This blog asks Alex Hotere-Barnes (CORE Education Researcher/Evaluator) 7 questions about:
- being Pākehā learning reo and tikanga Māori;
- his experience of working alongside diverse Māori in education; and
- what gets him up in the morning!
1. Your formative education was spent going to kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori, how did that happen?
The late 70s and early 80s was a period of social and cultural change. My parents were politically active at that time. They were both drawn to liberation movements: stopping violence against women; gay, lesbian and bisexual issues; and anti-racism.
Eventually, the opportunity arose for my twin brother and I to attend kōhanga reo. This happened because my dad was, and still is, pretty ‘out there’ politically. Despite his unconventional views (or hopefully, because of them), he was respected by local whānau and hapū. They invited us to be involved in the local kōhanga reo. This opportunity fitted well with his values and philosophy to raise us as bilingual and bicultural citizens.
When, as an adult, I asked my father why he wanted to expose us to Māori education as a Pākehā middle-class family, he said:
“I had an opportunity for you to learn a broader base of ideas as a part of who you are. My upbringing often felt stiflingly narrow and limited because it seemed so monocultural, even when I could learn as an adult to change. I knew I could use my current experience to offer you what I thought would be a much more useful base. I was resolute that the good things within the Māori world along with our privilege as Pākehā would be a whole new combination for you to choose from as you got older…” (Graham Barnes 1)
I realised later, through my own research, that similar ideological and philosophical beliefs underpinned other Pākehā support and involvement in Māori community development initiatives.