New Zealand Histories Curriculum Suggested Submission

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Ministry of Education
P O Box 1666
Wellington 6140


By email: [email protected]


Submission on ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories in the New Zealand Curriculum’
Draft for Consultation @ January 2021

General response: I submit that the draft curriculum is seriously flawed, therefore must be rejected in its entirety.

When it comes to teaching history, primary and early secondary school children are entitled to simple, irrefutable, evidence-based information. The curriculum fails in this important prerequisite. A brief description of my primary but by no means only concerns is outlined below:

  • I believe the curriculum is unsatisfactory for Years 1-10. It is totally inappropriate to be imposing this curriculum on children who are yet to learn the basics of reading/comprehension, maths and science. It requires children to make ethical judgements about historical events. This is totally inappropriate for the targeted 5 −15-year age group. History’s inherent demands for research, substantiation and analysis make it more suitable for the later years of secondary school and/or university.
  • It employs no world context. Appreciating our history must start with at least a general understanding of Human migration being continuous and widespread for the entire provable history of humankind.
  • The ‘Big Idea’ that “Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand” implies that no one matters other than Māori, and that any other of the scores of ethnicities that make up the bulk of New Zealand’s population have made no contribution to our history. To suggest that New Zealand’s history all centres on our Polynesian heritage is an absurd claim.
  • The curriculum promotes Māori perspectives while disregarding other history. For the past 200 years New Zealand has had a shared history involving people from many nations. Arguably, since this has had the single greatest impact on the Māori people in their 800 years existence in this country, this shared history is a pivotal part of New Zealand history. We should honour Māori history, but equally it should not come at the expense of dismissing our Western heritage, which made us the liberal democracy we are today. We must get the balance right.
  • The curriculum asserts that learning about Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories is too important to leave to chance, and yet this is exactly what the curriculum is fostering in the section headed “Rohe and local contexts”. Learning about our country’s history has been left to the discretion of individual teachers and local communities, with an emphasis on the stories of iwi and hapū. In other words, to chance.

When it comes to teaching history, primary and early secondary school children are entitled to evidence-based information. The emphasis on local stories and resources should just be one part of a ‘common core’ of knowledge taught progressively through the years. Local resources can bring to light many stories and information not previously common knowledge which would be interesting and informative to local communities. However, there is no guarantee children would be taught the differences and the credibility of different types of information, i.e. fact versus stories, myths & legends, nor that “stories” not based on factual evidence must be treated as subjective. Without fact and context, politically inspired views could easily be presented to children.

Students must be taught how to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and the importance of backing up conclusions and judgements with evidence.

The curriculum promotes a distorted account of our history. For example:

  • It fails to acknowledge that most chiefs ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria in the most enlightened agreement of its times – Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This was confirmed 20 years later at the Kohimarama Conference. Instead, the curriculum promotes the falsehood that “Māori did not cede their mana to the Crown, and that they signed in the belief that it would give them power to govern in partnership with the Governor”. There was much debate among Māori chiefs over signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi, with many acknowledging that in doing so they would be ceding sovereignty to the British Crown, with most then proceeding to sign. Additionally, the subsequent behaviour of Māori in the twenty years following the signing shows absolutely no indication that Maori had any understanding of the concept of governing in partnership with the Governor.
  • “Colonisation began as part of a worldwide imperial project. In Aotearoa New Zealand, it sought to assimilate Māori through dislocation from their lands and replacement of their institutions, economy, and tikanga with European equivalents”. No one was “dislocated from their lands” for the purpose of “assimilation”. The arrival of a new people of a completely different culture created totally new issues for which native institutions had no answer. New institutions were an absolute necessity for all parties. No one “replaced the economy” for the purposes of “assimilation”. Māori were, and are, free to go about their traditional economy. Indeed, Europeans introduced additional economies which Māori grasped with both hands.
  • “New Zealand’s settler government and the Crown were determined to undermine mana Māori, especially by acquiring Māori territories. The New Zealand Wars and the legislation that followed demonstrated their willingness to do this by any means”. If New Zealand history is to be a compulsory subject in all schools, then it is of paramount importance that the truth be told, and such misinformation and distortion of reality be ruthlessly excluded.

Additionally, there is no acknowledgment of the positive contribution of other groups in developing a country with one of the highest standards of living in the world. Nor is there any recognition that New Zealand is historically famous for its progressiveness in social justice and equality.

I could go on, but in the interests of brevity I conclude that the draft ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories in the New Zealand Curriculum’ is not fit for purpose and deserves no place in our schools. It fails spectacularly to support the Government’s promise that the curriculum would promote a "better New Zealand that we can all be proud of and which recognises the value of every New Zealander”. It must be rewritten to a standard acceptable to all the people of New Zealand.

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