·Maori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand.
·Colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand society.
·The course of Aotearoa New Zealand history has been shaped by the exercise and effects of power?
All New Zealanders need to be concerned about the slant on New Zealand history that is very likely to be inflicted on our 5 to15 year olds from next year. The proposed new curriculum is now out for comment and you can access it through: Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories in our national curriculum – Education in New Zealand
Telling us what was to come
We did have fair warning of what was coming when the prime minister announced in 2019 that New Zealand History would become a compulsory part of the Social Sciences curriculum from 2022. It was stated that there would be seven basic themes:
·The arrival of Māori to Aotearoa
·First encounters and early colonial history of Aotearoa
·Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its history
·Colonisation of, and immigration to, Aotearoa, including the New Zealand Wars
·The evolving national identity in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries
·The role of Aotearoa in the Pacific
·Aotearoa in the late 20th century and the evolution of a national identity with cultural plurality.
I can’t see New Zealand mentioned in the themes apart from some wars.
Historian Paul Moon observed at the time Of course, there are risks that if done poorly, compulsory history in our schools could veer in to the realm of indoctrination.
Warts and all
A few historians, teachers and journalists emphasised that there should be a “warts and all” approach so that students would not just be given a sanitized version of our history. Some people voiced fears that iwi leaders and Maori academics might have too much say in the final shape of the prescription. If this happened, they worried that the final document could have an over-emphasis on the Treaty of Waitangi, the evils of European colonisation, breaches of the Treaty by “the Crown”, the New Zealand Wars and the Waitangi Tribunal.
Would the curriculum developers – half of whom are Maori – include “warts” like:
·the extermination of the moa, Haast’s Eagle and other bird species
·the burning of huge areas of South Island forest by Polynesian settlers
·the devastating inter-tribal wars
·cannibalism and slavery
·the genocide in the Chatham Islands
·the scores of breaches of the Treaty by Maori such as Te Kooti’s massacres at Matawhero and Mohaka
·the destruction of the natural environment by European settlers to create farms, infrastucture and towns
·the long and great depressions
·the Gallipoli disaster.
Any group developing curricula for New Zealand schools, especially history, needs to be mindful that over 80% of the children of the country are non-Maori and that all of the 16% who call themselves Maori, actually have some non-Maori ancestors.
The coverage of our history over 10 years of schooling needs to be comprehensive, accurate, honest and balanced. In looking at our past we New Zealanders have plenty to be proud of, but there have been darker times in our history which students need to know about. It is unthinkable that Irish children would not be taught about the Irish Famine, the Easter Rebellion and the Irish Civil War.
Concerns about the “big ideas”
Each of the three big ideas mentioned at the start of this article, is followed by a paragraph of elaboration and explanation. So is this outline of the detail accurate and balanced?
For starters Maori history is not the foundational and continuous history of our country. There were people in the country when Polynesians first arrived in the 13th century. In New Zealand today the majority of the people are non-Maori and their history has been important in transforming the environment, building a modern economy, constructing infrastructure, expanding the labour force and creating a modern welfare state. Such developments have benefited all ethnic groups.
Colonisation was not designed to …assimilate Maori through dislocation from their lands and replacement of their institutions, economy and tikanga with European equivalents. There was a desire, supported by many chiefs, to end the worst element of tikanga at the time – inter-tribal wars, killing prisoners, cannibalism, abducting women, slavery and female infanticide. Then after the Treaty of Waitangi Governors Grey and Gore Browne offered Maori chiefs wide powers of local government – runanga - under the colonial government and the umbrella of the rule of British law.
Overall colonisation has been hugely beneficial for all New Zealanders - raising living standards; increasing life expectancy; providing education, health and transport services; and introducing modern technology.
The big idea on the exercise and effects of power incudes reference to ways that have led to damage, injustice and conflicts. Is the implication here that the actions of governments and colonial troops adversely affected Maori?
Will 5, 6, 7 year old and older learners understand the big ideas? They would challenge university students.
Much of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories in the New Zealand Curriculum is heavily weighted towards Maori origins, development and language. The three “national contexts” are all expressed in Te Reo with no translation. In the Rohe and local contexts section the first statement asks: What stories do local iwi and hapu tell about their history in this rohe? Stories here clearly refer to oral history which can be notoriously unreliable. Of all our ethnicities such history is most important to Maori. In Years 9 and 10 a question is suggested: How have the attacks on Rangiaowhia and Orakau been remembered? Local tribes claim from their oral history that atrocities were committed at Rangiaowhia even though the evidence from the time, backed by two chiefs who visited the town soon after the events, rejects such stories. However it’s not hard to imagine what children will be taught.
In the three inquiry practices the identifying sources and perspectives section requires students to pay deliberate attention to matauranga. Maori sources and approaches. Then throughout the knowledge sections and questions to guide inquiry, Maori examples predominate.
This is not a balanced curriculum and is heavily weighted towards Maori history and an understanding of Maori tikanga, customs and terminology. There seems to be a very strong political agenda in these curriculum proposals which is calculated and dishonest.
Important ideas and structure
Students like to know what they are going to study. As a teacher I would give learners a copy of the prescription because in those days there was a clear outline of the content, important objectives, skills and key terms.
If “big ideas” are to be seen as a basis for the new curriculum, here are some suggestions which also include content coverage. This is not a comprehensive list.
·New Zealand is a nation of immigrants who have arrived at different times.
·The early Pacific Island immigrants were mainly hunters and gatherers who lived as different tribes across the country.
·The tribes were often at war with one another and practiced cannibalism and slavery.
·James Cook and other European explorers made the existence and resources of New Zealand known to the world.
·The 1800 - 1840 musket wars between the native tribes dramatically reduced their population.
·There was no united New Zealand nation before 1840.
·The British reluctantly took on New Zealand as a colony and made a treaty with the native peoples and settlers which was as far-sighted as any in human history.
·There was conflict between the government and a minority of northern and central North Island Maori tribes in the 1840s and 1860s.
·More Maori supported the government in these campaigns than opposed them.
·British and other settlers transformed the landscape and economy to develop farms, industries, infrastructure, towns and cities.
·Gold rushes and immigration schemes increased the country’s population.
·The Liberal government from 1891 passed a range of laws making New Zealand a fairer society.
·A welfare state was started by the Liberals, expanded by the Labour governments from 1935 on and added to by governments after World War Two.
·Two Depressions and World Wars affected all New Zealanders.
·Maori New Zealanders generally benefited greatly for colonization but there have been social problems and economic disparities.
·All ethnic groups have provided inspirational leaders who have contributed to the development of national identity and the reputation of the country.
·Rural – urban drift after World War Two saw thousands of Maori move to the cities.
·Pacific Island and Asian peoples immigrated in large numbers from the 1960s on, enriching New Zealand’s culture and making a significant contribution to the economy.
·New Zealand has had an on-going close relationship with Pacific countries and the wider world involving diplomacy, alliances, military action, trade, sporting and cultural activities, foreign aid and accepting refugees.
What can be done?
If these curriculum proposals become the structure for what future 5-15 children are taught in our schools, the outcome will be a blatant exercise in indoctrination and social engineering. The vast majority of these children are non-Maori and, although the history of the Maori experience over hundreds of years has its place, it should not dominate the coverage of New Zealand history that is taught and learnt.
It is vital that as many people as possible send in submissions to make it plain to the Ministry of Education that what is currently proposed for the Years 1-10 History Curriculum is distorted, unbalanced and unacceptable.
Roger Childs is a retired teacher who taught History, Social Studies and Geography for 40 years.