Symbolic policy and the educational myth of biculturalism
Using the concept of symbolic policy and drawing from an anthropology of policy approach, this paper explores the ways that bicultural education policy creates and sustains a myth of partnership between Māori and Pākehā/European settler-descendants. Drawing from doctoral research undertaken in mainstream Auckland secondary schools, the paper illustrates the ways that the educational myth of biculturalism is sustained through auditing systems and institutional practices, and discusses one particular effect of this process. For the research participants in the study (a group of non-Māori students learning Māori language), bicultural policy, as it tends to be enacted in schools, appears to contribute to an idealized conception of Māori people. In this idealized conception, Māori people are believed to be speakers of the Māori language and consequently the Māori language is perceived to be healthy and thriving. Whether this perception is widely held is unknown, but it has the potential to impact negatively on future Māori language revitalization efforts.