Sunday, April 23, 2023

David Lillis: A Few Questions for Prime Minister Hipkins and our Ministries of Health, Education and Science

A cadre of activists may find meaning and purpose in their cause and be willing to stop at nothing to prosecute it, while a larger number may disagree but feel they have other things to do with their time than push back. The activists command an expanding arsenal of asymmetric warfare, including the ability to disrupt events, the power to muster physical or electronic mobs on social media, and a willingness to smear their targets with crippling accusations of racism, sexism, or transphobia in a society that rightly abhors them.
- Pinker and Madras (2023)


Is there not rather too much contention, bad manners and adversarial behaviour in New Zealand these days? Surely, we can achieve an egalitarian society more easily by working together and behaving with respect towards one another - but not by suspending our better judgement and elevating any group above everyone else. However, that’s exactly what we are doing in this country. Take a look at Pacific health and poverty statistics. They're worse than those of any other group, but Pacific people get scant attention in He Puapua and our "refreshed" national curriculum, and get very much second place behind Māori in our revised efforts on science funding.

Over a few years I have commented on issues of material consequence for New Zealand. Many of my articles have sought to expose and address negatives, but too few have highlighted the positives. And there are plenty of positives to be said about New Zealand. Low levels of serious crime; low levels of racism and prejudice compared with many other nations; no warfare or famine; a strong health system; relatively good education and in general a great place to live and bring up children.

Some of us who have reached a degree of seniority in years find it imperative to stand up for what we consider to be right and to stand against what we consider to be wrong for our country and its people. While recognising past injustices, we believe that both activists and certain well-meaning people are harming this country and must be resisted. Undoubtedly, many are of positive intent who wish to repair inequities and heal fractures, but others are driven by ideology, blind ambition and even greed. They must be opposed if New Zealand is to remain a democracy that is competitive with other developed nations.

For example, preserving indigenous knowledge and language is to be fully supported but why should every Asian, Pacific and Muslim child be forced to take time out of critical learning in numeracy, literacy and mathematics and spend that time absorbing the traditional knowledge of one minority and be made to accept it as truth? Why, as Mera Penehira claims, is our national primary and secondary curriculum wrong for some ethnic groups but not for others (Ministry of Education, 2022)? If it is not wrong for others, then why force those others to submit to a curriculum that has been configured to suit one particular minority, for decades to come?

Notwithstanding past injustices and, despite positives and negatives in both historic colonialism and early traditional or indigenous society, the Treaty of Waitangi is being invoked to do much more than establish equality across communities. Instead it is being used to give preferential status to one community, paying little more than tokenistic attention to others. It will achieve this objective at cost to other groups and in doing so will harm education, science and international competitiveness. It will also damage the reasonable level of goodwill that has existed across communities in New Zealand up to recent times.

Something is wrong and we need answers before our country becomes even more fractured and inequitable. So, here we pose a few questions for Prime Minister Hipkins, for the Minister of Education, Jan Tinetti, and other people of influence.

Are we Bicultural or Multicultural?

Should we not mention our Asian, Pasifika, Islamic and other recent immigrant communities more frequently in our legislation, public policies and in our national curriculum? These groups constitute approximately 25% of the total New Zealand population and our Muslim community grows every year. Though not of Irish ancestry, I happen to have been born in the Republic of Ireland. Possibly, more New Zealanders trace Irish ancestry than those who self-identify as Māori or part-Māori, and perhaps as much as 20% of New Zealanders can do so (University of Otago, 2023). However, no one would advance a convincing argument for special treatment of those who claim Irish heritage. Of course, the essential difference here is that Māori were indeed present in these islands before others and indeed, Māori, their language and their world view should have special status – but within reason and not to the detriment of others.

Can Prime Minister Hipkins confirm our national identity as either bicultural or multicultural? If Mr. Hipkins agrees that we are indeed multicultural, then would he also agree that many of our significant public policy documents, the mission statements of our public institutions and our universities, and our national early childhood, primary and secondary curricula, are all in need of revision if we are to take proper account of our true diversity?

Recently, it has become normal to sing karakia at the start of meetings. Karakia are Māori incantations and prayer used to invoke spiritual guidance and protection. Beginning with a karakia is respectful of Māori, recognising the presence of their forbears before the arrival of our own, and it is indeed pleasant to hear a karakia before a contentious debate.

However, what if no Māori are present and what if people of several other ethnic and cultural backgrounds wish to sing, dance and chant incantations in the nation’s boardrooms? Is the same latitude to be provided to them and is there an agreed limit on the number of songs, dances and incantations or a constraint on the time available for such activities? Should conveners of meetings not receive training and other support in order to superintend such activities in the expected professional manner?

