Decolonization

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One of the highlights of my Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching experience was interviewing Tamsin Hanly, the author of Critical Histories: A Critical Guide to Māori and Pākehā Histories of Aotearoa, a 6-book decolonization curriculum and professional development for teachers (the curriculum is not for students). I interviewed Tamsin at Newton Central School in Auckland, where she worked for 17 years. She is now a part-time lecturer at the University of Auckland. The 6 videos of my interview with Tamsin can be found below.

Tamsin is the author of a curriculum for the decolonization of teachers, a process that she stated takes years of professional development. The term decolonization is usually used in indigenous education but is often applied to other marginalized groups as well (at least in the United States). The term decolonization also usually has to do with indigenous land and returning land to the indigenous groups that were in a particular country before colonization occurred.

Side note: (A link to an article describing decolonization in Nunavut education.)

Decolonization “involves learning to recognize disruption
and injury and to address their causes” (Gruenewald,
2003, p. 9). Decolonization also involves “addressing the
history of colonization from Indigenous perspectives,
deconstructing structures from the past and in the present
associated with settler colonialism, and considering a
different future with reference (and relevance) to the
imperatives of Indigenous peoples” (McGregor, 2013).

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Some books that I found for sale on http://www.amazon.com on decolonization in schools were the following:

https://www.amazon.com/Decolonizing-Methodologies-Linda-Tuhiwai-Smith-ebook/dp/B00FGTP76M/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=

https://www.amazon.com/Indigenous-Eyes-Only-Decolonization-Handbook/dp/1930618638

https://www.amazon.com/Whitecentricism-Linguoracism-Exposed-Centering-Decolonization/dp/143311982X

https://www.amazon.com/Indigenous-Peoples-History-ReVisioning-American/dp/0807057835/ref=pd_rhf_dp_s_cp_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51izIfRKt-L&dpSrc=sims&preST=_SL500_SR90%2C135_&psc=1&refRID=TYAR3YNN12WBK7ZP2KAV

https://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Critical-Indigenous-Methodologies-Norman/dp/1412918030/ref=pd_sim_14_8?ie=UTF8&dpID=510hZB8pJpL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR124%2C160_&psc=1&refRID=CKTXQBJJSGHP8CJ0DVPF

The following information was taken directly from the Critical Histories website (find link below):

The CPR has been written in response to research findings that many teachers have outdated knowledge about Māori and Pākehā histories. They have a lack of critical history, Treaty and Māori knowledge. Teachers tend to steer clear of ‘controversial’ content and have a belief that younger students cannot manage this content (Consedine & Consedine, 2013; Hanly, 2007; Harrison, 1998; Kunowski, 2005; Sheehan, 2010, 2012; Simon, 1992, 2000).

The CPR is based in multicultural history and social studies pedagogies. It attempts to be more directive, comprehensive and critical. It is aimed at a primary school level but can be useful Professional Development for all levels and educational centres. The historical narrative is based on authoritative historical texts with an ethical commitment to properly represent that authoritative historical work.

The CPR is written in a knowledge from practice that people will not see changes in any inequities in our education systems or meet policy potential until we address the current teacher lack of the knowledge mentioned above, present new discourses to talk about these and give educators some options about how to teach this new information. This CPR is not a ‘happy ever after’ or solution to Māori and Pākehā issues. The CPR is an offering to schools and teachers to more effectively meet the NZC goals and other relevant policies.

It is designed to professionally develop educators, through exposure to critical content and pedagogy, who then design and teach their own and updated work for students. It is entirely possible to start learning, teaching and having informed conversations in classrooms about things we have not to date raised. All students and educators can know these stories to honour the intentions and visions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi agreements and the possiblities of a future based in bilateral aims of those (Huygens, 2007), as well as being informed active citizens in their nation.

The CPR includes two worldviews, two knowledge bases: a tangata whenua view, and a Pākehā settler group view. It draws on all Treaty texts, a local and global context, histories of colonisation and an honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi discourse (Huygens, 2007).

This CPR overview covers six topics that schools can use in a range of models of delivery. The six topics each have one Unit booklet which is divided into historical sections, with matching social science achievement objectives, a rationale, learning outcomes, core information, essential ideas, junior and senior activity possibilities, images, optional cross-curriculum term overviews, websites and references.

After reading the booklets for Professional Development, educators can select from the resource and create their own unit plans, lesson plans, and assessments for deliver as is an educator’s craft. The resource can be integrated across all primary curriculum areas. Centres can collate their teacher planning and resources. A staff member needs to be a caretaker of the CPR for the centre to ensure direction, copy only for in school use.

