Matauranga Maori, Science and the Treaty of Waitangi: the importance of whakapapa

I told an Uncle I was interested in understanding better the connections and interaction between Mātauranga Māori and Science, and between Science and the Treaty of Waitangi. He replied by telling me about our whakapapa …

So, I’ve been thinking more about this and I was interested to read various sections of Kia Tangi te Tītī: Permission to Speak. Successful Schooling for Māori Students in the 21st Century (Ed. Paul Whitinui (2011) NZCER Press: Wellington) which address the significance of whakapapa to education. (It is actually something I have been wondering about for a while: ref: A Curriculum with Tribal Links). I know it’s not polite to write long blogs, but I like notes to be together when they go together in my head… so…

I’ll begin with Joanna Kidman‘s discussion:

Neoliberal education and formulations of Māori knowledge

Joanna Kidman (Chapter 1: Māori Education and Neoliberal Citizenship: Beach Crossings in the 21st Century, pp.18-29 Kia Tangi te Tītī) explains how the neoliberal approach to education shifts knowledge from a practice located in place and time and given sense by the human relationships of the community that uses that knowledge to a commodity that can be easily transferred from one setting to the next on a global scale. Kidman then describes how and why such an approach sits uneasily with Māori conceptions of knowledge and complicates the true inclusion of Māori (as Māori) in NZ education.

Kidman writes that: “In the Māori world the knowing ‘self’ is constituted in relationships with ancestors and kinsfolk…. It is a world in which meaning is created by relational beings interacting with knowledge, memory and place. Here, knowers are historically constructed through taonga tuku iho (ancestral ways of knowing) and their connections with the people around them.” (p.18) However, “one of the key roles of neoliberal education is to provide training for young people to enter the global workforce as hierarchically conditioned competitors and ‘global citizens’; a form of identity made possible by technological advances and an increased emphasis on free market ideologies (Mitchell, 2003, p.388). These ideals of global citizenship centre on the notion of ‘cosmopolitan entrepreneurship,’ namely, the training of individuals with loose affiliations to physical territories who are able to operate in geographically unbounded economic spaces. To this end, as Michael Apple (2005) suggests, ‘democracy is no longer a political concept; rather, it is wholly an economic concept in which unattached individuals – supposedly making rational choices in an unfettered market – will ultimately lead to a better society’ (p.211).” (p.23) “These ‘unattached’ individuals,” Kidman continues (p.24), “are the product of a particular set of policy and pedagogical practices and philosophies aimed at creating allegiances to short-term goals (Bernstein, 2000, p.58). According to Bernstein [Kidman continues], their identities are based on a concept of ‘work’ and ‘life’ that assumes that skills, tasks and areas of work will undergo continuous development, disappearance or replacement. They are focused on an unstable future within shifting global markets, are prepared to jettison old practices and knowledge as the need arises and undertake frequent cycles of retraining in order to move into new situations. Within this framework of ‘trainability’, relationships with knowledge are fundamentally altered.” (p.24)

Kidman discusses Bernstein (2000) further, explaining that Bernstein argues “that the reification of short-term training to meet the demands of a fast-paced global economy has resulted in the separation of knowledge from the knower. He writes: ‘there is a new concept of knowledge and of its relation to those who create and use it. This concept is a truly secular concept. Knowledge should flow like money to wherever it can create advantage and profit. Indeed knowledge is not like money, it is money. Knowledge is divorced from person, their commitments, their personal dedications. These become impediments, restrictions on the flow of knowledge, and introduce deformations in the working of the symbolic market. Moving knowledge about or even creating it, should not be more difficult than moving or regulating money. Knowledge, after nearly a thousand years, is divorced from inwardness and literally dehumanised. (p86).’ Bernstein adds that once knowledge is separated from the commitment and personal dedication of the knower, it is a small step towards moving people about; to substitute them for one another, or to exclude them entirely from the market. This view of knowledge as a market commodity disconnected from the knower sits uneasily with various formulations of Māori knowledge. Tribal and hapū identities, for example, are constructed through a deep commitment to, and knowledge of, whakapapa, which in turn is intrinsically connected to particular tribal landscapes, histories and memories. The ‘locatedness’ of intergenerational knowledge is integral to the kinds of historical identities that are created, as well as the ways in which Māori interact with the world as iwi or hapū members, or both. Knowledge of whakapapa and an enduring commitment to tribal places therefore means that people are not expendable, nor can they be substituted in the Māori world. These forms of knowledge provide membership and an ongoing sense of belonging to the collective.” (pp.24-25)

