Coloring in the White Spaces

Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools

by Ann Milne (Author)
©2017 Textbook XXIV, 228 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 513


This book examines the struggle against racial and cultural inequity in educational systems, presenting the case study of a New Zealand school and its community’s determination to resist alienating environments. If we look at an untouched child’s coloring book, for instance, we think of the pages as blank. But they’re not actually blank – each page is uniformly white, with lines established to dictate where color is allowed to go. Children by this are taught about the place of color and the importance of staying within pre-determined boundaries and expectations, reinforcing a system where the white background is considered the norm. To challenge such whitestreaming, this book offers the example of a community that defied and rejected this environment in favor of a culturally-located, bilingual learning model of education based on secure cultural identity, stable positive relationships, and aroha (authentic caring and love). This journey is juxtaposed against pervasive deficit-driven, whitestream explanations of inequity and purported «achievement gaps» of indigenous Māori and Pasifika students. This story chronicles the efforts of the Kia Aroha College community on its quest to step outside education’s «White spaces» to create a new space for learning and to reclaim educational sovereignty – where individuals have the absolute right to «be Māori,» to be who they are, in school.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance praise for Coloring in the White Spaces
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Papahueke
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgements
  • Part One: Identifying White Spaces
  • Chapter 1. The Whitestream
  • Introduction
  • The Girl at the Principal’s Door
  • Schooling in New Zealand
  • School Reform in White Spaces
  • Māori Spaces in the Whitestream—“as Māori”
  • We Will Continue to Fight Forever
  • Pasifika Spaces in the Whitestream—“as Tongan,” “as Samoan”
  • “Academic” Achievement
  • Overview of Book Chapters
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 2. Naming the White Spaces
  • Whiteness
  • Privilege and Supremacy
  • The Curriculum as a White Space: The Politics of Knowledge
  • Literacy as a White Space
  • Critical and New Media Literacies
  • “I” for Identity
  • Otara: Where Ancient and New Technologies Meet
  • School Alienation, “Gaps” and Poverty
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 3. Cultural Identity
  • Cultural Identity
  • Essentialist Frameworks
  • Stage Models
  • Postmodern Frameworks
  • Ecological Models
  • Adolescent Identity Development
  • Critical Frameworks in Education
  • Indigenous Perspectives
  • Shape-Shifting: Identity Changing, Identity as Resistance
  • Identity Lost: Social Toxins
  • Schools and Cultural Identity
  • References
  • Part Two: Coloring in the White Spaces
  • Chapter 4. Kia Aroha College
  • Born Out of Struggle
  • The Schools
  • Clover Park Middle School
  • Te Whānau o Tupuranga
  • Winning the War
  • Through Aroha
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 5. Changing the Lens
  • Truth-Telling: Auditing Schools’ White Spaces
  • Designing a School
  • Whānau Involvement
  • Learning Spaces
  • Cultural Spaces
  • External Spaces
  • Changing the Lens
  • The Power Lenses Learning Model
  • References
  • Chapter 6. Coloring in the School-Learning Space
  • The School-Learning Lens
  • Culture at the Center
  • The Concept of Whānau
  • A Critical Pedagogy of Whānau: Whanaungatanga in Practice
  • School Spaces as Whānau Spaces
  • Authentic Critical Caring
  • Students’ Experience of Whanaungatanga
  • Student-Driven Learning
  • Student Context 1: Citizenship
  • Student Context 2: Māori Education
  • Student Context 3: Social Toxins
  • Student Context 4: My Culture Defines Me
  • Student Context 5: Speaking Out “as” Us
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 7. Coloring in the Self-Learning Space
  • The Self-Learning Lens
  • What Is Success?
  • Assessment as a White Space
  • Determining Self: Self-Knowledge
  • How Do We Know?
  • Cultural Standards
  • Māori Identity Indicators
  • Samoan Identity Indicators
  • Tongan Identity Indicators
  • Cook Islands Māori Identity Indicators
  • Generic Identity Indicators
  • Relationship with Learning Indicators
  • Relationship with Peers
  • Peer Relationships Indicators
  • Relationship with the Wider World
  • Cultural Identity Indicators
  • Using the Indicators
  • Key Competencies
  • Self-Learning Lens: Progress Over Time
  • Putting Self and School Lenses Together
  • Combining Results
  • The Purpose of the Self-Lens
  • Learning in the Self-Lens
  • The Place of Kapa Haka/Performing Arts in Self-Lens Learning
  • Determining Success: Whose Knowledge Is of Most Worth?
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 8. Coloring in the Wider Learning Spaces
  • The Global-Learning Lens
  • Solidarity in the White Space
  • Sitting-in for Justice
  • Marching for Justice
  • Starving for Justice
  • Running for Justice
  • Challenged Spaces
  • Ukukura: Roses in Concrete Community School
  • Youth Spaces
  • “Now We Are Activists”
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 9. Powerful Spaces
  • Self-Determining Spaces
  • Te Ara Tino Rangatiratanga: The Pathway to Self-Determination
  • Oho ake: Conscientization (Becoming aware)
  • Can a school create the conditions that empower a student to follow their cultural norms throughout the school day? Why is this important?
  • Tū Motuhake (Resistance)
  • How can a school ensure all students have this strength in their own cultural identity? What are the specific cultural ways of knowing that young people are developing these skills?
  • Te Hurihanga: (Transformation)
  • How can schools recognize, and address, barriers that exist in their practice to the development of a student’s secure cultural identity?
  • Identity Found: Colored Spaces
  • Hopeful and Healing Spaces—Critical Hope and Radical Healing
  • Breaking Free
  • The Whānau Center
  • Break Free Evaluation
  • Taurikura
  • Warrior-Scholars
  • Graduate Profile: Redefining Success and Achievement
  • What Did We Learn?
  • Notes
  • References
  • Glossary
  • Notes on the Glossary
  • About the Author
  • References
  • Index
  • Series index