What about the Health of Pacific People?

Pacific peoples' health indices are worse than those of all others, including those of Māori (Lillis, 2023a). Compared with children from other ethnic groups, Pacific children experience higher incidence of various medical conditions, including asthma, dental problems and ear and skin infections. Pacific people experience greater incidence of long-term conditions, including diabetes, gout, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, cancer and asthma. Long-term conditions are the most important contributors to the difference in life expectancy between Pacific people and non-Māori/non-Pacific.

In addition to Māori, Pacific people exhibit the highest rates of death or recurrent myocardial infarction (i.e. heart attack) within a year of their initial acute coronary syndrome. Young Pacific adults experience twice the prevalence of diabetes as Māori, and five times the rate of European and other ethnicities. Pacific people constitute the highest subgroups for percentages of people living in crowded households and are nearly twice as likely as Māori to live in a crowded house (39.8%, compared with 20% of Māori).

Can Mr. Hipkins inform us of when Pacific people will receive their own Health Authority? Can he and the Ministry of Health clarify whether or not disparities in health outcomes across ethnicities are a result of systemic bias within New Zealand’s health sector or whether they emerge from unequal socioeconomics, poor and overcrowded housing, genetic factors or lifestyle choices?

What about the Standard of Living of Pacific People?

Pacific people are the least likely of all ethnicities to own their own home (33%, compared with 70% of Europeans). Pacific people are more likely than other ethnic groups to live in neighbourhoods of high deprivation (Ministry of Health, 2019). Pacific people are less likely to be employed than all other ethnic groups. Pacific median weekly incomes are lower than those of other groups; the disparity being greatest for males. Pacific women’s median weekly income is second lowest of all groups (marginally ahead of women of Middle Eastern/Latin American/African origin). A higher percentage of Pacific children live in poverty than Māori, European and Asian children. In 2018 Pacific people ranked worst of all ethnicities within every category of deprivation in material standard of living (Statistics New Zealand, 2019).

Can Mr. Hipkins tell us when Pacific people will become a genuine focus of discussion and empowerment within the framework of the Treaty of Waitangi, as Māori clearly have become in recent years? Can the Treaty of Waitangi be invoked to provide greater support for immigrants from the Ukraine, North Africa and the Middle East?

How Much Traditional Knowledge in our National Curriculum?

Mātauranga Māori will sit at the heart of the learning areas - with key competencies, literacy, and numeracy explicitly woven into each learning area. (Refreshing the New Zealand Curriculum - Your Guide to the NZC Refresh – see Lillis (2023b)).

Matauranga Māori is currently being embedded throughout our national primary and secondary curriculum - a curriculum that is supposed to provide for the effective learning of all children, regardless of background, religion, ethnicity or country of origin (Lillis, 2023b). Is it a sound pedagogical idea to force primary and secondary Pacific, Asian and immigrant Muslim children to spend significant class time on any form of traditional knowledge when our educational performance is declining relative to the OECD means (e.g. Long and Te, 2019)? Will proponents of the matauranga Māori-based primary and secondary curriculum, currently work in progress, advocate on behalf of Pacific traditional knowledge, Asian traditional knowledge and Islamic traditional knowledge, and demand that class time on those knowledge systems and world views be included within our curriculum too?

Can Prime Minister Hipkins and the Minister of Education, Jan Tinetti, provide a compelling justification for the systemic infusion of any form of traditional knowledge within education in the twenty-first century?

Equality of Traditional Knowledge and World Science?

A curriculum that gives effect to Te Tiriti needs to embed Māori ways of thinking and being. It values, validates, and practises mātauranga Māori, while acknowledging that each iwi and hapū has their own evolving kete of mātauranga Māori. (Te Mātaiaho Draft for Feedback - see Lillis (2023b))

What about others’ ways of thinking and being? Ms. Tinetti - how much mātauranga Māori should immigrant children, recently arrived in New Zealand and learning English for the first time, be expected to acquire and apply? Mr. Hipkins - should they practice mātauranga Māori at home as well as at school?

The Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Advisory Group comprises 12 members (Ministry of Education, 2021). When they establish traditional knowledge as equal in status to world science as a matter of policy, undoubtedly they have deep understanding of Te Ao Māori, but we must be assured of a correspondingly high level of scientific understanding on which such a position should be based. So - can Minister Tinetti inform the New Zealand public on the range of science expertise resident in that particular group? Further, what is the scientific background of the senior executives and decision-makers at the Ministry?

