|Image 1. Hongi Photograph (Dolphin Travel)|
In her talk at ULearn17, Milne regularly used the term Hegemony. Wikipedia defines cultural hegemonic thinking as a Marxist philosophy, the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society—the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores (manner and custom)—so that their imposed, ruling-class world view becomes the accepted cultural norm.
Milne also introduced this quote where Penetino (2010) redefines Mainstream as Whitestream.
|Figure 2. Mainstream (Milne 2017)|
These are the same concepts that I grew up, albeit on the other side of the world.
This is my story too.
I was born in Pest, on the East bank of the Denube River. Hungary had been living in a time of cultural eradication following WW2, under the military rule of the Soviet Union since 1946. The Monarchy was removed, ownership of all private land/property was expropriated by the Soviet installed government and all policies were rewritten to conform with Communist principles.
The economic situation was dire for many decades. Following the ravages of war, Hungary was plundered to maintain the Soviet Army of Occupation and the formal reparation claims under the peace treaty exacted its toll, resulting in the worst inflation known in financial history.
Money was valueless.
The urban population lived in fear and at times on the verge of starvation. This resulted in the death of my grandfather who was shot one night while crossing the border in search of food for his young family. Free speech and individual liberty ceased to exist. Arbitrary imprisonment became common and the security police had the same unrestricted powers as in the Soviet Union. All means of communication, from broadcasting to the classroom, were used for Marxist-Leninist indoctrination and the glorification of Joseph Stalin. Hungarian people were aliens in their own land.
|Image 2. With sculpture of Vladimir Lenin, 1973|
Fast forward 30 years to 1976 and my parents are seeking relocation to South Africa with 2 small children. Immigrants from Eastern Europe were a rarity in South African schools at that time and they had no idea what to do with me. Not speaking English was quickly identified as a deficit and I was enrolled at a grade lower than my peers. Nobody cared that I was bilingual in German and Hungarian, and had already completed a year of schooling at an academically advanced level to South African education. I felt invisible, misunderstood and quickly grew bored. I had nothing to contribute because my culture, my very essence, was foreign to everyone else. On many occasions, I never even bothered to turn up at school. Diverging from expectation is challenging, you feel your culture being erased by an imposed standard and before you realise, you become complicit in erasing your own culture as you strive to fit within the presented box.
By 1998, I relocated my own young family to New Zealand. And for a second time, experienced silent racism from the judgemental comfort zone of the endemic people. Being sensitised to undercurrents of prejudice, time and time again, I have seen this same response to non-Pakeha - whether indigenous or migrant. Our stories were foreign and finding common ground to build new relationships on, was challenging. The South African culture was stigmatised in New Zealand and barriers visibly raised when your accent was identified. Few were interested in getting to know your real story.
|Figure 3. Naming White Spaces (Milne 2017)|
While it may be an innate human condition to reject the unfamiliar in order to preserve the familiar, it contradicts our role in growing people who are true to themselves, whatever their familial culture.
Culturally responsive pedagogy is defined by Gay (2001, p.106) as “using the cultural characteristics, experiences and perspectives as conduits for effective teaching”. This includes awareness of these elements:
- 'knowledge about cultural diversity,
- the culturally integrated content in the curriculum,
- the development of the learning community,
- the ability to communicate with culturally diverse students and
- culturally responsive delivery of instruction'
As a teacher of Visual Art, the ultimate subject of self-expression, identity and culture play a vital role in developing personal points of view that drive authenticity and originality in creative work (see Action Continuum, Milne 2017).
|Image 3. Annette Messager (AZ Quotes)|
Bishop (2012) highlights the disparities between achievement of European and Maori students, due to the cumulative deficit effect (ongoing annual deficits in achievement compounded over time) and calls for action from agentic teachers.
So what is an agentic teacher?
Like the significant teachers that 'Saw' me, I too aim to be someone with vision, who ‘sees’ the learner for who they are and values what they can contribute, with a mission to enrich experiences for my learning community. My explicit core values strive for connection and seek to collaborate, challenging deficit thinking. I value a range of communication methods. As a human resource, I own my personal learning by pursuing inquiries about ways to make a difference to students, colleagues and communities.
Bishop (2012) cautions that Agentic teachers need to be identified and supported, with time, resources, funds and high quality professional development, as they disenthrall themselves (see post for activity 6) from under-performing systems and rise to meet the challenge of finding or devising alternative strategies that are fit for purpose. Being a lifelong learner, actively and continuously challenging own assumptions, knowledge and practice regarding learning, is crucial.
Agentic teachers address our cultural deficit and maintain ongoing forward momentum. By investing financially in education, the potential is there for lowering incarceration rates, which correlates with educational underachievement.
Bishop encourages the negotiated co-construction of learning through conversations, feedback and goal setting, a movement away from transmission models of teaching (Mauri Moe - the “sleep” state), and even beyond child-centred education (Mauri Oho - state of being proactive).
The time has come to practice Whānaungatanga, to build a relationship centred education, through caring and learning relationships that are culturally responsive and culturally sustaining (Mauri Ora - state of being actively engaged).
|Image 4. Mauri Ora (Maori Television)|
This links to the New Zealand Teachers Council’s Registered Teacher Criteria about professional relationships and professional values.
'Fully registered teachers establish and maintain effective professional relationships focused on the learning and well-being of all ākonga/learners, teaching colleagues, support staff, and other professionals, whānau and other carers of ākonga/learners, agencies, groups, and individuals in the community.' (Tataiako, p19).
My next steps are summed up by the following Maori proverb:
Ko au ko te awa. Ko te awa ko au.
I am the river and the river is me.
which speaks to our interconnectedness in this 21st-century digital era. A culturally sustaining practice can prepare students to be authentically contributing global citizens (Milne, 2017). This is one of the driving forces behind school-wide innovations I have recently started. By sharing my story with the rest of my colleagues and broadening my pedagogical practices (as discussed in previous posts) to school-wide activities through staff professional learning opportunities in the context of Visual Art teaching and learning, as a school we can collectively improve our indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness in our practice.
Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T. & Teddy, L. (2009).Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5),734–742.
Bucher, R. (2008). Building cultural intelligence (CQ): Nine Megaskills. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.
Gay,G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2),106-116.
Mauri Ora (n.d.) "Healing Our Spirits Worldwide" welcomes Mauri Ora theme: Maori Television. Retrieved fromhttp://www.maoritelevision.com/news/regional/healing-our-spirits-worldwide-welcomes-mauri-ora-theme
Messager, A. (nd). Immage 3: Annette Messager Quote. Retrieved from http://www.azquotes.com/quote/894044
Milne, A. (2017). Core Education: Colouring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cTvi5qxqp4
Open Society Archives (1956). The Impact of Communism on Hungary. Retrieved from http://osaarchivum.org/files/holdings/300/8/3/text/30-2-125.shtml
Tātaiako (2011 ). Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Maori Learners. Ministry of Education. Retrieved from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/required/Tataiako.pdf
Wikipedia (n.d.). Cultural Hegemony. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_hegemony
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