| xi →


Figure 5.1: The Power Lenses Learning Model

Figure 7.1: Suggested Self-Learning Lens Diagram

Figure 7.2: One Student’s Self-Lens Assessment over Six Years 2010–2015

Figure 7.3: Self and School Lens Results: One Māori Student, 2007–2009

Figure 7.4: Self and School Lens Results: One Cook Islands Māori Student, 2012–2015

| xiii →


Table 7.1: Alaska Cultural Standards Indicators

Table 7.2: Māori Identity Indicators

Table 7.3: Samoan Identity Indicators

Table 7.4: Tongan Identity Indicators

Table 7.5: Cook Islands Māori Indicators

Table 7.6: Generic Identity Indicators

Table 7.7: Relationship with Learning Indicators

Table 7.8: Peer Relationship Indicators

Table 7.9: General Cultural Identity Indicators

Table 7.10: Alignment of Self-learning Lens Indicators with New Zealand Curriculum Key Competencies

Table 9.1: Kia Aroha College TEN Priority Surveys Results, 2015

Table 9.2: Graduate Profiles for Māori Learners ← xiii | xiv →

Source: Te Rito, Blaine. (2013). Papahueke. Original Artwork. Reprinted with permission of the artist.

| xv →


The design was initially inspired by the black and white image of a classroom scene in which the faces of two pupils were colored in brown shade. It reminds me of how over time we as tangata whenua (indigenous people) have had to fit in and conform to the structure and values of foreign interests. This design reflects the cultural diversity of the students within Kia Aroha College. I focused on artistic symbols from throughout Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the Pacific region from which many of the students descend. These symbols also refer to their proud and noble ancestors through whose authority we were successful in developing thriving and effective societies throughout these regions—until the arrogant establishment of foreign interests within these borders, which is still perpetuated today. This situation is not unique to Aotearoa.

The circle represents the importance of these pre-colonial societal structures viz.; education, language, culture, theology, and environmental resources. The break in the circle represents the disruption and the white spaces incurred, and the difficulty of re-completing the circle with pieces or structures that just don’t fit. The name, Papahueke (to be relentless or unyielding), represents our resistance. (Blaine Te Rito, 2013)

| xvii →


Jeff Duncan-Andrade, PhD

Associate Professor

Raza Studies & Education

San Francisco State University

Founder and Board Chair, Roses in Concrete Community School

I first met Ann Milne in 2006 at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). She had come with staff and community advisors from Kia Aroha College (then known as Te Whanau o Tupuranga) and they attended a session where I presented with some of our staff and students from East Oakland, California (USA). In our conversation after the session, it was immediately clear that we were aligned in our commitment to creating culturally and community responsive educational environments for the children in our communities. However, I had no idea the depth of the impact that Ann and her community would have on me personally and the ways I approach the work.

