Saturday, September 7, 2019

Bruce Moon: Let the Past be the Past

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.

So – we cannot bring back the past and amend its behaviour to that which we consider appropriate today.  It had its rights and wrongs as so, surely, do we.  But the “deliberate policy on the part of the Crown” was to meet the wishes of Maori parents seeking the best outcome for their children, not to “disempower” Mr Samuels’ generation.  It is surely better to accept this and move on.

Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".


Peter Bacos said...

An excellent account. Maori activists cherry pick when it comes to the past and it seems the Crown rolls over and accepts the biased picture they promote of it, particularly the 19th century. English is a global language with now a billion users; NZ became a British colony in the 19th century, whether Maoris like it or not, and it was essential that Maori children learn English, as obviously some Maoris realised. Where would Maori only get them in the world? There is a well recognised linguistic methodology called total immersion. If I were late for school and could not offer a convincing explanation I was caned; this policy was accepted by students and parents alike without demur.

anonomus said...

An excelent article as it was then and should be now, for the last 20++++ years maori have been reinventing their history regardless of what has been recorded. at the time, there are so many incedences that happened between tribes that all others are being blamed for and the country as a whole id pwaying gor.

Chris said...

I was always under the impression that it was Maori people themselves who wanted their children to learn to speak English in Schools.
And the comment about history being taught in Schools, are the populace of the country going to be happy when their children are taught about the victorious tribe after a battle using their vanquished foes for food and resorting to Cannibalism. I am sure this part of the countries HISTORY will be cut from the stuff to be taught.

T N McCallum said...

Very well put Bruce. The activists cherry pick history to suit themselves and do not seriously look a the context of history when considering issues.
I am getting very tired of the use of this Term " Crown" what is really meant is today's taxpayers .. Maori and Pakeha alike -- represented by by our Govt.Queen Elisabeth 2nd does not not come into it.
There is no " partnership " as our PM often quotes - we are allfellow taxpayers ... or beneficiaries citizens as per the treaty wording, there is no "shared " sovereignty.That is a myth.
We have all inherited the past such as it is, warts and all, and our development as a young nation is the envy of all of the New World countries unlike the shithole Countries found in Africa and elsewhere.
I am all for Te Reo and Maori folk should embrace it but dont expect me to do so . I am now focusing on French in my retirement as my " Hapu " hark back to Huegenots! Each to his own!
Tom McCallum

Anonymous said...

What an excellent comment from Bruce and I can confirm that he is exactly right.
My father and mother-in-law both taught in native schools and my late wife and her brothers were the few white faces in class. There was often discussion at home about the request from Maori parents that their children should learn English at school and Maori language must not be used.I am also sure that discipline was applied where it was deserved.

Donald K. McKenzie said...

My own experience at a small country school where there were only two white faces was that we were punished for speaking out of turn whether we spoke English or Maori. We used slates too. Just how things were in the 30's.

Anonymous said...

What rubbish maori parents did agree to their children being taught the English way of life or to be beaten for speaking language of this land...discrimination at its fullest.