A neoliberal system of education and economy, Kidman explains “depends on an acceptance of a short-term view of knowledge and practice; one that is separated from individuals and is not embedded in particular ‘places’. It is essentially an amnesiac model of knowledge that does not fit with the way that knowledge and meanings are generated within the Māori world.” (p.25)

“The knowledge, meanings, practices and memories we draw from the Māori world are a source of agency and autonomy in the educational encounter.” (p.26)

“In contrast with neoliberal educational identities…,” Kidman concludes, “Māori tribal and  hapū identities are embedded in specific (as opposed to global and generic) physical, intellectual and cultural landscapes.” (p.26) So “what is education for?” she asks: “Who is it for? And, is it succeeding for Māori?” (p.27)

I am thoroughly interested in the way Kidman describes this neoliberal shift in the conception of knowledge. However, what Kidman is arguing here with regards to the place of whakapapa in a neoliberal education is echoed by a number of other authors in this publication. Melinda Webber, in her discussion of giftedness and Māori education, for example, emphasises the importance of whakapapa in the realisation of giftedness.

‘whakapapa: to know, to belong, to thrive’

Melinda Webber looks at the experience of gifted Māori learners in her chapter (Chapter 14: Gifted and Proud: On Being Exceptional and Māori, pp.227-241, Kia Tangi te Tītī). She writes that: “In most views of Māori identity, whakapapa is generally agreed to be the key characteristic. Karetu (1990) describes whakapapa as the glue that connects individuals to a certain place or marae, locating them within the broader network of kin relations. Karetu further states that whakapapa is not simply about having ‘Māori blood’, but also knowing about that descent and having a meaningful relationship to it. Knowledge of whakapapa and sense of identity are very important to Māori.” (p.235)

Webber asserts that “…the integration of whakapapa as curriculum could have multiple benefits for gifted Māori  children.” (p235) [And, I assume, for all Māori students?!] “It is evident from the literature that gifted Māori learners are more likely to thrive in a culturally responsive environment. That is, one which ensures the learning experiences are as closely linked to the Māori learner’s whakapapa, traditions and stories as possible. Educational experiences for gifted Māori children will be enhanced when they are encouraged to use their own whakapapa as a starting point for better understanding what giftedness means for both their cultural and educational identities.” (p.235)

“Giftedness,” Webber points out, “occurs in all cultural, economic and social groups, and is displayed through a combination of a wide range of behaviours. Thus, conceptions of intelligence differ as a function of time and culture. People in different cultures may have quite different ideas of what it means to be ‘smart’. Students should be encouraged to learn about their whakapapa as a way of not only understanding self, but also celebrating those gifted individuals and groups in their whakapapa who used their social capital in socially constructive ways. It is believed in Māoridom that a meaningful understanding of one’s place in the present can only be understood by reflection on and knowledge of one’s past (Ihimaera, Williams, Ramsden, & Long, 1993; Reid, 2000).” (p.236)

Gifted Māori students must be encouraged to value their culture and see it as a meaningful and relevant part of their academic learning.” (p.233)

“Durie’s (2001) framework for educational advancement asserts that Māori academic achievement should not be at the expense of cultural identity. He instead suggests that Māori educational advancement should [-p.234] involve the ability to attain Western standards of education while also maintaining links and an identity as Māori. Durie (2001) stresses that participation of Māori is different from participation as Māori.” (p.234)

“I believe,” Webber states, “that the collective wisdom of exceptional tīpuna, should be seen as the quintessence of Māori educational potential. When Māori look backwards into our past and recount the exceptional deeds of tīpuna, all Māori will find outstanding role models from the past to guide them in moving forwards. Their legacy can be an inspiration and their qualities celebrated.” (p.237)

Culturally responsive curriculum should include content that values, affirms and develops the learner’s gifted potential, whakapapa and identity as Māori.” (p.237)

[T]he study of whakapapa,” Webber proposes in this chapter, “can simultaneously strengthen the development of positive ethnic identity and academic exceptionality for gifted Māori learners. The proposed curriculum involves three key components: a comprehensive knowledge of whakapapa and positive sense of identity as Māori; a knowledge of how their area of exceptionality is of value to their communities of interest (social capital); and an understanding of how they can transform their gifted assets in service to those communities (constructive action). I speculate,” she concludes, “that the acquisition of culturally valued knowledge, awareness of how to mobilise exceptionality in the service of others and positive sense of Māori identity, might be the key to overcoming the disengagement and disaffection rampant among gifted Māori learners. In helping learners to better understand and appreciate the richness of their whakapapa, schools create conditions where gifted Māori learners can learn how to be gifted and proud, academically exceptional and Māori.” (p.238)

Of course, while I’m understanding better how important whakapapa is to education, I am still wondering how it might be better incorporated… Lesley Rameka’s chapter (Chapter 6 Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga: Culturally Relevant Assessment, pp.104-121) goes some way to  answering this…

Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga: Culturally Relevant Assessment

Rameka describes the assessment practices adopted by the Best of Both Worlds Bilingual Preschool in Papakura based on their desire to expose their “children to the best of both worlds, including all aspects of te ao Māori (the Māori worlds) and te ao Pākeha (the Western worlds)” (p.107).

