The University of Waikato vows fealty to New Zealand’s only approved ideology

February 5, 2022 • 1:45 pm

This video, narrated by Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai and Professor Alister Jones of the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, is intended to give “an update on the Taskforce’s work in 2021, and what lies ahead in 2022.” The taskforce was apparently charged with “addressing systemic and casual racism.”

In other words, what we have is a short progress report that outlines “equity” goals for their school.   Although this is not a university especially designed to cater to the Māori in particular, it does sit on Māori land and has been supported by the local subgroup, the Tainui.  At the same time, however, it’s supposed to be a general “research-led” university with aspirations to world renown. As Wikipedia describes it:

The university provides a strong, research-led global contribution in the disciplines of education, social sciences, and management and is an innovator in environmental science, marine and freshwater ecology, engineering and computer science. It offers degrees in Health, Engineering, computer science, management, Māori and Indigenous Studies, the Arts, Psychology, Social Sciences and Education.

But, as the Kiwi who sent me this video noted sadly, “The University is devoted to praising everything Māori”, and is heavily imbued by Māori “ways of knowing”. I think you can see that in the short video report below.

The characteristics of this kind of pandering or “valorization of the oppressed” are manifest, including heavy use of the local language as a sign of virtue. Most Kiwis, much less those from elswhere, don’t know the language, so they should have provided subtitles). The “outcomes” of the task force study are these (the quotes are from the speakers above):

1.) “Systemic and casual racism no longer have a place” But did they ever? And if they did, why? How did they detect systemic and casual racism?”

2.) “The Treaty of Waitangi [1840] sits at heart of the work that we do here at the University.”  This is very strange, for even the interpretation of that treaty varies among people. It seems to be interpreted now as complete equity (not equality) of Māori and non-Māori, and if there is dissent—as thre was with the seven Auckland professors who refused to approve equity in the classroom between science and mātauranga Māori or Māori “ways of knowing”—it’s resolved in favor of Māori.  The attitude that “because of the Treaty, the Māori can do no wrong” permeates NZ education.

3.) “And mātauranga Māori is treated.” (I’m not sure that’s exactly the sentence.)  Later on, Professor Jones mentions finding the best ways to incorporate mātauranga Māori (MM) into the University’s teaching, learning and research.  Increasing the hegemony of MM is a prime goal of the university, as it is in most New Zealand schools.

The more I read these educational plans for the country, whether at the University or at secondary-school level, the less I understand, for they never give specifics; they just keep lauding how great the schools are and planning further “thought groups”. Higher education, or those who write its screeds, are badly afflicted with logorrhea.

Now granted, this committee was formed to address “casual and systemic racism” at the University (which I doubt really exists in extenso). But the combination of regarding the 1840 treaty as nearly a sacred theological document—a “scripture”—combined with the the apparently un-criticizable mixture of legend, fable, tradition, practical knowledge, and theology that is  mātauranga Māori, is a recipe for disaster. This will not bring the University of Waikato into the modern era, much less put it among the first rank of research schools—as it aspires to be. For one thing, the scientists will flee the place in droves.

When I watched these two humorless people regurgitate the doctrine that is “political correctness” in New Zealand, larding it generously with indigenous language, I could only think back on the Soviet times, or the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when all academics had to adhere to the official state ideology. It is as if in this video there is a cadre of people off camera, waiting with dunce caps and one-way bus tickets to farms in the country, ready to dole them out if the speakers didn’t hew to the Official Ideology.  These people are cowed, as are many in New Zealand. I get emails all the time from those who are afraid to speak up against these trends, for dissent is not treated lightly in New Zealand. Professors who don’t toe the official line, for instance, can be penalized or fired. 

Once again, I am not trying to denigrate the Māori, or say that MM is useless (though it is no substitute for modern science and should not be taught as such). The Māori have indeed been historically oppressed, and if there is residual racism, it must be addressed. (I have to say, though, that despite claims of its persistence, nobody gives any examples). But we cannot run a modern university on traditional indigenous principles, nor hold any one group of people to be uniformly and unquestionably superior to any other. 

Here’s the video on the University’s “Why Study at Waikato?” page.to attract students. Academia doesn’t seem to be a big draw here, but the fishing is good!

45 thoughts on “The University of Waikato vows fealty to New Zealand’s only approved ideology

    1. Yes indeed. Maybe it is a matter of emphasis on the movie title… maybe one should read it it as “why on earth would anyone want to study at Waikato?” Is this film a real product of the university or is it maybe a NZ Onion production? I grow old. I grow old…
      I am about to read previous (shape of dialogue) post and jerry’s discussion…maybe i this will enlighten (still a positive term for me) me a bit.

