Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices, Vol 2, No 1 (2008)

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Tawhaki and Māui: critical literacy in indigenous epistemologies

Garrick Cooper


The purpose of this paper is to draw upon Māori epistemologies to begin constructing new interpretations of Māori children’s experiences in what is largely still in New Zealand, despite many innovations, a monocultural education system. I will use two sets of traditions from Māori epistemologies to construct reference points for (re)interpreting their experiences. These could, and most likely will be, described as “alternative”, however in this paper I centre these in this interpretation of Māori students’ experiences in “mainstream” education. In doing so, the implication is that other or more mainstream readings of their experiences are epistemologically and therefore culturally located – that however is not a focus of this particular discussion. In particular, I will engage critically with the notion of a “long tail of underachievement” in the New Zealand educational context and the pathologising discourse that has been constructed around these statistics. 


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Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices is a non-commercial initiative committed to the ethical dissemination of academic research and educational thinking. CLTP acknowledges the thoughtful dedication of authors, editors and reviewers to develop and promote this open journal initiative. The journal receives copy-editing sponsorship from the Faculty of Education at the University of Oulu, Finland. CLTP has previously received  copy editing support from the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice at the University of Nottingham, UK.