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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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Chapter 8. Coloring in the Wider Learning Spaces


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The Global-Learning Lens

The previous chapters have detailed the school’s practice and outcomes in the school-learning and self-learning lenses. The development of a secure cultural identity, which allows young people to live and learn as who they are has been a fundamental premise. Developing a strong cultural identity however, does not ignore the complex, multiple, shared, and fluid identities our young people navigate both in and beyond school—and that is the purpose of the third lens, the global-learning lens. Knowing who they are in terms of their cultural identity is not to sentence young people to be forever trapped in a traditional cultural time warp. In fact, in order to effectively integrate all those other identities, the school’s philosophy believes young people must firstly have a strong sense of self, and cultural identity is seen as the thread that acts as their compass, and weaves through all of the other pathways our young people walk. The global lens therefore is designed to connect students’ self and school-learning to the many worlds beyond school—from immediately outside the school gates, to international and future spaces. This chapter examines one aspect of the global-learning lens: solidarity with social justice programs internationally, and the commonalities in Kia Aroha College’s philosophy and practice and these initiatives. ← 161 | 162 →

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