For those interested, here is a letter that was written several months ago to the editor of the New Zealand Herald - which they declined to publish – refusing, by the way, to give a reason.
The public should be aware of proposed changes to our national primary and secondary education curriculum, embedding matauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) throughout the curriculum, probably requiring students of all ethnicities to spend significant class time on Te Reo. Both Te Reo and matauranga Māori should be treasured and preserved, but the changes are excessive.
Coming into force in 2026, the refreshed curriculum will damage the education of millions of students over future decades and impose costs of several billion dollars on taxpayers. A negative consequence will be the effect on every child of substituting time on critical learning with much Te Reo and matauranga Māori. Matauranga Māori is to be accorded equal status with world science, probably taught as truth, and the quality of education and portability of our secondary qualifications will suffer as a result.
Embedding of the Treaty of Waitangi and matauranga Māori within our innovation system follows similar trends in education, public health and elsewhere. Government now proposes to favour Māori and Pacific research and researchers. New Zealand should support excellent Māori and Pacific research, but within defined limits, and there is no sufficient justification for preferring lightweight research of limited reach over true excellence on a systemic basis.
One of our research funds is the Performance Based Research Fund. Formulae used to allocate money to research organisations through this fund involve numeric weightings that will increase for Māori researchers, Māori-oriented research and Māori postgraduate degree completion, and similarly for Pacific. The benefits may indeed include increases in Māori and Pacific employment in tertiary organisations and restoration of mana. However, the funding process must be supervised carefully so as not to disadvantage significantly other excellent research of potential value to New Zealand, attenuate the worth of non-Māori researchers, diminish the credibility of New Zealand research internationally, and induce declines in international university rankings and competitiveness in international tertiary education. More detail can be found here:
We will not achieve long-term success in tertiary education and research by appointing academic staff on the basis of ethnicity rather than genuine research and teaching capability. Many academics assert that excellence and relevance are the only acceptable criteria and that preferring one ethnicity over others will lead to divisiveness and erosion of quality.
All New Zealanders, including Māori, have gained from rule of law, education, healthcare, a more peaceful society and other benefits. However, we recognize historic injustices and damage to Māori culture and self-confidence. The trajectories thus created have contributed to Māori emerging poorly in various indices of social and economic wellbeing. Today such negative outcomes are being offset through diverse financial assistance; scholarships and other education-related incentives; 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 public service; naming of public institutions in Te Reo, and a dedicated health authority. But - have we forgotten that New Zealand is a multicultural rather than bicultural society, comprising many ethnic and cultural groups, and that other demographics are similarly disadvantaged in health, education and other measures of socioeconomic wellbeing?
Unfortunately, academics and primary and secondary educators who question the elevated status of any particular ethnic group, or the intrusion of traditional knowledge into science and education, are at great risk of allegations of racism and losing their jobs. Many have reported bullying of themselves and others. Surely, highly-qualified professionals who advance such perspectives do so in good faith and with concern for the good of New Zealand. They deserve to be heard, rather than to be threatened or punished.
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