Can Minister Tinetti explain how learning any form of traditional knowledge, taught as science and as truth, will help Māori, Asian, Pacific or immigrant Muslim students to acquire the skills to enter a competitive-entry university programme in medicine, law or engineering, let alone take degrees in the physical, mathematical or biological sciences? How will significant class time on any form of traditional knowledge assist students to become competitive in the domestic and international marketplaces of the future?

What of our Senior Decision-makers?

For one highly-paid senior executive we read on the relevant Ministry’s website:

Nō Bridlington, Nō Yorkshire ōku tīpuna
Ko Yorkshire Dales te maunga
Ko Humber te awa
Ko SS Canberra te kaipuke o ōku tipuna . . .

Of course, this is quite lovely. We may sense the possibility that she comes from somewhere towards the north of the United Kingdom, but we are left somewhat unsure of the precise meaning of the above text.

Another senior executive tells us that she is delighted to be playing a part in driving the change for Education in Aotearoa as Hautū Te Puna Ohumahi Mātauranga. Apparently, prior to joining the Ministry, she held various senior leadership roles in the private and public sectors, both in New Zealand and overseas, but there is no indication of any prior education experience. However, we are informed that in these roles she developed skills and interest in leading and transforming organizations, delivering operational excellence and strategic service design, working alongside communities and key stakeholders. In another website she tells us that she drives workforce diversity, leads organizations and specialist teams to deliver transformational change; is accountable and experienced in being directly responsible for all aspects of business performance, including financial, customer relations, risk, policy-making, tenders and negotiations and staff performance and engagement.

However, last year I attempted to speak to this very person by telephone about workplace bullying in her organization, as reported to me by several staff there, and also about horrendous, sadistic bullying that I observed directly in another education-related organization. I confirm that she flatly refused to listen to me, despite her claims to accountability and despite being in receipt of a very generous taxpayer-funded salary. Subsequently, she failed to respond to follow-up emails from myself, as did her human resources staff. Undoubtedly, she is educated and presents confidently, but what exactly is this person’s expertise in education and what is her true level of accountability to taxpayers? What about the other executives and decision-makers?

Is there not a danger of substantive reduction in organizational capability when we make managers and influencers of non-subject matter experts? What happens to the quality of research, for example, when we appoint people with no relevant background or even with no tertiary qualifications whatsoever (yes indeed, I have seen this one!), as managers and team leaders of highly-qualified research groups? Do we not run the risk of creating two cadres; one highly-trained but paid modestly, and the other, less highly-trained but who wield power over the careers of their highly-qualified staff and who are paid substantially more? Who would wish to devote so many years of one’s early life to go all the way to the Ph.D, when those who cannot do such creative work and who have no empathy for it, will earn better money, push you out of your job and get her name as first author on your publications?

Mr. Hipkins - what of the quality of decision-making at the top tables of certain of our ministries when few of the very highly-paid people sitting at those tables are expert in the policy, operational or research work of the organization or have close familiarity with the issues and dynamics of the relevant sectors?

Cost-Benefit Analyses of Education Reforms?

Every major policy initiative involving significant expenditure of public money should begin with some form of cost-benefit analysis. Can Minister Tinetti disclose the details of such an analysis in relation to the curriculum refresh and its impacts on the education of future students and schools?

A minimum of 856,100 students will begin the new curriculum in 2026 (Lillis, 2023b). Over the next decade, a total of about 1,536,000 New Zealand students will have experienced the curriculum, at a minimum. Similarly, over twenty years from 2026, a minimum of 2,263,000 New Zealand students will have experienced the curriculum. Apart from the genuinely positive outcomes of preserving and treasuring Te Reo and mātauranga Māori, the existence of any other positive impacts on spending class time on Te Reo and absorbing mātauranga Māori is unclear to New Zealanders, and the taxpaying public would appreciate hearing the details directly from Ms. Tinetti and her Ministry.

Can Ms. Tinetti comment on her intent, or otherwise, to introduce cultural education, language education and diversity training within schools in relation to Islamic people (Lillis, 2023c)? Or Pacific people? Or Asian people?

We have approximately 150,000 registered and certificated teachers in New Zealand, in early childhood, primary and secondary schooling, and in English and Māori medium settings (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, 2023), and about 2,500 schools. Can Minister Tinetti provide details of the annual costs to New Zealand taxpayers of developing the necessary resources for schools and upskilling teachers in order to deliver mātauranga Māori to each and every child and across each and every school?

Will immigrant teachers, who speak English as a second language, be given additional training in order to deliver Te Reo and mātauranga Māori? Would a recently-arrived Muslim teacher from Syria or Ethiopia, or a Hindu teacher from Pakistan or India, be granted special exemption from learning and teaching mātauranga Māori on the grounds of religious belief? If so, then would a Pacific, Asian or New Zealand European teacher similarly be considered for exemption?