This CPR has been designed and written by a Pākehā senior primary school teacher who has twenty five years’ experience in Mainstream and Māori mediums teaching this content and a similarly experienced pathway teacher editor. This CPR will assist beginning to experienced educators of all ethnicities to teach these histories more effectively to our students of all ethnicities.

The resource uses the generalised terms of ‘Māori’ and ‘Pākehā’, but it is important to remember that these terms tend to ‘homogenise’ and over-simplify these groups, that is, to imply that they are entirely different from each other, and those within the groups are mostly similar. Neither of these statements is correct. Māori and Pākehā groups are made up of complex individuals, groups and cultures and these complexities need to be included in teachings.

Source: Critical Histories Website

For more information about Tamsin Hanly’s decolonization curriculum, please click here and here for two articles that describe her work.

I was very intrigued and interested in Tamsin’s decolonization curriculum because I had never encountered any type of professional development for teachers that addressed decolonization. In the interview Tamsin stated that in order to decolonize schools and educational systems, we must decolonize teachers first. In the articles linked above, Tamsin states that most of the teachers she knew were not teaching accurate histories of Aotearoa and that many teachers did not teach about any Māori topics, histories, or concepts-“They choose safe topics. They don’t do colonisation. Under the primary school curriculum, the Treaty isn’t mentioned. The two worldviews that created the Treaty aren’t mentioned. Nor are the years since 1840. There are primary schools that don’t cover anything to do with Māori-Pākehā relationships. And that neglect can carry on into secondary school.Most other nations make a priority of teaching their own history. But, here in Aotearoa, our kids are likely to know more about Kate and William and Harry than they do about the Kingitanga. Under the present system, we’re producing continuous generations of ignorance — and historical amnesia. It really is a desperate situation.” 

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Decolonizing the entire staff (primarily the teachers) is not something that happens overnight, nor is it a simple task. Decolonization at the school level requires important conversations to be had (usually led by a leader, ideally the principal or professional development provider) amongst the staff regarding the accurate teaching of history as well as the well-rounded teaching of history, history that is not solely focused on the European perspective- also, decolonization includes a restructuring of the mentality of teachers when it comes to teaching history through the perspectives of historically marginalized groups (i.e. Māori, African-Americans, Latino). Many teachers may not themselves actually have the knowledge of accurate histories because they were not taught these concepts as children. The process of decolonization requires unlearning- unlearning how we were taught history as children, unlearning how we learned to teach history to our students, unlearning our own beliefs about history, unlearning what we are told our entire lives regarding the histories of people of color, of marginalized groups, of oppressed peoples. Schools are hubs of social justice and equity- this is what we must aspire to as educators, to create a school space that is driven by these principles. There continue to be great injustices in our educational system, where students of color continue to be in a system of poverty, where people of color continue to be victims of police brutality and our prison systems, where students of color continue to be victims of systemic racism in our schools and in our society. Addressing these societal issues requires teachers to have conversations in their classrooms about racism, injustices, social justice, equity, and other issues that impact children and their communities. To be able to have these conversations with students, teachers must have knowledge about these issues in the first place. Decolonizing teachers is one of the most important steps to changing how we address inequities in our schools.

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Zoé Samudzi, author of We Need A Decolonized, Not A “Diverse”, Education, states that in order to be able to address decolonization in the schools, we need critical pedagogy. “Critical pedagogy is a kind of instruction that challenges dominant structures (such as whiteness) through dialogue and ultimately seeks to create a social and political consciousness that empowers individuals and communities to name and identify oppressions. Brazilian educator Paulo Freire named this “critical consciousness,” and the process of consciousness-raising was called “conscientization.” In his book Education, Power, and Personal Biography, Argentinian sociologist and educator Carlos Alberto Torres challenged mythologies of liberal education and its “notion that education is a neutral activity, and that education is an apolitical activity.” It is impossible for American education to be neutral and/or apolitical when lesson plans of all educational levels are sites of historical revisionism. One of my favorite quotes is an Ewe-Mina (peoples from Benin, Ghana and Togo) proverb: “Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Until indigenous communities can tell the story of America’s “discovery” by European explorers, until the African diaspora can write the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, until marginalized communities are the storytellers of their experiences, history will be rendered partially complete but wholly privilege the knowledges and perspectives of colonizers.”

Fulbright Inquiry Project Presentation- 2016-47

Some important articles that discuss decolonization are:

http://www.sfu.ca/ipinch/outputs/blog/repatriating-indigenous-cultural-heritage-what-s-reconciliation-got-do-it/

https://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/cultural-appreciation-or-culturalappropriation/

https://theladiesofoitnb.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/exist-and-resist-indigenize-and-decolonize/

Roots of Earth Repair: Decolonization and Environmental Justice

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