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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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Notes on the Glossary

Where it is necessary to understand a concept or sentence at the time of reading, meanings of Māori words are provided in the text. Meanings of Māori words are provided in parentheses after their first use, unless they appear in a quotation. Other languages used in the text have had the meaning provided in parenthesis after the word or in an endnote.

The English meanings of Māori words in the following list are taken primarily from the Te Aka Māori-English, English-Māori Dictionary and Index (Moorfield, 2011, online version). Many words have a range of meanings. Those provided below are the meanings relevant to the context within which the word is used in this text. Māori titles of some of the literature, organisations, and/or programmes are also included in the glossary.

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