This book examines the struggle against racial and cultural inequity in educational systems, presenting the case study of a New Zealand school and its community s determination to resist alienating environments.


Coloring in the White Spaces:
Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools

By Ann Milne

If we look at an untouched colouring book, for instance, we think of the pages as blank. But they’re not actually blank, each page is uniformly white, with lines established to dictate where colour is allowed to go. Children by this are taught about the place of colour and the importance of staying within pre-determined boundaries and expectations, reinforcing a system where the white background is considered the norm.

To challenge such whitestreaming, this book offers the example of a community that defied and rejected this environment in favour of a culturally-located, bilingual learning model of education based on secure cultural identity, stable positive relationships, and aroha (authentic caring and love).

This journey is juxtaposed against pervasive deficit-driven, whitestream explanations of inequity and purported “achievement gaps” of indigenous Māori and Pasifika students. This story chronicles the efforts of the Kia Aroha College community on its quest to step outside education’s “white spaces” to create a new space for learning and to reclaim educational sovereignty where individuals have the absolute right to “be Maori”—to be who they are, in school.

Excerpt from the Foreward by Jeff Duncan-Andrade, PhD

Associate Professor, Raza Studies & Education, 
San Francisco State University
Founder and Board Chair, 
Roses in Concrete Community School

When I recommend readings for educators that are thinking about how to develop school cultures that are community and culturally responsive, this is the first book I will tell them to read. While I certainly have not been to every school in the United States, I can say that none of the schools I have visited (and that’s quite a few) have accomplished what Ann Milne and the staff at Kia Aroha College have achieved. This book provides profound critiques of existing colonial models of education and viable alternatives that value the language and culture of those young people and families that have largely been demonized and pathologized in “white”stream models of schooling. It does not need to be this way. If we are ever to achieve the levels of cultural pluralism necessary to achieve pluralistic, multi-racial democracies we must reconsider the ways in which we school our children. For my money, this book is the primer for schools and systems of education in post-genocidal colonial societies like the United States and New Zealand to finally come to grips with the harm it has been doing to children from outside the dominant culture. Nothing is more important in this next generation than a fundamental rethink about how we educate our children, and no book that I have seen should be more influential than this one in those efforts. 


Endorsement by: Distinguished Professor Hingangaroa Smith 

Director of Te Pourewa Arotahi (The National Institute for Post-Treaty Settlement Futures), Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi

This book examines the ongoing struggle for students of color—predominantly Maori and Pacifica students— to extract a ‘fairer go’ from the NZ education and schooling system. Milne applies critical insights to expose how schooling and education (re)produce and maintain dominant power and interests while simultaneously entrenching inequalities that  can suffocate the learning potential of culturally different students. What is unique  here is that Ann Milne not only describes what and why things are going wrong – she also documents the remarkable struggle to transform an urban schooling site in order to demonstrate that public schooling can deliver learning success for all students, including the culturally different. A must read for all educators genuinely interested in building learning success for students of color!  

Endorsement by: Christine Sleeter, Professor Emerita

California State University Monterey Bay

What does education look like that is richly culturally responsive and sustaining, refuses colonization, and embraces critical hope, self-determination and achievement? In this revolutionary counter-narrative about schooling, Ann Milne weaves the story of Kia Aroha College, whose development she led and I have visited, with its firm theoretical groundings and evidence of the centrality of cultural identity to academic learning. Anyone concerned about schools not working well should read Coloring In the White Spaces.

Excerpt from the Endorsement by: Professor Arnetha F. Ball

Stanford University Graduate School of Education.

Coloring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools is a major achievement.  It is the story of a collective journey of three schools that eventually merged into one school over a three-decade period.  It tells of the struggles and the victories of the administrators, teachers, students, families, community, and school board members in their journey to fulfill the dream of responsive schooling.  The realization of that dream is tied to the collective belief that it is possible to make education fit our children’s needs in spite of the presence of fierce opposition at every step.  This book tells the story of a New Zealand school.  But the story has global implicationsIt addresses the most fundamental issues of our times: issues of power, social justice, identity development, and school change through a critical pedagogy based in whānau and Māori and Pasifika values and beliefs.  This book tells the story of the power of a community’s determination to create a school where historically marginalized students could realize their full potential and develop into informed advocates for social justice, critical thinkers, and activists for social change.  In this book these issues are treated with the depth and the detail they deserve.  ... Most important, this book provides evidence that we can change our educational landscape for the better.