A little over a year later, myself and two of my closest colleagues flew to Aotearoa New Zealand and spent two weeks at Kia Aroha College. In my 24 years of teaching, no single event has had a more significant impact on ← xvii | xviii → my work in education. At the time of my first visit, I had a reputation as a highly skilled classroom teacher and researcher whose work focused heavily on culturally and community responsive curriculum and pedagogy. As part of this work, I had studied the work of incredible teachers and programs across the United States. But, I had never seen a school that was delivering on cultural and community responsivity in the ways that I witnessed at Kia Aroha College. What I saw during my time there convinced me that something fundamentally different was possible in my own community. Since then, I have visited Ann’s school every other year, and Ann and her team have visited our school in East Oakland on the alternate years.

Eight years after my first visit to Kia Aroha College, we opened the Roses in Concrete Community School (RiC). We modeled the school cultural practices at RiC, in large part, after those that I experienced at Kia Aroha College. Although our school functions as a lab school and has influenced school planning and practices all over the United States, we have named only one school as an official partner school—Kia Aroha College. We describe this relationship as “ukukura”, a Māori word created by Māori language keepers to describe two community schools in solidarity with one another in the struggle for educational autonomy. Our community is very cautious about partnerships, particularly around the education of our most vulnerable children. We do not enter lightly into the decision to publicly name Kia Aroha College as our ukukura. From our cultural frame of reference, this public acknowledgement of our partnership is the highest form of respect for another set of educators.

When I recommend readings for educators that are thinking about how to develop school cultures that are community and culturally responsive, this is the first book I will tell them to read. While I certainly have not been to every school in the United States, I can say that none of the schools I have visited (and that’s quite a few) have accomplished what Ann Milne and the staff at Kia Aroha College have achieved. This book provides profound critiques of existing colonial models of education and viable alternatives that value the language and culture of those young people and families that have largely been demonized and pathologized in “white”stream models of schooling. It does not need to be this way. If we are ever to achieve the levels of cultural pluralism necessary to achieve pluralistic, multi-racial democracies we must reconsider the ways in which we school our children. For my money, this book is the primer for schools and systems of education in post-genocidal colonial societies like the United States and New Zealand ← xviii | xix → to finally come to grips with the harm it has been doing to children from outside the dominant culture. Nothing is more important in this next generation than a fundamental rethink about how we educate our children, and no book that I have seen should be more influential than this one in those efforts.

| xxi →


My grateful acknowledgement to the Board of Trustees of Kia Aroha College for your permission to write this story and for your trust that I would tell it with the deepest respect for our collective journey.

This book would not have been possible without the support of the staff, and Boards of Trustees of the three schools involved in this journey; Clover Park Middle School and Te Whānau o Tupuranga, which merged to become Kia Aroha College in 2011. This story belongs to you and the whānau (families) and community, whose courage over nearly three decades inspired, and continues to drive, the dream that it is possible to make education fit our children, in spite of the opposition we faced at every step. That experience taught me about respect, integrity, responsibility, reciprocity, truth, and real accountability to our future generations.

The story also belongs to the students, past, present, and future, of these three schools, who inspired me every day to be a better learner, a better teacher, a better school leader, a better researcher, and a better advocate against the injustice and inequity that education has delivered for Māori and Pasifika learners. You show us the meaning of critical hope and a strong secure identity as Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Māori—as who you are. That powerful understanding will change our educational landscape for the better, ← xxi | xxii → so that education has to work much harder for you than it has done in the past. Thank you for keeping me focused on what really matters.

To my family who have all shared so closely, both personally and professionally, in this journey, there are not enough words to say thank you. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren are the epitome of the dream to reclaim educational sovereignty for our children, and I celebrate the strength of your Māori language and identity. My children and grandchildren are woven into the fabric of all three schools where they have been students, teachers, and staff members themselves. That’s what whānau is about.

| 1 →




XXIV, 228
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (March)
Indigenous education Pasifika education Māori education white privledge whiteness critical pedagogy culturally responsive
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XXII, 228 pp., 12 tables, 5 graphs

Biographical notes

Ann Milne (Author)

Ann Milne received her PhD from the University of Waikato, New Zealand. She has led the Kia Aroha College community’s 28-year journey to resist and reject alienating school environments through culturally responsive and critical social justice pedagogies. In 2015 she was the recipient of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation’s prestigious Service with Distinction Award; she has also received several national research awards and scholarships.


Title: Coloring in the White Spaces
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