Are you Listening, Mr Hipkins?

Are you listening, Mr. Hipkins? And you, Ms. Tinetti? Several experts in education, most notably Professor Elizabeth Rata, Distinguished Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, Professor Raymond Richards and other thought leaders have written to you, expressing concerns about the proposed curriculum. You brushed aside every single one of them with a standard and very fatuous letter, claiming that the new curriculum is bicultural rather than multicultural, and that plans, policies and local curricula reflect local tikanga Māori, matauranga Māori and te ao Māori and achieves equitable outcomes for Māori. What about others?

The letter says that the Curriculum Refresh helps to answer calls from educators, parents and whanau to ensure that the curriculum is bicultural. Mr. Hipkins and Ms. Tinetti - who do you think you are kidding? Show us the evidence that parents and educators have called en masse for a bicultural curriculum.

Ms. Tinetti - what exactly are equitable outcomes for any ethnic or cultural group? Is it your intent and the intent of your ministry that equal percentages of students across different ethnic and cultural communities are successful in education? If so, is this goal to be achieved through some or other configuration of our national curriculum? We presume that the only other option for ensuring equitable outcomes, that of pre-agreed percentage-based quotas of students across ethnic groups receiving qualifications and particular grades, is not under consideration. So - if the curriculum is to achieve equitable outcomes, then how?

Your letter also affirmed that equal status for matauranga Māori is being implemented across all NCEA subjects, including those that are part of the Science Learning Area. Are you serious, Mr. Hipkins? Ms. Tinetti – you are in receipt of a generous taxpayer-funded salary. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask the person reflected back to you whether she is doing the right thing for New Zealand.

Mr. Hipkins and Ms. Tinetti – have you heard of the 2018 Population Census? Take a good look, because somewhere buried in the relevant reports you may find that about 84% of New Zealanders are non-Māori. Think about it.

Finally, if teachers, schools and tertiary institutions prefer to use the word “student”, rather than “akonga”; the word “teacher”, rather than “kaiako”, and “family” or “aiga” in Samoan, rather than “whanau”, will consequences ensue and, if so, what might those consequences involve? In education and other domains of public interest, is it permissible to use the correct legal name for this country - “New Zealand” - rather than alternative names? If not, what might be the consequences of continuing to use the correct legal name?

Initiatives that Help Everyone in Need?

In New Zealand today, we see many initiatives designed to assist Māori, including various financial assistance; scholarships and other education-related incentives; financial support to help Māori landowners to build housing; preferential admission to medical school; heavily Treaty-centric, matauranga Māori-based early childhood, primary and secondary education curricula; an increasingly Treaty-centric tertiary sector; a Treaty-centric and, apparently, bicultural, public service; naming of public institutions in Te Reo and, of course, a dedicated health authority.

Can Mr. Hipkins inform New Zealand as to whether other ethnic and cultural groups deserve similar treatment? If not, then why not?

Taxpayers’ Money for Traditional Research?

Formulae used to allocate money to research organizations through the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF), one of New Zealand's research funds, involve numeric weightings that are about to increase substantially for Māori researchers, Māori-oriented research and Māori postgraduate degree completions and, to a significantly lesser extent, for Pacific (Lillis, 2023d). The Subject Area known as Māori Knowledge and Development will have the highest weighting, ahead of engineering and technology; agriculture and other applied biological sciences; architecture, design, planning, surveying; biomedical; clinical medicine; pharmacy; public health; veterinary studies and large animal science; dentistry, Pacific research and many others.

Do such funding initiatives represent prudent expenditure of public money and are they fair on New Zealand’s taxpayers? Would the Ministry of Health be comfortable if funding to cancer research at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research (for example, on development of therapies that stimulate the immune system’s cancer-killing properties) were cut by as much as half (a possible outcome if resourcing to matauranga Māori and science are to be made equal) and monies thus withheld from Malaghan passed to research on traditional remedies?

Various demarcations traditional knowledge and science depend on notions such as falsifiability, the existence or otherwise of method or perhaps the distinction between observation of phenomena that occur as opposed to proposition and testing of how and why they occur. However, the He Puapua report recommends that mātauranga Māori be valued equally and resourced equally to “western science” (Charters et al, 2019, p. 74). Can Ms. Charters confirm that it is her intention, and the intention of the other authors, that mātauranga Māori indeed be resourced equally to “western science” in New Zealand? Can Ms. Charters propose a working definition of “western science”?

