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John MacDonald: Backs up and necks burning over history curriculum

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 18 Mar 2022, 12:37pm

John MacDonald: Backs up and necks burning over history curriculum

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 18 Mar 2022, 12:37pm

The new school history curriculum unveiled by the Prime Minister yesterday has some people’s backs up and their necks burning bright red. 

I’m not necessarily surprised, to be honest, but I still can’t fathom why anyone would be so scared or upset at the prospect of our kids learning more about some of the cruddy things that have happened in this country. 

One stupid reaction I saw - it was very concise, but still stupid - said the new curriculum can be summed up in three words: “White Man Bad”. 

As I say, concise, but stupid. 

In case you haven’t heard about it, the Government yesterday released more details about the new curriculum which will be taught to every student from Year 1 to Year 10 in schools from next year. 

I see the Daily Mail in Australia is saying that the Government is calling on teachers to reflect on their “white guilt”. 

The ACT Party is getting all red-neck on it too and is saying the curriculum’s focus on colonisation is pushing “a number of left-wing narratives” in relation to the welfare state and partnership between the Crown and Māori. 

The party says the curriculum divides history into villains and victims. 

And how about this for head-in-the-sand stuff. Education Spokesperson Chris Baillie says: “The great promise of New Zealand is that everyone’s equal”. 

Sorry mate. Dream on. It might be the promise. But it’s a broken promise. For so many people. 

Of course, ACT and the other people scared of our kids hearing the real story of New Zealand’s history seem to be particularly upset by the curriculum’s strong focus on colonisation and the impact that has had on Māori. 

Of course they are. Because they think - just like the ACT Party is saying - that New Zealand is a country where everyone is equal. That’s what ACT says in its statement about the curriculum. “Everyone is equal”. 

And that there, is all the proof you need that New Zealand desperately needs the type of history curriculum the Government launched yesterday. 

Because it is absolute nonsense to claim that everyone is equal in New Zealand. It’s like that Lego movie a few years back, when all the characters ran around the place singing “Everything is Awesome”. 

Everything is not awesome. And in New Zealand, not everyone is equal - as the ACT Party seems to think. 

And that’s because here in New Zealand - just like every other colonised country - we have a history of prejudice that began as soon as the Europeans started jumping in ships and trading muskets left, right and centre. 

Now don’t think for a minute that, as a Pākehā New Zealander, I’m owning up to any sort of “white guilt” - which is a terrible term, isn't it? It’s so backhanded. 

No, I’m not. But I am a supporter of history being shown and seen for what it is. 

New Zealand history is so much more than the All Blacks, Sir Edmund Hillary and women getting the vote. I’m not dismissing those things - but history is also about learning from the terrible things that have happened here. And that includes some of the shameful ways Māori have been treated here. 

If you have a child or a grandchild who wants to be a lawyer, they’re going to need to know about this stuff. 

When they find themselves in Court wondering why Māori are so over-represented there and in prisons, they need to know the years and years of second class treatment that have led some of them there. 

If you have a child or a grandchild who wants to be a doctor, they’re going to need to know about this stuff too. 

So that when they find themselves treating a 45-year-old Māori patient, they’ll understand why that person’s health status is the same as a 65-year-old non-Māori. 

If they don’t know - if we don’t know - then nothing’s going to change. And if you don’t want those injustices to change - then history is going to repeat itself, and it will be a much uglier read than the curriculum announced yesterday. 

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