves students skills in English.

Ketchikan if nothing else will convince you of the necessity or desirability of having a Tlingit class, think about this: All of the high school students in Juneau have access to Tlingit classes, whether at JDHS, Thunder Mountain, or Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School. Sure, the Juneau School District has more students and resources than the KGBSD, but they've made Tlingit classes available in all three of their high schools. I am only asking for a single class.

Simply put, the resources required to create a single Tlingit class are minimal, and they are very much worthwhile. I believe Kayhi is a great high school, but a Tlingit class will make it even better, and it will improve the school experience of every student who takes it.

In order to pursue this concrete goal, let's take a concrete next step bringing this idea to school board meetings and start discussions around the community. After that, I truly hope our community will make this happen.

Peter Stanton
pws.ktn.ak [at]

Ketchikan, AK

About: "I have lived in Ketchikan since I was three years old, and I attended four different elementary schools, a non-existent middle school, and went to Kayhi for five years (8th-12th). I am currently finishing college in Washington, DC, and I intend to return to Southeast Alaska this year to become a high school teacher."

Received March 24, 2013 - Published March 25, 2013





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