Minister of Research, Science and Innovation - Ayesha Verrall - over what period of time is the transition of monies from current research to be transferred to traditional knowledge-based research or ethnicity-based research, to be carried out by particular ethnic groups? A full 50% of the $315 million annually of the Performance Based Research Fund, or a little less? How much of other funds? Advance warning will help research institutes and universities to prepare for the inevitable cuts and redundancies. Ms. Verrall – where are either the capability, infrastructure or absorptive capacity to receive and utilize large amounts of public money to engage in traditional knowledge-based research or research to be conducted by people who self-identify with one ethnicity?

Can Ms. Charters confirm that she and the other authors have performed a cost-benefit analysis on the economic outcomes, impacts on the competitiveness of New Zealand industries, and ramifications for employment, of resourcing traditional knowledge equally to science and provide key details of that analysis? Can Ms. Charters confirm the level of scientific expertise within that group of authors who propose equality between traditional knowledge and world science?

What about our Universities?

Why is one form of traditional knowledge becoming embedded within our universities and how will other nations evaluate our secondary and tertiary systems in the future? Should we not have a level playing field in politics and in commentary on social policy, education policy and economic policy and in current affairs? If so, then should we not accord the same latitude to freedom of expression for white males as for women of colour?

In western society over decades and centuries, the white male has been responsible for a significant share of prejudice, racism, oppression, misogyny and murder, though he is by no means unique in having engaged in those actions and attitudes. However, today a young woman of colour can lash out with essentially baseless accusations of systemic bias within our universities and racism on the part of colleagues and, with impunity, potentially harm the reputations and careers of her colleagues (e.g. McAllister, 2022).

No small part in this disenchantment is the impression that universities are repressing differences of opinion, like the inquisitions and purges of centuries past. It has been stoked by viral videos of professors being mobbed, cursed, heckled into silence, and sometimes assaulted, and it is vindicated by some alarming numbers. Pinker and Madras (2023)

Why do our universities not defend themselves against false accusations of bias against minorities in academic appointments and promotions (Lillis, 2023e)? Are disparities in health, education and employment outcomes the exclusive result of systemic bias in the present or could other factors be at play?

Worse, for every scholar who is punished, many more self-censor, knowing they could be next. It’s no better for the students, a majority of whom say that the campus climate prevents them from saying things they believe. Pinker and Madras (2023)

This situation is pervasive in other countries, particularly in Canada and the US. Unfortunately, it is here too.

Traditional Knowledge within our Universities?

A recent proposal for a Faculty of Science paper on mātauranga Māori at a major New Zealand university includes the phrase:

. . . mātauranga is central to the future practice of science in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In Victoria University’s “A Guide to Teaching Māori Content in University Courses”, we read:

Appropriate inclusion of Māori content contributes to a dynamic and diverse environment that reflects Victoria University’s unique position in Aotearoa New Zealand. In the past, it was possible to relegate the duty of offering Māori content to specialist departments, but today we recognise that Māori content has a place in virtually all university courses and subjects.

We are told that Victoria University of Wellington has pledged, in many of its current strategy documents, to support the recruitment, retention and success of Māori students. Its Treaty of Waitangi Statute dedicates a university-wide commitment to increasing the capability of all staff to engage with Māori interests; and honouring the Treaty-based ‘Principles of Equality and Reasonable Cooperation’ in the university’s provision of ‘courses of study or training’ (Victoria University of Wellington Treaty of Waitangi Statute: 3). These commitments, obligations and relationships combine to require incorporation of Māori content in courses offered at Victoria.

Do these commitments, obligations and relationships in reality combine to require incorporation of Māori content in courses offered at Victoria? If so, in all courses and programmes, or just some? In any case, what about Pacific, Asian and Islamic content?

In the same document, staff are informed that their reasons for including Māori content in their courses may vary. They may include intrinsic motivations, such as personal commitment to learning or promoting Te Reo Māori, or extrinsic motivations, such as university policies. Either way, staff are assured, incorporating Māori content need not be a burden.

Incorporating Māori content may or may not prove to be a burden and will impact on some staff more than others. However, what will be the total cost to the New Zealand taxpayer of upskilling staff to deliver Māori content across many or all courses and of providing the necessary resources? How much Pacific, Asian and Islamic content does the university administration intend to deliver within its courses and programmes of learning, and will staff be trained and upskilled to deliver such content?

Māori content can indeed contribute to a dynamic and diverse environment in certain areas, but can the administrations of our eight universities explain the benefits of traditional knowledge in domains such as theoretical physics, dynamic oceanography, radio-astronomy, prime number theory, polymer chemistry and molecular biology? What about artificial intelligence, classical musical performance, computer studies, data science, econometrics, electrical engineering, meteorology, pure and applied mathematics and space science?

Cannot Pacific content, Asian content and Islamic content contribute too? If not, then why not? Are Pacific people, Asian people and Muslim immigrants not provided for as “partners” within the Treaty of Waitangi?

All Ethnicities in Climate Change and Weather Disaster Responses?

We agree with Claire Charters, lead author of the He Puapua report (Charters, 2019), that Māori should be front and centre of climate change and weather disaster responses (Charters, 2023). Does Ms. Charters believe that Asian people, Pacific People and immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East should be there too? If so, why does she and others speak of one ethnic group predominantly and only rarely mention those other communities that together make up 25% of New Zealand's total population; indeed, ten percentage points more than self-identifying Māori?

Despite assertions that the Treaty of Waitangi is the document that should govern all New Zealanders, unfortunately the vast majority of rhetoric surrounding the treaty pertains to one ethnic group while others, equally or more numerous and equally deserving of support, receive only passing attention. Focusing almost exclusively on that particular group, those advocating co-governance, a traditional-knowledge-based curriculum pertaining to one group only, and other initiatives, have lost credibility, as has Government and our public service.

Where are we at?

An exploding bureaucracy for policing harassment and discrimination has professional interests that are not necessarily aligned with the production and transmission of knowledge. Department chairs, deans, and presidents strive to minimize bad publicity and may proffer whatever statement they hope will make the trouble go away. Meanwhile, the shrinking political diversity of faculty threatens to lock in the regime for generations to come. Pinker and Madras (2023)

We are going through a difficult time. Very legitimate social justice causes are bound up inextricably with muddled thinking and suspension of our better judgement. Every inequity is attributed to systemic bias and highly questionable research in very sensitive areas relating to racism, diversity and gender, not only goes unchallenged, but is rewarded with accolades and may well influence systemic change.

Unfortunately, blind ambition and bullying are part of the current difficulty. It is one matter to preserve a language and traditional knowledge of one or other group, but to force these things in very significant measure on each and every student for decades to come, is the action of bullies for whom the ends justify all means.

To force co-governance on an unwilling majority is the intent of an oppressor, every bit as narcissistic as those greedy and dishonest colonialists who stole Māori land centuries ago.

Have we taken leave of our senses when we threaten our hard-won democracy, establish equality of traditional knowledge of the distant past with world science of the twenty-first century, and proceed to fund research on the basis of self-identified ethnicity?

Something needs to change - and sooner rather than later.


Charters, C. et al. (2019). He Puapua: Report of the working group on a plan to realise the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand

Charters, C. (2023). Māori should be front and centre of climate change and weather disaster responses

Lillis, D, A. (2023a). Our Prioritised Health System and Pacific People Pacific People

Lillis, D, A. (2023b). Reactions to the Proposed New Zealand Curriculum Refresh

Lillis, D. A. (2023c). New Zealand’s Islamic Community - Settling-in, Successes and Challenges

Lillis, D. A. (2023d). Capture of Research Funding in New Zealand?

Lillis, D, A. (2023e). Allegations of Racism in New Zealand Universities

Long, J. and Te, M. (2019). New Zealand top-end in OECD's latest PISA report but drop in achievements 'worrying'

McAllister, T. (2022). 50 Reasons Why There Are No Māori in Your Science Department Journal of Global Indigeneity, 6(2), 1–10.

Ministry of Education (2021). Introducing the Curriculum Advisory Group

Ministry of Education (2022). What is changing with the refresh of The New Zealand Curriculum?

Ministry of Health (2019). Achieving Equity in Health and Wellness: A fair health system prioritises equity. Poster. Wellington: Ministry of Health

University of Otago (2023). New Zealand Ireland Connection

Pinker, S. and Madras, B. (2023). New faculty-led organization at Harvard will defend academic freedom

Statistics New Zealand (2019). Wellbeing statistics: 2018

Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (2023). What we do,English%20and%20M%C4%81ori%20medium%20settings.

Dr David Lillis trained in physics and mathematics at Victoria University and Curtin University in Perth, working as a teacher, researcher, statistician and lecturer for most of his career. He has published many articles and scientific papers, as well as a book on graphing and statistics.



Robert Arthur said...

Hopefully with the demise of PIJFunding the likes of the above (condensed!) will appear in the msm.
The complaint emerging now is that teachers are already somewhat baffled as to just what and how they should teach. In the days when education worked efficently they all had standard concise textbooks. Teaching undefined matauranga will be vastly more challenging than current subjects. Will it overlap recognised universal wisdom and maintain that it is all of maori origin?
Will there be a concise textbook? If confined to whatever is unique to maori and excluding nonsense, it is hard to imagine it being very large.

