Framing: How can schools incorporate culturally appropriate material into their curriculum without essentializing cultural specifics?
Essentialism is “the view that categories have an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly but that gives an object its identity” (Gelman 2003). New Zealand is striving to become a bicultural nation to honor the native Maori people and the Treaty of Waitangi, a contract signed by the Crown and Maori Chiefs in 1840. In order to do this, Maori culture is embedded in the national curriculum standards, and there is a push to revitalize the te reo Maori language. However, many teachers don’t feel comfortable being an authority figure on Maori culture or language, and as a result some students have been learning fragments of the language not necessarily relevant or applicable to culture.
Focus: How does the fragmentation of te reo Maori affect the public perception of Maori culture?
I spent three months in the fall of 2015 doing research on place-based education, and that research guided my interest to the prevalence of Maori culture in New Zealand schools. I visited seven different schools in three cities, observed classrooms, interviewed teachers and students, and attended governmental and cultural events.
This project began as an inquiry into place-based education in New Zealand, and from there I was inspired to look more in depth at Maori culture in schools. As a result, much of this project subsite is about my initial process applying for and working with schools in New Zealand. Feel free to look around!
Gelman, Susan A. The essential child: Origins of essentialism in everyday thought. Oxford University Press, USA, 2003.