Tomy Ward Education
Education for Critical Times
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Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Tuesday, 30 September 2014 11:07

Sustainable Housing



This study analyses the costs associated with housing development in New Zeaaland, and demonstraes how the present economic model of housing development will contiue to fail to address the chronic unavailability of affordable, warm, healthy housing. In place of the existing model of  economic  development it proposes an alternative model - one that ddresses not just the issue of housing, but also the related issues of employment, educaion, health and social well-being.


To download the PDF click here.

For a more extended (global) analysis click here.



There are two papers here. One on Theory, the other on Practice. They are interconneted, and deal with the important relationship between the two essential spheres of activity in any project that aims to be part of a process of social, cultural anf political transformation.  Together, these spheres are indivisible. Together, as a form of praxis they constitute the indispensible requirement for effective activism. Each depends on the other for its meaning, existence and effectieness. Separate, each is not only meaningless, but contributes to the conterproductice reinforcement and reproduction of the status quo power. As academics we like to talk. We theorise endlessly about the best way to teach to bring about social change. When we do act, it is usually within the relatively safe confines of our own academic world. But as Paulo Freire has so beautifully noted:

"It is very common to find intellectuals who authoritatively discuss the right of the subordinated classes to liberate themselves. The mere act of talking about the working class as objects of their reflections smacks of elitism on the part of these intellectuals. There is only one way to overcome this elitism, which is also authoritarian and implies an inconsistency in intellectuals' revolutionary discourse. These intellectuals ought to stop speaking about and start speaking with the working classes. When educators expose themselves to the working classes, they automatically begin to become re-educated" (Freire, P. and Macedo, D., 1987. Literacy: Reading the Word and the World, New York, Routledge and Kegan Paul:136).

Both were written for the Critical Pedagogy Conference: Critical Education In and Era of Crisis, in Thessaloniki, Greece, in June 2014.

The title of the two papers: Capitalism and Community Health: An Indigenous Perspective, refers to a project conducted in my small New Zealand town of Whakatane (population 15,000) - a town serving a 50% indigenous Maori community that heads the statistics in all of the major negative social indicators. This is the story of a project that aims to correct this unacceptable situation - the design and development of a bicultural Community Hub, conceived, developed and operated by the community. Both Joe Kincheloe and Paulo Freire have stressed the importance of working outside of Western European culture and of immersing oneself and assimilate the feelings and sensitivites in the knowledge and epistemologies that move in ways unimaginable to many Western academic impulses. Kincheloe observes that only now, in the Twenty-first Century, are European peoples just starting to appreciate the value of indigenous knowledge(s) about health, medicine, agriculture, philosophy, spirituality, ecology and education. We have much to learn, as academics, from these cultures, not only about their cultures but also about our own - about our rapacious greed, our exploitation of planetary resources, our poverty-stricken individualism, and abouth the arrogance with which we continue to assume that we are God's gift to the planet; the mistaken belief that with our capitalism we have a superior world view that needs to be spread ever more completely through a process of neocolonialism.

The work presented here takes the domain of Community Health as its starting point. It compares modern western models with a number of different indigenous models, before developing a more explicit and wholistic model of community develomet which then forms part of the Practice that is described in Part 2.

To download Part 1: The Theory. click here

To download Part 2: The Practice, click here.


The two papers included here deal with both the theory and practice of education in the context of Community Engagement. They were written for delivery at a Conference in Greece in June 2014. The Conference - Critical Education in an Era of Crisis - draws attention to the fact that we stand on the brink of a human and planetary catastrophe in which all of our systems - economic, environmental, social and cultural are in danger of collapse. The point of the conference is to interrogate what place education might have in preventing this collapse and in bringing about a more equitable, just, sustainable and kind world. In this, it presumes that education has itself played a critical part in the creation of the world we now inhabit and indeed in the crises we now face. From a Critical Education Theory viewpoint, eduation in its present form both embodies, reflects and promotes the ethic of capitalist development. It is one of the primary hegemonic instruments of capitalism, having played a major role in the process of colonisation and resource exploitation. It therefore stands to reason that in order to "save the planet" both of these causative elements - capitalism and capitalist education - must change. There ios no alternative.

The jargon of Community Engagement, on the other hand, seeks to bring about social and economic change while leaving the structure and operation of capitalism intact. These two papers interrogate this contradiction. Looking at the issue from an indigenous perspective allows us to dig beneath the rhetoric and to understand the underlying systems and processes that are at the root of our crises. But the papers go further. They offer a conrete example of the essential relationship between theory and practice in education and in community engagement that is necessare to realise the changes that are needed.



“The most odious form of colonisation, and that which has brought with it the greatest pain for the colonised – (is) the colonisation of the mind” - Frantz Fanon

“Only now, in the Twenty-first Century, are European peoples just starting to appreciate the value of indigenous knowledge(s) about health, medicine, agriculture, philosophy, spirituality, ecology and education” - Joe Kincheloe


The late Joe Kincheloe draws our attention to the value that the cultures of colonised but unbowed indigenous communities have for us in our present world crises. Building upon the work of more than 40 years across indigenous cultural boundaries this paper critically explores precisely what indigenous cosmologies have to offer to us. Using the fields of community health and development as a metaphor the paper contrasts our modern capitalist health systems with those that existed in pre-colonial times, and which in many cases persist down to the present.  The contrast develops into an informed critique of not just capitalism, but of western materialism and capitalism that is implicit even in suggested socialist models for its replacement.

