I am interested in establishing an interdisciplinary relationship between Te Reo Māori and Classical Studies. Though a range of connections between the two subjects is available, I am choosing to focus on developing a unit in the context of mythology.
Ancient Greek and Māori mythologies are fundamental to Western and Māori share striking similarities. For instance, the mythologies involve similar narratives, themes and characters (e.g. Gaia and Papatūānuku are both mother earth figures who birth a race of gods; Persephone and Hine-nui-te-pō are both goddess rulers of the Underworld, etc.).
“You can begin to understand their horizon as well.” – Joyce Thomas (2011).
A benefit of the relationship between Te Reo Māori and Classical Studies is the potential for students and teachers to develop empathy for Western and Māori cultural heritages.
“Previously unconnected connections are made.” – Dr. Deana McDonagh (2011).
In learning about the connections between Western (Pākehā) and Māori myth systems, this context has the potential to foster a sense of unity (kotahitanga), which is important considering New Zealand’s fragmented past. Through exploring the similarities and differences between the two mythologies, it is possible to provide students with a learning experience that will build their own cultural identity within the bicultural context of New Zealand.
Mathison & Freeman (1998) iterated that interdisciplinary studies promote positive attitudes towards subject matter. The topic of mythologies is a rich context in which students can explore similarities between two cultures that are often seen as inherently different. In seeing the connections between Western and Māori mythologies, students could develop a more positive attitude towards other contexts which involved Māori and Pākehā, such as, the Treaty of Waitangi.
While the development of empathy is desirable, how the teaching and learning programme is designed must provide clear pathways for students to not only establish, but see value in the connections between Greek and Māori mythologies. Working with the Te Reo Māori teacher in achieving a cohesive interdisciplinary unit could prove difficult. For example, Mathison & Freeman (1998) pointed out teachers struggle to abandon old pedagogies and content they are familiar with. Yet, by establishing common goals and parameters to work within, we could provide students with the opportunity to develop empathy and cultural identities, while still maintaining the academic integrity of both subjects. Mulligan & Kuban (2015) provide one such model for guiding interdisciplinary collaboration, though despite being based on literature and practice, does come across as simplistic (i.e. the need to have a compromising attitude and equity for all involved feels pretty mandatory given the circumstances).
Recognising that the beginning of an interdisciplinary relationship will get better over time is important in overcoming short-term issues that may arise. While I agree with Thomas (2011) who pointed out the need for a shared language to be developed to facilitate interdisciplinary cohesion, McDonagh’s (2011) claim that “not being experts is an advantage” in working with a discipline outside our expertise felt too optimistic. Being an expert is always an advantage! Yet, I acknowledge that she was simply perpetuating a mind-set that might be helpful to adopt.
Mathison, S., & Freeman, M. (1998). The Logic of Interdisciplinary Studies. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED418434
Mulligan, L. M., & Kuban, A. J. . (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration./
ThomasMcDonaghGroup. (2011). Interdisciplinarity and Innovation Education. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDdNzftkIpA