It is sometimes said that half the truth is worse than a lie and indeed in any formal oath, the whole truth is required. Anything less may lead to false conclusions and inappropriate action.
So why does Dover Samuels, as reported by Radio NZ on 3rd September say “the Crown” should apologise to Maoris who had been beaten as children for speaking in Maori at school and that this “had been a deliberate policy on the part of the Crown to disempower his generation” without giving the full story?
And why does MP and Minister, Kelvin Davis add his support, saying “that the issue of ... discrimination against Māori children is a significant one” with nothing to back that statement?
Well now, may I say for a start that I am totally opposed to any violence towards children and supported Sue Bradford in the “anti-smacking” referendum. However here is an issue with a significant background which is seldom mentioned today. There are two important facts which should be accepted right at the start.
First: in the early days of universal education, considerable efforts were made to provide appropriately for Maori children and a number of “native schools” were established.
Now a most significant development was that very many Maori parents decided that it was necessary that in these schools all instruction should be in English and no Maori was to be spoken.
Clearly these parents – in contrast to many today – understood correctly that if their children were to have the best opportunities in the modern world, it was necessary for them to be proficient in English.
Thus, at least two considerable petitions were presented to Parliament. One such was the 1876 petition of Wi Te Hakiro and 336 others that “[t]here should not be a word of Maori allowed to be spoken in the [native] school”. “The Crown”, that is the educational authorities of the day, responded positively to such clearly expressed wishes of Maori parents. It would surely be absurd to apologise today, 143 years later, because it did so!
Second: much is made by some today of the corporal punishment of children caught speaking Maori, ignoring the fact that in those less enlightened days it was applied for all breaches of school rules, not simply by Maori children but by all. There was no “discrimination against Māori children”. In my own schooldays, the cane was in frequent use irrespective of the ethnicity of its victims and no doubt some of them still feel resentment and hurt.
Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".