Jerry A. Coyne, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, this week published an article headed Proposed New Zealand school curriculum and some strong pushback from four academics.
Not for the first time, he has commented on the reform of New Zealand’s curriculum for secondary schools.
Right now – he points out – the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Education has begun rolling out “proposals,” documents that outline the curriculum area by area.
The Ministry is soliciting comments from the public on these areas, with the intention of implementing a final curriculum by 2026.
The first document, 61 pages long, deals solely with mathematics (including statistics) and English, and has apparently already been subject to comments.
Coyne has provided a link for his readers to click on it if they want to read it.
He warns that the document is heavily larded with untranslated Māori words and phrases.
The only ones his readers need to know (he contends) are these:
ākonga: those who learn; students
whakapapa: Māori genealogy, but construed widely (read the link)
Te Tiriti: The treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 by British colonists and some (but not all) of the groups of Māori. Its legal status is contested, but it’s been broadly interpreted as meaning that Māori will retain the same rights as the British colonists (called “The Crown”). It is this interpretation that has driven much of the curriculum reform, in which Māori “ways of knowing” (see below) are to be given coequal educational status as other “ways of knowing”. The latter includes science, which I’ve written about quite a bit here.
Mātauranga Māori: The traditional body of knowledge, or “way of knowing”, of the Māori people as handed down among generations. This includes practical knowledge acquired through trial and error, myths, legends, morality, and religion.
Coyne reports that objections to this document, and to another, have been detailed in a letter from four New Zealand academics to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who replaced Jacinda Ardern as PM this month.
The objections include the heavy infusion of the curriculum by Mātauranga Māori, the divisiveness of the curriculum—effectively dividing students into Māori and non-Māori and creating a “racialized curriculum” (this was not the case in the previous curriculum,—the reliance on Te Tiriti as a rationale for this division, and, most distressing to me, the total equating of indigenous knowledge with “modern” knowledge, including science and math.
One sees more emphasis in this document on identity than on what students are to learn, as well as a call for broadening the definition of “success”—clearly to ensure that there is no ranking of achievement.
It is putting into practice what many authoritarian and identitarian Leftists want to see in the U.S. It is as much an ideological document as an educational one. And it’s full of buzzwords and messages of hope, but fairly short on substance.
It will be a disaster for New Zealand education, New Zealand students, and New Zealand itself, sworn to propagandize the next generation with identitarianism and dilute rationality with superstition.
Coyne has examined some of the statements in the first of the documents.
There is plenty about identity compared to what is expected that students will know (granted, they do outline some of the latter, but almost entirely for math rather than English). Remember, this is a curriculum! It’s unclear how the identitarianism will be implemented in the classroom.
This has been taken from the math/statistics bit on p. 23-25:
. . . . Being numerate in Aotearoa New Zealand today relies upon understanding diverse cultural perspectives and privileging te ao Māori and Pacific world-views. Like mathematics and statistics, mātauranga Māori is a body of knowledge with a history and a future. When we afford mana ōrite to mātauranga mathematics and statistics and mātauranga Māori while retaining their distinctiveness, ākonga can draw from both in ways that are beneficial to both spheres of knowledge. For example, they will understand how ethical questions posed by measurement, quantification, and stories told about data take unique forms in Aotearoa New Zealand.
. . .Mātauranga Māori and mathematics and statistics help make sense of the world.
. . . Mātauranga Māori and mātauranga mathematics and statistics consist of different systems for viewing, understanding, and organising the world and how we operate in it. The interfaces between them offer opportunities for meaningful inquiry and for mathematical and statistical insights that uphold the integrity of each.
Several other examples are included in Coyne’s critique, leading him to observe:
This is the ultimate takeover of power by the Authoritarian Left, for when you control what is taught, you control what people think as well as the future of the country.
I feel sorry for New Zealand and its citizens, for imagine what will befall their children in school. Indoctrinated in identitarian politics and convinced that indigenous knowledge is just as good as modern science, they will be in no position to navigate the modern world outside their own country.
Finally, Coyne has published the letter from four New Zealand academics.
They wrote on February 8 to Chris Hipkins, the New Zealand Prime Minister (copied to the Minister of Education), objecting to the education plan.
The corresponding signatory is Professor Elizabeth Rata, who also signed the “Listener Letter” that caused controversy by contesting the view that Mātauranga Māori should be taught as coequal to modern science in secondary schools and universities.
But Coyne asks: will the government listen?
If history is any guide, he says, he wouldn’t count on it.
He gives kudos to the signers because it takes immense bravery to write such a letter and then make it public.
I know that a lot of Kiwis agree with Rata et al.’s sentiments, but as one of them told me, it’s too dangerous “to stick your head above the parapet.”
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton