Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Despair Turned to Hope: A Theoretical Reconsideration of the Maori as a Caste Minority

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Despair Turned to Hope: A Theoretical Reconsideration of the Maori as a Caste Minority

Article excerpt


In this article I consider the impact of research and theory on non-dominant minority groups (1) and the influence these have on shaping educators' understanding of the sociocultural, historical, and structural forces that impinge upon their work in the schools and communities they serve. Specifically, I will be reconsidering the constraints of John Ogbu's (1982, 1987, 1991; Ogbu & Simons, 1998) involuntary-voluntary minority typology as it applies to the Maori in New Zealand against the backdrop of R.A. Schermerhorn's (1970) comparative sequential interaction model and Kaupapa Maori research (Bishop et al., 2003; G. Smith, 2003; L.T. Smith, 1999; Tutta et al., 2004) to piece together a holistic image of the forces that have intertwined to bring about the changes leading to the Maori "revolution" (G. Smith, 2003). Further, I question the representation and categorization of the Maori within a grouping that delimits them to deterministic or static social locations in order to fit them within a rigidly defined dichotomous model. Mark Fettes (1998) articulates the importance of considering theory in light of whether or not it improves the lives of the individuals the theory is built around. "The ultimate test of [a] theory, however, will be whether it can be picked up and applied, criticized, revised, and extended as an evolving guide to practice. The most rigorous of critics is life itself " (p. 251). I have chosen to reconsider Ogbu's theoretical typology to the Maori in New Zealand because I believe the events of the past three decades provide a context to reconsider the theoretical categorization of the caste status historically applied to the Maori (Ogbu, 1978).

A Collective Call to Action

One need not look far to read of the dismal pasts and future prospects which face many indigenous peoples across the globe as cries for sovereignty and self-determination echo from north to south and east to west (Ewen, 1994). These voices urge governments to recognize and offer reparations for a collective past steeped in social injustices, genocide, forced relocation, and assimilation policies (Ewen, 1994; L.T. Smith, 1999; Spring, 2004; Willinsky, 1998). In particular the institutionalized violence imposed through state sponsored indigenous education programs have been openly coercive and effective in distancing indigenous peoples from their cultural identities, languages, histories, geographical locations and kinship ties (L.T. Smith, 1999; Spring, 2004; Willinsky, 1998). The history of the Maori's unwavering perseverance to retain hope, reclaim their history, and envision a future free from the shackles of the past has been vital to their ongoing emancipation. Maori scholar Graham Smith (2003) discusses the importance of the Maori's struggle to see things other than they are and have been in order to fight against the hegemonic forces that have historically encroached upon them.

   The counter strategy to hegemony is that indigenous people need to
   critically 'conscientize' themselves about their needs, aspirations
   and preferences.... Thus a critical element in the 'revolution' has
   to be the struggle for our minds--the freeing of the indigenous
   mind from the grip of dominant hegemony. (p.2)

The Maori have taken a proactive stance which calls into question previously designated roles that have undermined and misrepresented the regenerative force of their activism and social agency to initiate social change. The work I initially undertook to understand the forces that have shaped the Maori cultural and linguistic revitalization movement transformed into a deconstruction of the dominant theories that have shaped my conceptions of intercultural and ethnic relations within a schooling context. As an educator I am concerned with the ways in which science, theory, and research shape teachers' views of their linguistically and culturally diverse students to see them as merely oppositional, reactive, or complacent. …

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