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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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Advance praise for Coloring in the White Spaces


“Coloring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools is a major achievement. It is the story of a collective journey of three schools that eventually merged into one school over a three-decade period. It tells of the struggles and the victories of the administrators, teachers, students, families, community, and school board members in their journey to fulfill the dream of responsive schooling. The realization of that dream is tied to the collective belief that it is possible to make education fit our children’s needs in spite of the presence of fierce opposition at every step. This book tells the story of a New Zealand school. But the story has global implications. It addresses the most fundamental issues of our times: issues of power, social justice, identity development, and school change through a critical pedagogy based in whānau and Māori and Pasifika values and beliefs. This book tells the story of the power of a community’s determination to create a school where historically marginalized students could realize their full potential and develop into informed advocates for social justice, critical thinkers, and activists for social change. In this book these issues are treated with the depth and the detail they deserve.

This is a 25 year counter-story of a New Zealand school and the determination of its community to resist and reject alienating school environments in favor of a relevant culturallylocated, bilingual learning model based in a secure cultural identity, stable positive relationships,...

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