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I’ve just read a book entitled New Zealand’s History Curriculum: Education or Indoctrination? It makes it clear that Goebbels would have been proud of the new curriculum!

When the Government decided that New Zealand school children should learn something of our history, I was delighted. All citizens should have at least some knowledge of where we have come from, and the forces which have moulded us. And too few of us do in fact know much of our history. I myself majored in History at the University of Canterbury, but can’t recall doing a single course on New Zealand history, at primary school, secondary school, or university.

But what New Zealand’s History Curriculum: Education or Indoctrination proves beyond a shadow of a doubt is that what the current Government has created is a curriculum which is almost unbelievably distorted – indeed, mischievously so.

In the new curriculum, the impression which our children will be given is that Maori were the first inhabitants of New Zealand, that they lived more or less peacefully together until nasty British colonists arrived, that the Treaty of Waitangi created a partnership between the Maori people and the British Crown which successive New Zealand governments have violated, that British troops committed some ghastly atrocities on innocent and unarmed Maori women and children, and that taken as a whole the arrival of European colonists was a huge disadvantage to the Maori people.

I am myself a bit uncertain about whether Maori were the first humans to arrive in New Zealand but for me it doesn’t matter. Even if Maori were the first to arrive – and I’m inclined to believe that myself, despite some evidence to the contrary – Maori are not in any meaningful sense “indigenous”. The word “indigenous” means “native to an area, since time immemorial”, as the Australian Aborigines are indigenous to Australia. But of course Maori themselves talk of arriving in New Zealand on canoes, with their spirits departing at death to their original home in Hawaiki.

Moreover, as the Treaty promised, all New Zealanders, no matter when they arrived, have the same “rights and privileges”, with those New Zealanders who have one or more Maori ancestors having the same rights as a recently naturalized person from China.

The new History curriculum will indoctrinate our children with a huge number of blatant and dangerous falsehoods. One is the impression that prior to 1840 Maori society was trucking along quite nicely, with scarcely a mention of the Musket Wars and their colossal loss of life – some estimates have the loss of Maori life in the Musket Wars just prior to the signing of the Treaty as more than double the loss of life by New Zealand in all wars from 1840 to the present day.

Another is the idea that the arrival of colonists was to the huge disadvantage of Maori. One of the key themes of the curriculum is that “Maori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand”, downplaying the many tributaries which have created modern New Zealand. The curriculum asserts, quite incorrectly, that “Aotearoa” was the original name of the country, despite early Maori having no concept of a nation state and the word not being used in the Treaty, or indeed in the early Declaration of Independence. And the implication of a lot of the text of the curriculum is that the arrival of British colonists was to the huge disadvantage of early Maori – and that is frankly ridiculous: the arrival of the colonists brought the rule of law (thus putting an end of inter-tribal warfare), written language, the wheel, new animals like horses, cattle and sheep, an end to slavery and cannibalism, and more. (Indeed, reciting this list brings to mind the Monty Python skit which asks ‘But what did the Romans ever do for us?’)

The book also notes that, in its determination to play up all things Maori, the curriculum has some quite extraordinary omissions: neither Abel Tasman nor James Cook get mentioned, there is very little about the economic development of the country, nothing about the huge development of the so-called Maori economy, nothing about some of the major events of the last 100 years (such as the influenza epidemic of 1918-19, the 1931 earthquake, the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11), and nothing about some of the great New Zealanders of the past, such as George Grey, Richard John Seddon, David Lange, and Ed Hillary.

The book is a must read for all History teachers, and indeed for all those interested in understanding our history. It was written by Roger Childs, himself a teacher of History, Social Studies and Geography for some 40 years. It’s very easy to read, and is available from Paper Plus and independent bookshops, or direct from the publisher, for $35.

Don Brash

19 February 2023

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