Peter Young said...

Thank you David. I agree with your sentiments, but a couple of observations:

You mention about research funding allocation and if it is fair on taxpayers. It should also be remembered that the Government has recently increased its target for services procurement from Maori businesses that was previously 5% and now is set at 8%, or in excess of $1.2Billion annually. As with the research funding where is the justification, yet alone mandate for that? Ought not such procurement (not unlike education itself) be based on ‘best bang for taxpayer buck’ as is usually every other decision in life, accepting there are almost invariably some compromises?

And you rightly mention that we are multi-cultural and that if we are going to embed Matauranga Maori in our education framework, what of Pacific, Asian and Islamic content? I’m no intellectual, but ought not the “Islamic” be better identified as “Middle Eastern” knowledge systems rather than a specific religious belief? And in Asia alone, there are a huge number of identifiable cultures, which I’m sure will each claim to have their own unique understandings and world view, just as there is in our own western cultures?

The bottom-line is surely that mainstream education in New Zealand should be secular and it should best prepare our students for the future whatever their ages and cultural/racial backgrounds. At a fundamental level, overriding consideration should be given the 3R’s, period. Indoctrinating young minds with a purported knowledge system that has no identified benefit is ideological nonsense and potentially hugely damaging. In a system that is already performing appallingly, before we embark on any new ideology, our Politicians and Ms Holstead and Co. should provide us with the proof that this will provide the desire outcome? They won’t, because they can’t. And before making everything Treaty centric, provide the proof that it says one cohort should be favoured over everyone else? Again, I expect silence.

MPHW said...

Brilliant piece Dr Lillis. In fact,the most detailed, comprehensive and searching summary of the key issues and the questions they give rise to that I've ever read.

Its important to recognise that the muddled thinking that has done so much damage to the education and science systems predates new Ministers such as Tinnetti and Verrall. Likewise, New Zealand's declining relative international performance in literacy and numeracy goes back decades.

One of the ironies is that many Maori leaders have supported charter schools that can lift student performance only to be stymied by the stranglehold the teachers' unions have over the system. Its about time the Maori caucus had some hard conversations with Minister Tinnetti.

Dr Lillis, you raise the issue of the qualifications held by MoE's senior management. Can someone advise what are the academic qualifications of the top MoE managers starting with Iona Holsted, and what are their publication records?

Anonymous said...

David you are a hero for making this huge effort to notify and inform the general population about the depth of the coup in education.
My observation is that the Maori elite and the politicians enabling them to enact this must be truly myopic, ignorant and lack vision of any sort.
We will never hear what they think NZ will be like in the future if this continues. I don't think they have thought that far ahead.
We may need to find a leader who can help us rise up against this.
I am a protest waiting to happen.

TJS said...

I read this shortly after it was published this morning around 7:00 am Cancun EST. We have day light savings in the winter. Hence our own time zone.

I have to say well spelt out and thank you David! I did try to refrain from saying anything as I know I'm amongst real academics and intellectuals who really know a thing or two. And that is not being facetious either.

But over the course of the day the things which you brought to mind made me think, funny that! You did your job.

So we are at some kind of impasse it feels. And we've all taken quite a good bashing along the way, every one of us. What do they say, 'New Zealanders the passionless people' or without compassion more to the point and then there is 'tall poppy syndrome'. Anyway that's quite introspective of me which we also do well.
But there's a few that need to get over themselves and I think xenophobic comes to mind. But then aren't all small places like that? And big places for that matter, a human condition. As an outsider it's hard to get ahead even if you have great talents but that's not the real issue here but it does attributes to it.

Then I want to say we've come a long way from the rugby racing and beer image of our past but it's morphed into some horrendous version of Marxism a new Western phenomenon and there's specific people responsible for that.

The Moari 'devolution' as it was called came about in the late 70's I think but even before then and it seemed reasonable. Now it is frightening.

My forebears that arrived here onto the Petone foreshore
were indeed salt of the earth. From a long line of carpenters. 2x generations of that in NZ then 2x generations of engineers a civil engineer who went to fight in the great war at the age of 17 and was a tunneler. As a civil.enginer he oversaw the construction of the Rimutaka tunnel. And my ole man was a consulting engineer. He used to talk about how he'd walk barefoot to the school at the old Pa taking his dripping and bread with him. We weren't all the scoundrels they make out we were. There were teachers and nurses too of course.

This is our history too and I have a tome actually have two tomes as I have two sides. And you know we didn't all stick to just marrying the NZ Europeans either. Although I have no Maori blood I have Maori cousins and I have cousins with Asian and Portuguese descent. I have some Portuguese but you wouldn't know it by looking at me, my father was called Snowey at school. The kids thought I was a pom because I was pale and talked funny.

