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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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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,...

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