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Coloring in the White Spaces

Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools


Ann Milne

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.

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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...

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