Lewis Andrew

Exclusion is the title of module 6 of the Unteach Racism app which the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand in conjunction with the Human Rights Commission with typical bureaucratic efficiency has spent a number of years developing. If you wish to review the earlier modules, click the links that follow for module 1 introductionmodule 2 low self-belief, module 3 low expectations and module 4 harmful assumptions and module 5 racist exchanges.

On the brainwashing menu for today is an exploration of how “in Aotearoa New Zealand, the dominant Eurocentric culture means that in some settings, the values and culture of the learning environment can exclude indigenous and minority learners.” Please note, dear reader, that the name of our country is no longer New Zealand. It is evolving. It is now Aotearoa New Zealand, and will become Aotearoa. We are promised that the module will explore the dominant values and culture in New Zealand, identify how these can exclude learners, and help unteach racism by affirming the values and culture of all learners.

As we commence the module we are presented with a quote by Ann Milne who wrote a thesis entitled, Colouring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream SchoolsApparently many of our schools “constitute ‘white spaces’ that deny Maori and Pasifika students this crucial [cultural] identity.” I find this extremely interesting because as a young white chap growing up in Auckland, my experience of high school was quite different. I knew what Maori and Pasifika identity was. It was celebrated. Yet I never knew exactly what ‘my culture’ was. I felt very much a minority, but I do not think this had much of an impact on my achievement. According to the module, however, our identity and sense of self-worth depends on how our values align with wider society. Our sense of belonging can be undermined if our values are undermined. We’ll come back to this point later.

We are then told that New Zealand has a dominant Euro-centric culture. What does this even mean? Nowhere is this dominant Euro-centric culture explained or defined, and there is a reason for that. It’s not possible. Are all Pakeha cultures the same? Do we all share the same values? Does every ethnically British person have the same values? And just because they share the same skin tone as Polish Pakeha New Zealanders, does that mean their values are the same? Seriously?

Let’s just take for granted for the moment that there is such a thing as ‘Euro-centric’ culture. We could argue perhaps that Western ideas are common to many of us, despite the fact that Western ideas transcend ethnicity and culture. The irony is, that it is this Western approach that has produced a care and concern for diversity and the representation of other points of view and cultural ideas. That’s what’s great about the West. Because of its Christian moorings, and consequent care for others, it is precisely in places that have been blessed oppressed by Western ideas that allow silly courses like Unteach racism to be produced and then excoriated. So surely the Teaching Council should want Western cultural values to be taught in our classrooms.

We are next presented with a quote from a hand wringing Pakeha teacher. She notes that her identity is “embedded in New Zealand’s colonial societal systems and structures,” and that she can see herself everywhere, “in the language that is spoken; in the faces of those I recognise as the powerful; and in the values that uphold familiar institutions.” Is she correct? Take a look at the current Labour MPs. Are there not a diverse range of cultures and ethnicities, not to mention other minorities there? This is all just very silly. Culture is more than ethnicity. Culture is about what people value and treasure – what our highest goals and goods are. So this is why a Pakeha New Zealander who is a conservative Christian will have far more in common with a man like Elliot Ikilei than a man like Grant Robinson. Cultural values transcend ethnicity.

Homogeneity is the next topic. Apparently, say our benevolent all-wise Teaching Council leaders, a homogeneous perspective focuses on the similarities among individuals within a group and assumes that they all think, behave, or learn in the same way. Yeah, that kinda reminds me a little bit about this whole brainwashing course. Why does the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand assume all teachers think that the Treaty of Waitangi is a partnership between the Crown and Maori and that we must all agree to this when we get registered?

Why is this whole Unteach racism business assuming the homogeneous perspective that because white people share the same skin colour they share the same cultural viewpoints and force this on other people through institutions?

Why does the Teaching Council itself exhibit a homogeneous perspective when it put together Tataiako a list of cultural competencies for teachers of Maori learners. Does it assume that all Maori learners share the same values and needs just because they share the same ethnicity? It seems to me that the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand is rather hypocritical here. On the one hand, we are being told to reject a homogeneous perspective, and on the other hand, their very approach to things Maori is a homogeneous perspective.

Next, we move onto a values prioritisation activity. We are told that some of our learners feel their cultural values are overlooked, or undermined. We then are presented with a list of values and asked to pick our top five values. The values listed are: aroha, spirituality, service, individuality, equity, secularism, humarie, tolerance, conformity, excellence, kotahitanga, diversity, equality, honesty, self-reliance, reason, kaitiakitanga, sustainability, reciprocity and innovation. After selecting our top five we are asked to reflect on our prioritised values and think about how these might influence the culture of our learning environments. We are also asked to consider how much we know about our students and their values and how these might differ to our own. No mention at all is made of which are supposedly Euro-centric. I think it would be dangerous for the Teaching Council to do so – what racist fool would suggest that ‘reason’ or ‘excellence’ are Euro-centric?

So this brings us to our critique of this nonsense. The first problem with this module is that it doesn’t at any point explain the dominant values and culture of “Aotearoa New Zealand”. Apparently, according to some of the quotes presented, there is a real problem with whitestream schools. If this is the case, surely we should be told what exactly it is that makes for whitestreaming. What particular values are inimical to non-white students? I don’t believe they exist. I believe there are commonalities in values between cultures, and wide variations within cultures. In my teaching experience which has been in ethnically diverse environments, I have seen this. I have seen Maori families who are far more like me in their approach to education than Pakeha parents. Programmes like Unteach Racism are an attempt to divide us along the lines of race. We don’t need that.

Secondly, and in my opinion, most importantly, the Teaching Council fails to understand that secular state education necessarily excludes the values and cultures of many of its minority learners. I’ve argued this before in a post about conservative parents and liberal teachers. If their argument does anything, it shows that schools sometimes do not cater for the values of some families. These values, as we have seen transcend ethnicity.

So whose values are ignored or relegated in our public school system? Well, for those who are religious, secular state schools remove what we hold to be the centre of life to the periphery. To us, this is an intensely aggressively religious action that denigrates our cultural values. By removing God and Christian morality from the classrooms, it alienates the minority group of Christians. So-called ‘secular’ or ‘neutral’ education also alienates other religious groups who no doubt would want their values and faith passed on to their children.

We could easily argue in a similar fashion to this module that State-controlled education is an attempt to force the religious (yes I do mean religious!) values of the elite or powerful on the less powerful. Unlike the Teaching Council, I’m willing to suggest some of the values this elite wants to foist on our children: secular atheism or at the very least a God who has nothing to do with the day to day affairs of life, a two-tiered apartheid-like system for New Zealand and sexual confusion and degeneracy in the name of tolerance.

How do we fix this? Not by creating stupid apps at great expense. We get the government out of education. Create an environment where schools are free to compete for students. Give power back to parents and allow them to choose the kind of school that fits with their cultural values and avoid schools that contravene them. Reduce red-tape and control over curriculum content. Stop forcing teachers to accept a politically biased code and standard before they can be registered. Trust that parents in the vast majority of cases care about their children and want them to succeed. Then we might end up with schools that are not alienated from the values of their parent and student body.

In the meantime parents, if you want your values passed onto your children, homeschool, or find a school, most likely independent, that will support you and your cultural values. 

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Unteach Racism – Module 6 – Exclusion
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