Author: Roger Childs
Publisher : Tross Publishing (RRP $35)
Rating : Very Good
Target Audience: All concerned New Zealanders
Reviewer: Rob Paterson, Retired Lawyer, Tauranga
I am more than happy to provide this review and it is fair to say that I looked forward to the release of this book on the proposed New Zealand History curriculum. The contents of the book do not disappoint and the author, Roger Childs, is well qualified to address the subject, having spent many years in the education system and particularly as a teacher of history, geography, and social studies for over 40 years.
In passing I would say that when I attended Auckland University in 1960 (shortly before the author), I also studied New Zealand History under Professor Keith Sinclair and I am well aware of the excellent syllabus that prevailed at that time plus I am familiar with the publications he refers to and, in fact, I still have them in my small library.
Let me make it clear at the outset that the name Aotearoa, used throughout the new curriculum by the Ministry of Education , is a fake name and that the official name of this country is New Zealand.
This example of either ignorance or bias is typical of the whole curriculum and if the Ministry can’t even get the name of our country right how can we have trust in anything they say?
The book itself is well set out and easy to read, being divided into four parts: -
1 Pathway comprising 8 chapters( 1-8)
2 Features and learning comprising 7 chapters(9-15)
3 Omissions comprising 9 chapters(16-24)
4 Judgement containing 4 chapters(25-28)
Plus Appendices A B C D & E –Covering Years 1 to 10 Key Knowledge and Questions
The book addresses what the Ministry of Education is proposing under the New Zealand History Curriculum for schools. The author clearly has misgivings with what is proposed and deals with the criticisms levelled at the current proposals by the likes of The Royal Society of New Zealand and others suggesting amendments be made to the original proposals. Some of these suggestions were taken on board but the final proposals still fall far short of a proper and legitimate New Zealand History Curriculum.
The author’s conclusion is that “the final curriculum published in 2022 is a case of deliberate premeditated social engineering. The developers of the curriculum clearly had their agenda and no doubt instructions from the Ministry. By putting Maori history, identity ,culture and experience at the heart of the syllabus, students will be taught to see Maori people as special .The curriculum is more about Maori studies than New Zealand History”.
I endorse Roger Childs’ conclusions and would also point out that Paul Moon ,a history professor at AUT, warned “ of course there are risks that if done poorly, compulsory history in our schools could veer into the realm of indoctrination, Well in my view those fears were well founded .
There are full references in the book to glaring inaccuracies. The Rangiowahia incident as well as the myths and mistruths that have been told about this affair have been accepted by the powers that be as gospel.
There are other instances in much the same category, referenced in the book, and the fascination and fixation with all things Maori leave a lot to be desired.
The omission of many important notable events in New Zealand history is lamentable and what has been left out is inexcusable. Thus there is no reasoned or balanced history provided.
A genuine New Zealand History curriculum for schools is to be lauded as long as it is fair, balanced, objective, truthful and factual but there is no place for the sort of propaganda that is being floated in the current curriculum.
The best outcome would be for the new school curriculum to be shelved and a fresh start made on the project by people who are interested in the genuine and truthful recording of New Zealand history.
Throughout the book, the author has endeavoured to outline what the curriculum is, what the alternative options are and what the failings are. He also addresses the criticisms levelled at the curriculum which he concludes are justified and one can only feel in its present form that the curriculum will have detrimental effects on the minds of young students who do not have the ability or the resources to search the facts and the truth.
In addition, they will not have access to all the written material.
As noted, Professor Paul Moon’s solution was that the new curriculum needed to show the whole picture ‘warts and all ‘ which is the correct approach but there is no attempt in the curriculum to do this.
For example, The Musket Wars with probably the most dreadful carnage in our history have been airbrushed out of existence while inordinate emphasis has been placed on the Waikato Wars of the 1860’s with a barely concealed bias against the settlers.
Using impressionable young school children as guinea pigs for this tainted offering is unacceptable. Promoting mistruths has no place in New Zealand history and yet the standard defence when the culprits are challenged, confronted and faced with the facts and truth is usually “that history is often contentious and debatable”. That is not correct, and the truth is not, and is never negotiable.
Every school library and all MPs should acquire a copy of this very readable book to recognise what is happening and to be on their guard against this sort of try-on and to recognise misinformation.
*Remember that denying the truth doesn't change the facts.
*Truth matters above all else .
*The great enemy of the truth is very often not only the lies, deliberately contrived and dishonest as they may be, but the associated myths which are persistent, pervasive and unrelenting.
*Everyone is entitled to there own opinion but not their own facts.
I urge all New Zealanders to read this very informative book and to draw their own conclusions on the serious matters and shortcomings raised and, if they agree with the conclusions reached, then they should take matters up with their Members of Parliament and the schools their kids attend, expressing their dissatisfaction and abhorrence about what is going on with the curriculums.
Our children’s future depends on it and, if kids are not interested, they will not learn.
Perhaps we should let the back cover blurb on the book have the last word “The 2019 announcement that a new history curriculum would be introduced for year 1-10 students was greeted with enthusiasm. But concerns were expressed by some historians that Maori history might predominate. It was suggested by many that there should be a balanced approach to cover both positives and negatives in our nation’s story”.
Well, that hope did not eventuate.………………..“ The Ministry is engaging in social engineering aimed at indoctrinating our young people, with a slanted Maori -dominated view of our history.
In doing so, they have lost sight of the recipients - lively impressionable Kiwi kids who want a balanced, honest, interesting syllabus. Sadly they are not getting it.”
‘Well done’ to the well-informed people such as Roger Childs and the other authors like him, who take the trouble and time to investigate, report and write on matters that seriously affect and are of concern to all New Zealanders. The failure of the Ministry to perform adversely impacts on what is already a very poor education system with truancy rates of up to 50% and currently ranking lowest in the OECD.
This book is available from Tross Publishing through its Website : www trosspublishing.co.nz
Rob Paterson is a retired lawyer, who lives in Tauranga.