The paper is in two parts. 

PART 1: THE THEORY explores the theoretical underpinnings of western materialism insofar as it has shaped our conceptions of personal and community health. From this critique there emerges an alternative model that borrows from indigenous concepts. It interrogates the process of colonisation on multiple levels – in the theft of land, destruction of productive capacity, the criminalisation of native leaders and healers, the destruction of indigenous languages and knowledge systems through forced Eurocentric education, and the imposition of racist and self-justifying theories of intellectual and cultural superiority. It also challenges progressive theories of community health, seeing them as still locked into Enlightenment rationalities. It acknowledges the profound wisdom of indigenous conceptions of life and health and connects these to an imperative for direct action to address our current crises and to reinstate the health of our communities and of planet earth.

PART 2: THE PRAXIS describes the engaged practice of this model in a small New Zealand town with a large indigenous (Māori) community. This praxis draws on indigenous models of health, and involves the design of a community facility using a critical pedagogy in a School of Architecture design studio project.

For more examples of Critical Education Theories click here.


For more examples of Critical Education Practice and Community Engagement click here.

Tuesday, 08 April 2014 14:33

Design Archetypes from Group Processes



This paper was originally piublished in July 1987 in Design Magazine (UK). It tells the story of a student project in the Community Design Studio at the University of Auckland. Two years earlier, the Sstudio had been engaged in the contraversial Alternative Aotea Centre Scheme that had pitted the then Mayor of Auckland, Catherine Tizzard (the ex-wife of a Labour Party Minister) in a contest against the author and colleague John Hunt for the hearts and minds of the people of Auckland. Ms. Tizzard (who later became Governor General) used her weekly editorial column in the Auckland Star newspaper to villify and attack the characters of the two of us, in order to ram through her support for the poorly-conceiced performing arts centre. Although the student design had the full backing of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, the mayor prevailed and the design by Ewan Wainscott that she favoured was built.

That experience remained a thorn in the side of the Town-Gown relationship for the next two years. Then, in 1987, the Council invited tenders for the development of a piece of its land on the Karangahape Road ridge, above the city. The Community Design Studio decided to submit a design proposal. But mindful of the past experience with Council, it did so secretly and anonymously, under the auspices of a development company. The design was shortlisted along with two others. This is the story of what happened next.

Apart from the drama of our further interaction with Council (the contract was given to the brother-in-law of the Chair of the Planning Committee (who himself had been a partner in the winning company a couple of years previously), and this author was sued for defamation for pointing this out!) the process itself was a major stepping stone in the development of a consesus design pedagogy that later proved extremely successul, and was lauded here

To download the PDF click here.


 scale health money   community-health-model




This paper was written for presentation at the Critical Education in an Era of Crisis Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece in June 2014. It is in two parts:

Using a critical analysis of the capitalist health system, this paper challenges the western medical paradigm and looks instead at indigenous health system to reveal underlying principles that could inform radical change. It then proposes a new and improved model for community health based on these principles.

 Working with 24 architecture students from 12 different ethnicities, the author develops designs for a new kind of community health facility - initiated and operated by, for and with the bicultural community of the small New Zealand town of Whakatane that exhibits the worst social and cultural statistics.


Friday, 04 April 2014 13:18

Buddhist Economics

jakarta-golf          dallas-food-line-1987

The Impact of Western Economics on the East                   Dallas food line, 1987                         


This is a transcript of the chapter Buddhist Economics in E. F. Schumaker's landmark book, Small is Beautiful. (Schumacher, E. F. Small is Beautiful, Abacus Books, London, 1974) Here, Schumaker brilliantly contrasts the Western and Eastern economic systems and chooses Buddhism as an example. He contrast our dog-eat-dag capitalist system against a system based upon the creation, maintenance, protection and furtherance of human dignity, taking the Buddha's Eight-Fold Path as hisinstrument of analysis. It is a sobering piece of writing when we consider that, forty years after irt was written, the planet now stands on the threshold of calamity.

To download the PDF click here

Friday, 04 April 2014 12:06



Colonialism is the extension, usually by force, of a nation's sovereignty over territory beyond its borders by the establishment of either settler colonies or administrative dependencies in which indigenous populations are either directly ruled or displaced. Colonisation is the process of doing this whereby one people:

  • Invade the space of another people
  • Steal their resources
  • Destroy their productive capacity
  • Control their labour
  • Destroy their belief systems
  • Destroy or assimilate their culture
  • Erase their language
  • Criminalise their leaders
  • Prohibit their constitutional forms and impose others
  • Blame them for thdir own misfortune

Colonisation has been called a crime against humanity.Although not confined to the last 500 years, colonialism has played the most significant part in the development and growth of capitalism. In this essay I chart the development of this relationship over the last 2000 years and down to the present, noting in the process how each has changed and what the consequences for us all might be.


