5.3.2 Labelling

Participants report being labelled as “dumb” and “non-achievers” and their responses encompass both the risks of and resistance to being stigmatized as Maori:

i) I always looked at every Pakeha student that was at our Maori school, who were the farmers’ kids…as being the brainiest people in that school and we all did, we [Maori] looked at them as being the brainier people. Question: And they really weren’t? Well, I don’t think so, I think we’re just the same, but we were the ones that were called “dumb”. …For me [high school] was…culture shock, coming from out in the country, from a Maori school and then…having to wear shoes and a uniform…[at primary school] we never got to mingle much with Pakeha people. When we got [to North Island Boys’ High School] it was trying to spot the Maori face…it was…a totally foreign environment…I didn’t understand the work…it was just such a big step from what we had come


Research by Prochnow and Kearney (2002) found that ‘2001 1% of all schools was responsible for 13% of all student suspension and those were in mid-decile rather than low decile’ (in Shields et al. 2004:81).

from…the teachers thought we should have been up with the play with everyone else who went to school in the cities and…we got called “dummies” and that by the teachers and that led to me rebelling against them…. after being told that I was a “dummy” in high school, I actually went over and punched this teacher…[and] walked out of that school. (Kahu-puha).

ii) One of the things that I’ve always…had is that I never allowed anybody to make me feel stupid, I would never ever give anyone that power. But I can understand when I hear people say, “I’m just a ‘dumb Maori’, I can’t do it” ... somehow those people’s personal power has been lost. (Hine).

iii) When I left [a Christchurch College] one of my teachers told me that I was going to end up as “a typical Maori on the DPB” and that I would never make it. (Daisy).

iv) There was a teacher that said to me that “I’d never amount to anything.” I saw that same teacher when I went up north…. I remembered that hurtful comment…[she made when] I was maybe 10 or 11…well, it couldn’t have been [because of my] school performance…it can only have been [because of] my colour and maybe the clothes I wore, or that I couldn’t afford a nice white pair of socks. I told her [that]…when I was in Form II, you told me that ‘I would never amount to everything’.” “Did I?” she said…. That was twenty five-ish years ago…it’s that feeling a bit of a stab wound and you never forget it…. I’ve learnt that no matter what people say about me, in my own little world, I go to this created “safe place” where…I’m beautiful and I am the best. (Rangiahua).

v) …As a people, we’re easy going, we’re easily led, if you get one leader who wants to get out on the booze, everyone goes along…unfortunately our people can’t seem to get that happy medium…. Some are just lazy. (Nigel).

The racist labellingrevealed inparticipants’ testimoniesis recognized as a major deterrent to educational achievement (Shields et al., 2004:9). Kahu-puha’s experience (i) provides an example of how institutional definitions of inferior Maori intellectual ability continue to be considered authoritative by many educators and Maori alike (Bishop and Glynn, 1999:29). The internalization of negative stereotypical myths by Kahu-puha (i) and fellow Maori pupils at a remote primary school where they constituted the majority population demonstrates the propensity of institutional

symbolic violence to intensify cultural isolation in the absence of support mechanisms to counteract racism (Hall et al., 1994:26). The insidious effects of labelling are identified by research conducted by Sultana (1989:3) in three high schools in a North Island provincial city in 1986. He found that “…Maori students generally internalize the version of themselves as second class citizens – as ‘dumb’ and ‘thick’ – and therefore worthy of second, if not third best at school and elsewhere.” Kahu-puha’s premature departure from high school supports Sultana’s (1989:2) argument that this type of resistant behaviour by Maori pupils “contains not only elements of strength

and power, but also, at a deeper level, an element of self-damnation. In their rejection of schooling, Maori students “in the end, do the work of bringing about the future that others have mapped out for them (Willis, 1977:198).” Conversely, Hine (ii)

demonstrates the manifestation of Maori resilience through the creation of inter- personal boundaries that protect an individual’s self-esteem and foster an ability to emphasize with others (Hall et al., 1994:25).

The labelling of Daisy (iii) and Rangiahua (iv) as “non-achievers” constitutes a form of double jeopardy that reinforces biological essentialism as well as the concept of meritocracy (the belief that scholastic ability, coupled with effort, results in

achievement (Adams et al., 2000:237). Together these concepts, which infer that Maori are not only “dumb” but lazy as well, reveal a pernicious aspect of the hidden curriculum (the informal learning that occurs in formal contexts), (Adams et al., 2000:242) in mainstream schools. Nigel’s (v) reference to Maori being “lazy” suggests the risk of internalizing a hegemonic discourse, whereas Rangiahua’s (iv) response to demeaning labelling indicates a resilient manifestation of reflectiveness through the construction of protective and empowering psychological boundaries.


The barrier of Inadequate Secondary School Qualifications highlights the systemic failure of the compulsory education sector to engage successfully with Maori. During the 1996-2002 period, 37% of the approximately 10,000 youths (+18-20% of school leavers in 2000) who left school without qualifications were Maori (TES, 2002:4). Despite pronouncements of “zero tolerance for educational failure” expressed at Hui Taumata Matauranga (2002), second-chance learners constitute a large section of the Maori tertiary population. While seven of the twenty-five participants in this study engaged in tertiary study either as school leavers or before the age of 25 years, four left school at age fourteen.

In document Barriers To Maori Student Success At The University Of Canterbury (Page 86-88)