Roger Childs has been a teacher of geography, social studies and history for 40 years. In addition he has worked on many social sciences curriculum and examination contracts for the Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs and has been an author and co-author of several school textbooks, including history ones.
He is therefore very well qualified to carry out a critique of the Ministry of Education’s controversial new history curriculum. In this book he works his way through the curriculum and concludes “The final curriculum published in 2022 is a case of deliberate, pre-meditated social engineering. This curriculum is more about Maori studies than New Zealand history.”
The author’s revelations are startling and there is strong supporting evidence for his mixture of deep concern and dismay. For instance the new history curriculum has no mention of Captain James Cook, an amazing English explorer, navigator and captain. Cook’s discovery and mapping of New Zealand in 1769-70 was arguably the most important event in New Zealand history. Inexplicably Captain James Cook’s exploits are studied in schools in other countries, but not in New Zealand.
The list of startling omissions does not end with Cook. Other examples of glaring omissions are Sir Edmund and Sherpa Tenzing’s climb of Mt Everest, the 1968 Wahine disaster, the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption, the deliberate Rainbow Warrior sinking, the Mt Erebus plane crash, the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11, Abel Tasman’s 1642 visit and several other notable events.
Important individuals in New Zealand’s history such as Premier Richard John Seddon, Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage, George Grey (arguably the most important figure in New Zealand’s post-1840 history), as well as Prime Ministers such as Norman Kirk, David Lange and Helen Clark do not rate a mention.
The author sees this as prejudiced, commenting “there is a very obvious failure to name non-Maori leaders and personalities who have had a major impact in New Zealand’s development. Only Kate Shepard gets her name on the board for non-Maori people.”
Skewed towards Maori history
Instead the curriculum is blatantly skewed to focus on Maori history but with a strong bias. Maori history is based on word of mouth passed down through successive generations. Understandably there were no written records.
I am reminded of the 10 minute, often 10 person party game called “Chinese Whispers”. The aim is to illustrate how easy it is to misinterpret or pass on only part of a message.
The first person is given a relatively short message perhaps two sentences. It is then whispered to the second participant who whispers it to the third participant and through to the last player. At the end the message is read out and compared, to assess how close it is to the original. In most cases the passed-on message is quite different or distorted. “If there are no changes at all —it’s unusual to get this result.” Maori history is arguably a “Chinese Whisper.”
NZ History teaching is welcome if kids get the right stuff
However, Roger Childs welcomes the teaching of history and making it compulsory. “Compulsory teaching for Year 1-10 students is welcome,” he writes and then adds, “But will the kids be getting the ‘right stuff’ from 2023 on?”
He confronts the use of the word “Aotearoa” instead of New Zealand. He describes the usurping of the name New Zealand as “politicking”. After all, Michael King in his Penguin History of New Zealand notes that “in the pre-European era, Maori had no name for the country as a whole.”
The over-emphasis on Maori history passed down verbally is virtually racist in itself. Roger Childs recalls when he was teaching the classroom was of various ethnicities — Indians, Samoans, Tongans, South Africans, Europeans, Chinese — “the colour of their skin was of no consequence.”’
When the curriculum was released in draft form, there were over 5,000 submissions. The Ministry of Education responded “there will not be any radical changes to the content and any additional content will be in line with what currently exists.” Roger Childs writes “the draft was a highly flawed, uneven proposal, riddled with factual errors and saturated with references to Maori history, tradition and knowledge.”
There is no mention of the many benefits of Colonisation
No credit is given by the curriculum to colonisation bringing an orderly society to Maori. Roger Childs writes “The supreme political achievement in our history over the last 200 years has been to bring a Stone Age culture, where cannibalism, inter-tribal warfare, the exploitation of women and slavery were common, into the modern world and create an advanced multi-cultural nation under the rule of British law.”
The author stresses that he has no bias as to Maori. “All citizens of the country need to see themselves first and foremost as New Zealanders —our Kiwi culture is a rich tapestry of many different elements — many immigrants saw New Zealand as an egalitarian society where equality and democracy were fundamental ideals.”
Brave and bold
This book is brave and bold in concluding “the Ministry of Education is engaging in social engineering, aimed at indoctrinating young people with a slanted, Maori-dominated view of our history — lively, impressionable Kiwi kids who want a balanced, honest and interesting syllabus sadly are not getting it.”
‘New Zealand’s History Curriculum: Education or Indoctrination? is published by Tross Publishing. Price $35. Available from Paper Plus stores and independent booksellers or direct from the publisher through the website .
Tony Orman, once a town and country planner, is now a part-time journalist and author. This article was first published HERE