Edcurric631: Language and Culture: Assignment 1 April 2010 8229838 Priscilla Allan pg 1
Language and culture are interrelated and this connection will be highlighted by exposing my ignorance of Maori culture and Maori language whilst growing up in New Zealand. Two events will be used to illustrate the change in New Zealand’s cultural practices over the last thirty years. To illustrate the change I will explain the cultural environment I grew up in and my adult experience of Powhiri. The first event is my education about The Treaty of Waitangi, which I received at
Auckland College of Education in 2003. The second event is my return to University in
2010. These events will be looked at through the lens of my developing educational discourse.
When I grew up in New Zealand the Pakeha majority was the dominant
culture. As a Pakeha teenager I attended James Cook High school from 1978 to 1981. I played clarinet in the yearly productions and at prize giving ceremonies. These productions and ceremonies reflected the dominant European culture (Bishop & Glynn, 1999), yet they were produced by a school where European children were the minority. Pacifica and Maori children were the subordinated (Bishop & Glynn, 1999) majority. As a student I did not recognise my own culture because I was not given an alternate culture as a comparison. My culture’s dominance made my culture invisible to me. In
2003 I looked back at my school years from a new perspective.
At Auckland College of Education in 2003 I was given readings on The Treaty of Waitangi. I reviewed important school events, like prize giving’s and school productions and saw how European culture dominated. There were Maori and Pacifica performance groups, but these were not proportionally represented at official events. If they did perform they appeared out of a vacuum (Gee, 1999) with little connection to the rest of the proceedings. I began to understand the need for change and this understanding has been brought back into focus by my return to university in 2010. At Auckland University in 2010 I was able to connect the readings with my personal language development. Bishop and Glynn (1999) discuss the pattern of
dominance and subordination on language. Monolingualism is the result of political and
Edcurric631: Language and Culture: Assignment 1 April 2010 8229838 Priscilla Allan pg 2
economic colonisation, and bilingualism levels are higher for minority groups. As a Pakeha growing up in New Zealand in the 1960’s I experienced a cultural and social milieu which promoted monoculture and monolingual outcomes for Pakeha. I have come to understand that there were political, economic, social and cultural forces at work that explain why I missed out on learning the Maori language and experiencing their culture. My understanding of the connection between language and culture has been further developed by being part of several Powhiri between 2003 and 2010. I returned to New Zealand secondary schools as a teacher from 2004 to 2009 witnessing the change that I referred to in the first paragraph. The Powhiri is
becoming an important part of New Zealand school culture. Local Maori
participate in the development of a school Haka and are invited to play an important role at prize giving and other ceremonies.
A Powhiri displays the connection between language and culture in a transparent way. If a Powhiri was conducted entirely in English then it would not be culturally valid. A Powhiri is a formal Maori greeting and therefore part of Maori culture, and cannot be authentically followed without speaking Maori. This exposure to Maori culture through the Powhiri has allowed me to see that the inclusion of Maori and Pacifica performance groups in a prize giving, whilst performing the entire prize giving in English sends a message of dominance and subordination (Bishop & Glynn, 1999). Bishop and Glynn (1999) provide a model for evaluating power relationships in education. This model can be used to view my education and the effect it had on my language development. I can see that the Maori culture at James Cook High school was not authentic. Alternative views were suppressed. The colonising culture of New Zealand is a culture of power, control and victim blaming. The Treaty of Waitangi can be used as the foundation for partnership and has already guided educational curriculum in New Zealand: Te Whãriki (1996) and the New Zealand Curriculum (2007). I will now use Gee (1991) and his ideas about discourse to further examine my high school experiences.
Edcurric631: Language and Culture: Assignment 1 April 2010 8229838 Priscilla Allan pg 3
Gee (1991) explains that a discourse is like an ‘identity kit’ that instructs us how to act, talk and think. The concept of individual thought being the meeting
place of conflicting/multiple discourses was introduced. Gee (1991) defines acquisition as subconsciously learning without direct instructions. Learning is defined as a conscious gaining of knowledge. We are better at what we acquire, but have more conscious knowledge of what we learn. Gee (1991) also talks about the advantage gained when primary and secondary discourses are compatible. Our primary discourse is mostly acquired in our family of origin. As my primary discourse was used at school, I was advantaged. It is important to note that a discourse is not just a language, it is a way of thinking and acting, and certain behaviors ensure a smooth transition through school whilst other communication methods may ensure almost daily confrontation at school.
Gee (1991) allows us to view a Powhiri as a discourse which can be learned by a
mixture of acquisition and direct instructions. He explains how exposure to multiple discourses enhances individual development.
We are products of our time and place (Claiborne and Drewery, 2010, p 25), and
our thoughts are based on the discourses we have experienced (Gee, 1991). Experiencing multiple discourses/cultures/languages allow us to develop individual thought. The ability to observe our own cultural practises in an objective manner is enhanced by exposure to alternate views. My development of cultural awareness is the result of government policy decisions made to honour The Treaty of Waitangi. The education I received as an adult in 2003 at Auckland College of Education and in 2010 at Auckland University empowered me by providing me with an academic discourse. This discourse allows me to see the effects of the chronosystem, exosystem and macrosystem (Claiborne and Drewery, 2010, p 20) on my language development. I am aware of the richness people gain from exposure to multiple discourses including learning about alternative world views and learning more than one language. I am also aware of the disadvantages that occur when primary and
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secondary discourses do not match. I aim to apply this knowledge to my early childhood teaching and to my personal development. 1086 Words
Bishop, R., & Glynn, T. (1999). Culture counts: Changing power relations in education. (pp. 43-59) Palmerston
North: Dunmore Press.
Claiborne, L., & Drewery, W. (2010). Human Development family, place, culture. Australia: McGraw-Hill
Australia Pty Ltd.
Gee, J. P. (1991). What is literacy? In C.M. Mitchell, & K. Weiler (Eds.), Rewriting literacy- culture and the
discourse of the other. (pp. 3-11). New York: Bergin and Garvey.
Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whãriki: He Whãriki matauranga mo ng mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early
childhood curriculum. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.
Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.