A comparative study of animistic thought of Ojibway children on Wikwemikong Reserve Manitoulin Island
Language is the way a people see their world. Language is the way a people see reality and language is the way a people structure their world. To apply the rules which govern one structure upon a structure which has its own set of rules is a futile exercise. The educational system has been imposed on the Ojibway people from outside their frame of reference. This study resulted from concern over the inconsistent effects of education on Ojibway people. Animism as a concept has been studied by many researchers. Its interpretation, application and effect on the development of cognitive growth has borne many conclusions. Animism was initially established as a stage in the development of thought processes in the field of psychology by Piaget who intimated its universality and general application to all peoples. Researchers have since found inconsistencies in animistic thought processes and attributed them to cultural differences. This study of animism as a concept was applied to the Ojibway language group of Manitoulin Island in Ontario. This study was designed to interpret the concept of animism and its effect on cognitive development among the school children of Wikwemikong, Ontario. The concept of animism was studied through the use of a constructed instrument designed to detect the presence of or lack of presence of animism among a random sample of academically paired school children in three of the four Piagetian levels of animism. The animism testing instrument was administered in Ojibway-English (bilingual) and English (unilingual) to two equal groups of children, who were equally divided by sex. The data was analyzed at the .05 level for statistical significance by an analysis of variance. The results of the study showed the strong influence of language. The bilingual children responded to the concepts of animism within the Ojibway framework while the unilingual children responded significantly more to the Piagetian definition of animism. Other findings indicated there was no significant difference between grade levels in either the bilingual or unilingual groups. However, females scored significantly higher than males. The interaction between language and grade of bilingual and unilingual speakers was statistically significant. The bilingual children's concept of animism increased with age while the unilingual children's concept of animism decreased with age. This age/grade pattern coincided with the Piagetian theory. An analysis of the reasons for subjects responses showed that the bilingual group became stronger in their concept of animism as they got older while the unilingual children conformed with the Piagetian definition of animism in which the child's animism becomes weaker with age. There was no consistency in the sequence of the levels of animism though all four levels were evident in the responses from both groups. Since this study revealed that in the concept of animism Ojibway children mature in a uniquely Ojibway manner and that English speaking Ojibway children regressed, the education system under which the Ojibway children are made to conform should build upon the Ojibway child's own philosophical framework in order to succeed. The teachers should be native teachers or at least fluent in the native language and knowledgeable in the culture of these people. The study recommended that the Ojibway language become the language of instruction thoughout the school system and that English be taught as a second language. The finding of no significant differences among grades implies that curricula may be more effectively organized on a non-graded basis. Perhaps the age-grade segregation of the present system needs to be modified or discontinued. The discovery of a unique approach to animistic thought among Ojibway children suggests that curricula might be better established on a comparative format. That is, Ojibway children might view other people's values in comparison to their own. Since the concept of animism to the Ojibway has no restricting framework and since in the Ojibway language animism is the centre of Ojibway ethno-metaphysics, a world that is a harmonious whole, the school of the Ojibway must be modified to correspond more to his world and away from the restricting structures that have existed up to this day.