Intellect, dream and action: Story-telling in Steiner schools in New Zealand and the embedding of Indigenous narrative knowledge in education

  • Author John Burnett
  • Source The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives Vol 14, No 2, 2015, pp. 43-50 Special Edition: ANZCIES Conference Proceedings 2014
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This paper argues that the historic mode of expression for Indigenous knowledge has been essentially visionary and mythic, often grounded in oral traditions of great antiquity. Essentially, communication of this knowledge has had a poetic ‘supernormal’ character, employing imagery that can be interpreted on many levels. The danger of superficially rendering ancient cultural forms of knowledge to fit with Western ‘scientific’ understanding is discussed, particularly the risk of divorcing such knowledge from the original, primal, imaginative source in which it is situated. Appreciation of this is necessary if Indigenous knowledge is to be effectively and sustainably embedded in education. The paper explores the educational significance of oral story-telling as a medium through which such knowledge can be articulated but also renewed and further developed, using the concept of Te Whāriki in New Zealand Schools as a model of culturally-inclusive, narrative-rich educational practice within the New Zealand national school system. A fruitful link is drawn between the oral traditions of holistic-wisdom knowledge of Indigenous people and the creative activity of oral story-telling in schools, encouraging an integrated approach to Indigenous knowledge in education that integrates intellect with emotional and practical intelligence.