II heard Elizabeth Rata speaking on the radio. She has a beautiful speaking voice and speaks so eloquently and calm with such great skill.and knowledge and
I like what she has to say.
I've meet Kiri Allen a good few times and she really has an attractive personality so lovely and very easy to be with but I am finding it hard to like the polliticising of the Treaty constantly I don't like where this is going and I'm not alone in this either. Just what will happen I am not sure.
This is cognitive dissonance and is a mean trick they play on us. By they I mean the major stake holders. To constantly make us feel uncomfortable, nice one they're doing it again.

mudbayripper said...

This war we are in cannot be fought with logic and truth.
All that matters to the modern followers of postmodern Marxist ideology is power, greed and total control over all others.
This infection is world wide. Democracy and freedom of the individual has always been precarious, it's not a natural state, it requires constant maintenance and can never be taken for granted.
We are now witnessing its demise and we are to blame.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me we are are now a cursed nation. Our most precious commodity , our children have become the victims of vile institutionalised educational abuse dished out by brutish and bullying characters. It is quite evident these bureaucrats have not the least concern for our children's futures in not giving them a real education to set them up for life, but instead hellbent in foisting their destructive and foolish ideology on them.
Thank you David for warning us of the nightmare that is overtaking us. If only the general population would wake up to it before it is too late. This is in my opinion worse than any economic disaster. A catastrophic landslide of even more indoctrinated illiterates and innumerate will be our future unless something changes.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Sir, but greedy colonials did not steal land en masse from Maori (although there were dodgy Maori vendors and dodgy buyers), Ms Charters is not indigenous and thus entitled to expound on the virtues (???) of three waters: communing with taniwha is not credentials enough for Maori to be front and centre of climate change and weather disaster responses, nor is it clear the scientific value of taniwha biographies as part of matauranga, others were in NZ before Maori so they cannot have been here before others (albeit they certainly ate some of them),the modern Maori language is contrived - it does not constitute preservation of the pre-European Stone Age language of some 500 -700 words, Maori had a murderous, chauvinistic,slave driven culture as much as white men …
Whilst your comments on the state of education are no doubt valid, other aspects of your article deserve validation.

David Lillis said...

Hi Anonymous.
It is fair to say that there was some trickery and theft of land but that the majority was transferred through lawful purchase.

Like anyone who writes articles such as the above, I express opinions, but those opinions have been formed over a long career and I advance them with positive intent - in order to stimulate improvement.

My own take is that we can do more to assist groups that experience disadvantage, irrespective of the reasons for disadvantage, and that attributing every inequity to systemic bias is not only often wrong, but encourages us to look for fixes in the wrong places. And indeed, some racism exists here and there and we should do our best to stamp it out.

My view is that we are half-way to degrading our education system and that we must stand against the refresh or future students will pay the price.

As regards bullying in our public service - too much anecdotal evidence, I'm afraid, and I saw lots of it with my own eyes. I recall a Team Leader who never finished high school and still has no tertiary qualifications, and who held prior a career in a form of "night security/nightclub bouncing", informing me that he was managing out a Ph.D-holding expert who was already regarded back then as possibly New Zealand's leading thinker in his field.

I watched the Team Leader abuse several staff and today he still holds his job while many degree-holders were forced to leave. He may be an outlier - much worse then other bullies - but what is he and others doing in our public service and how reliable is any advice he may offer on matters of policy? Possibly the answer can be found by looking harder at the Chief Executive.

Lesley Stephenson said...

Article says it all but as someone who has already commented truth and logic are irrelevant to people pushing the agenda and I think it would be true to say that most people just have to knuckle down if they want to stay employed.

Ted said...

An incisive expose of the declining education system. A friend of ours has taken the path of funding his grand-Childree's education in Europe (an expensive exercise to all accounts). They are currently in the equivalent to our high school. In a non-English speaking country, English is given the same status as the local language, both as a subject in its own right and as a means of instruction. Apparently the grandkids were amazed at the emphasis placed on the fundamentals of learning and the encouragement to explore and question subject matter. There is virtually no 'learning by rote', and an expectation of understanding of the various subjects.
I wonder how many more families with the means will follow suit?

Anonymous said...

The great NZ grab is based on the premise of Maori having "first nation status", as supported by the corrupt United Nations. This philosophy needs to be abolished in all countries. NOBODY owns or has first rights to a country. The whole planet was populated by the migration of people from one place to another, besides which, we all know that there were inhabitants here before Maori, and we need to start reminding the politicians, forcefully and continually, of this and the truth of our history.