The assessment framework they designed was informed by their conception of ‘being Māori’ and was structured around the characteristics of the Māori demi-god, Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga. “Recognition of what made them Māori, what they valued, how they viewed the world and how this was reflected in centre practice and assessment processes, was key to the development of understandings. Also central was the realisation that Māori assessment did not have to parallel Pākeha or Western assessment; that it was acceptable to be different, that, in fact, difference was crucial if it was to make sense to Māori. / The articulation and reification of Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga as an assessment frame involved exploration and interpretation of his behaviours and characteristics. It also involved trial and error, ongoing discussion with community, whānau and knowledgeable others, and further research.” (p.108)

This adoption of Māui is also explained, in part at least, by Rameka’s point (originally made by Walker, 1996) that “Māori thinking places the source of knowledge within that spiritual world, with the gods. To access this knowledge, mediation was required by intermediary ancestors (between gods and humans). Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga was able to fulfil this mediation role and pass the knowledge on to his human descendants.” (p.105)

The assessment framework they developed (as Rameka encountered it in 2007) “includes the following values, attributes and characteristics:
* mana: identity, pride, inner strength, self assurance, confidence
* manaakitanga/aroha/tiaki: caring, sharing, kindness, friendship, love, nurturance
* whanaungatanga: developing relationships, taking responsibility for oneself and others, tuakana-teina
* whakatoi/whakakata: cheekiness, spiritedness, displaying and enjoying humour, having fun
* rangatiratanga/arahina/maiatanga: confidence, self-reliance, leadership, standing up for oneself, perseverance, determination, working through difficulty
* tinihanga/pātaitai/kaitoro: cunningness, trickery, deception, testing limits, challenging, questioning, curiosity, exploring, risk taking, lateral thinking.” (p.110)

Rameka goes through each of these values, attributes and characteristics and discusses their interpretation by the Best of Both Worlds (at that time, at least). The whole discussion is an example of how whakapapa can be incorporated into education, and in this way, incredibly useful; discussing whanaungatanga, for example, Rameka cites Shirres, 1997, p.53: “To be a person is not to stand alone, but to be with one’s people, and the deeper the oneness the more we are truly persons … The persons we stand with are not only living but even more the ancestors, those members of the family who have already gone before us. So basic to being a person and being Māori is to be whānau, family, not just with the living, but also with the dead.” (p.113)

“Best of Both Worlds Bilingual Preschool,” Rameka writes, “recognises that assessment approaches must support the connectedness of the child and not view the child as an isolated being, an aberration apart from the whānau.” (p.114)

The examples of assessments that Rameka lists are beautiful and worth reading! I won’t repeat them here, since I’m not quite sure that would be ethical.

Ref: Kia Tangi te Tītī: Permission to Speak. Successful Schooling for Māori Students in the 21st Century (Ed. Paul Whitinui (2011) NZCER Press: Wellington)
Reference is also made to: 
Michael Apple (2005) Are markets in education democratic? Neoliberal globalism, vouchers and the politics of choice. In M. Apple, J. Kelway, & M. Singh (Eds.) Globalizing education: Policies, pedagogies and politics (pp.209-230). New York: Peter Lang.
Bernstein, B. (Ed.) (2000) Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: Theory, research, critique. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Durie, M (2001) A framework for considering Māori educational advancement: Hui Taumata Mātauranga, opening address. Taupo: Department of Māori Studies, Massey University.
Ihimaera, Williams, Ramsden, & Long, (1993) He whakaatanga o te ao: The Reality. Auckland: Reed
Mitchell, K. (2003) Educating the national citizen in neoliberal times: From the multicultural self to the strategic cosmopolitan. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 28(4), 387-403
Reid, L. (2000) Being, doing, and becoming: What personal history influences career choice for Māori. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Auckland, Auckland
Shirres, (1997) Te tangata: The human person. Auckland: Accent Publications.


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Maori learners and education, Metaphors and Narratives around children and learners, Mono- Bi- and Multi-culturalism, social and political contexts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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