To download the Powerpoint click here


Thursday, 03 April 2014 19:29

In Support of Critical Pedagogy Method




Critical pedagogy is scary! In its simplest form it aligns with the imperative of engaged learning – figuring out ways to have teachers and students co-operatively to engage critically with the knowledge base, the pedagogies and curricula of their disciplines, and to share power in a mutual exploration of alternative understandings that intersect with issues of social, cultural and environmental equity and
sustainability in a context of real social needs and community aspirations. Asking teachers who have had a lifetime of top-down, authority-based, teacher-centered, abstract, silo’d learning to abandon this and to instead relinquish or at least share their power to grade and judge, to work across disciplines and to risk vulnerability and all for the same salary is to ask a lot. Why would anyone want or choose to do this? The answer is, that, with support and a good methodology it is not difficult, and that it can be very rewarding. Apart from the fact that it can energize and animate students to achieve exceptional results, it can also revitalize teaching practices, enthusiasm for the material and insights into new levels of understanding, new, cross-disciplinary combinations and extensions and conceptualizations of material that had previously seemed old and stale. It can be challenging and demanding. But it can also be fun. Many teachers have heard about engaged learning or critical pedagogy and don’t know what it means. Others have an understanding of what it means and would like to try it, but don’t know what to do or where to begin. The paper that follows is an explanation of one method that works. It doesn’t presume to be the only method that works, but it does work. Critical pedagogy and engaged learning are about teachers sharing their power – democratizing the classroom and allowing students to share in the decision-making at every level – the curriculum, the pedagogy and the evaluation. This method describes a way to do this that is safe, that allows teachers to share their power while at the same time retaining some control of the process and the product. It is also a method that if followed properly, will result in high quality outcomes that are sustainable in the long term. It is based upon a process of consensus building that seeks to give voice to those who are normally silenced and to use the multiplicity of perspectives to build solutions of exceptional quality. It is inclusive, democratic and
empowering. Students who have used this method are enthusiastic about their learning experience at deep personal as well as professional levels. The method has been refined over 40 years of practice and experimentation. It works! If you are contemplating introducing critical pedagogy into your classroom, this model will help you understand some of the key issues involved and will offer guidelines about how they might be addressed in concrete ways. It offers concrete examples, in different cultural settings, with comments by the participants, so that you, the reader, may come to understand the deep learning and life-changing experience that can occur on both sides of the teaching/learning relationship when relationships of mutuality are built and sustained over the learning encounter.


To download the PDF click here


“The most odious form of colonisation, and that which has brought with it the greatest pain for the colonised – (is) the colonisation of the mind”
    Franz Fanon

“Only now, in the Twenty-first Century, are European peoples just starting to appreciate the value of indigenous knowledge(s) about health, medicine, agriculture, philosophy, spirituality, ecology and education”
    Joe Kincheloe

The untimely death of Joe Kincheloe robbed the world of an important critical theorist and educator. Amongst his last published words were those quoted above, raising our awareness of the growing importance of indigenous knowledge systems in the crises we face. Marxism has long ignored and/or rejected indigenous cultural systems as “Savage” (Engels (1979:7-22), and Kincheloe’s invitation opens the way for a more inclusive theorising of social issues. This paper attempts to take up this invitation in the context of the poor state of our Community Health.

The health system in every Western capitalist country exemplifies the processes of commodification, of corporate power, the consequential alienation and dehumanisation of the people to the status of “patient” consumers – and the effects of so-called “free-market” economics. Education, too, is both a witness and the object of these same forces that have brought every aspect of our lives, and even the survival of the planet to a point of crisis. The driving power behind this corporatisation of health is, of course, Capitalism – particularly in the United States where the so-called “Health System” best epitomises the ethic of greed and self-interest of the free market.

This paper illustrates a story of how, drawing on indigenous models of health, a culturally diverse group of 24 Architecture students (of 11 different nationalities), working with 7 local high school students successfully navigated the complex web of requirements and diverse social, cultural and economic needs to design a new community facility for the small town of Whakatane in New Zealand. Working under the auspices of two local social service providers and in consultation with the bicultural (50% Maori, 50% European) community – they designed a family-friendly, universally accessible facility catering for the needs of all cultural groups, ages and beliefs and intended to rebuild relationships to reverse the dreadful social, cultural and economic statistics – the worst in the nation:

  • High unemployment rates
  • Lowest income rates
  • Second-highest child violence rates
  • Highest family violence rates
  • Highest youth suicide rates
  • Highest truancy rates
  • Lowest academic achievement rates
  • Highest rate of wealth disparity (roughly divided along lines of race)

The results were unanimously endorsed by community groups, local politicians and regional and district Councillors and the entire community and the project is now proceeding to towards realisation. The design pedagogy and the evaluation and grading processes were carried out collectively and by consensus using a tried and documented methodology (Ward, 2008A, 2008B; Shielke et. al. 2009). While the outcome was successful from a design perspective, the paper will offer reflective critical analysis of the learning outcomes for the students themselves drawing on instances of studio/classroom experience.

To Download the PDF of the Theory paper click here

To download the PDF of the Practice paper click here

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