    2. I’ve been to all those places in the video but when I went to Huka Falls I thought it was “Hooker Falls” because my brain had compensated for the NZ accent. Friends (Canadians linguistically) living in NZ at the time made the same mistakes.

    3. If I had stopped watching before 1:10, you’d have had hard time convincing me it was not done by the Waikato Tourist Board. My doubts were only fully dispelled when the web address came up as an ac.nz domain.

  1. Jacinta Ardern has done a sterling job in isolating her country from the rest of the world during the Covid pandemic. Now her academic institutions seem bent on isolating themselves from the rest of the scientific world. A shame; but I’m sure we can manage without them.

    1. Well, I know too many good biologists working in New Zealand to say “I’m sure we can manage without them.” I’d rather work to save the universities than let them be taken over by zealots.

  2. The project planning skills on display here are embarrassingly poor. You should work out how to go about doing something before you commit to a plan to actually do it. It’s called feasibility. Cart meet horse!
    I did look up and discover that the Maori had no written language of their own, though they did have some petrographs. A written form of the language was started by Europeans around 1780 or so, using a latin style alphabet. It’s hard to have a detailed history and body of science when you have no written language.

    1. With engagement with Anglican and Catholic Churches, Maori were starting to feel shame at cannibalism, alongside a desire to reshape or excuse past behaviour, Moon said.

      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/kahu/cannibalism-had-little-to-do-with-consuming-enemies-mana-says-historian/YUAGSH33RCSOHWPGSAUBWJRZWY/

      Maori cannibalism was widespread throughout New Zealand until the mid 1800s but has largely been ignored in history books, says the author of a new book released this week.

      https://i.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/national/565544/Maori-cannibalism-widespread-but-ignored-academic-says#:~:text=Maori%20cannibalism%20was%20widespread%20throughout,new%20book%20released%20this%20week.&text=He%20said%20the%20widespread%20practice,of%20a%20post%2Dbattle%20rage.

    2. I’m sorry Steve Gerrard
      … I clicked on reply by mistake..
      I didn’t mean to reply to your comment….. I’m on a bumpy bus ride in Seattle….

    3. I’m not sure what your point is here. So what that they didn’t have a written language. Neither did all the tribes the Romans taught those Latin letters to. Maori, like many cultures, have a rich oral culture handed down in stories and songs. They do have a history just not an oral one.

      1. Neither did all the tribes the Romans taught those Latin letters to.

        Surely “Latin” phonemes, well before anyone taught anyone one Phonecian letters.

        1. I don’t know much about the European tribes back in Caesar’s day but I do know they came to use this alphabet we got from the Romans. Also law, sanitation (what have the Roman’s done for us?!)

          1. “Caesar’s day” was something like 400 years after the origin of the Roman state (or was it 700 years? I’d have to check more closely). Back when a century-long separation between recurrences of a festival really meant that there would b very few people who would see a recurrence in their own lifetime.
            But the Romans were very imperialistic about that time – something to do with running an Empire at the time, I guess. Some time later (9th century CE) another writing script was developed by Cyril (and sidekick Methodius, working on an earlier basis), and they also had the Greek script in major use at the scene at the time. Which would probably make them appreciably more diverse in their day than modern “western” society.

            1. I picked Caesar for his relation via a bus the Gail’s. Where Rome conquered, it was in the best interest to acclimate to Roman language to do business with the Romans. And now look at those Europeans now with their Romance languages.

          2. I don’t know much about the European tribes back in Caesar’s day

            Neither does anybody else*. The reason for this is that they didn’t write anything down. Our only sources are archaeology and things the Romans wrote down which tended to have biases built in. Oral tradition don’t cut it for historical purposes, I’m afraid.

            * relative to how much we know about the Romans

            1. My point was about how the Romans taught Europeans their alphabet just as Europeans taught Maori to use their alphabet. It was my so what point to the above that seemed to get a laughter out of the fact that they were using whir people alphabets. My point had nothing to do with oral tradition though I think you could argue not knowing about lost cultures is more about the extinction of those cultures not writing things down.

            2. Again. This is not what I am arguing. Please stop the straw an und. I never put forth an argument about oral history I am saying the argument itself is a non sequitur to this post.

  3. Māori society had three main groupings, loosely described as classes: rangatira (chiefs), tūtūā or ware (commoners) and taurekareka (slaves). Tohunga (priestly experts) were also sometimes included as a separate grouping.

    https://teara.govt.nz/en/turanga-i-te-hapori-status-in-maori-society/page-1#:~:text=M%C4%81ori%20society%20had%20three%20main,)%20and%20taurekareka%20(slaves).

    The position of a slave among the Maoris was a peculiar one and depended somewhat on the manner in which a man or woman entered PAGE 154into captivity.

    http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-TreRace-t1-body-d9-d2.html

    1. Like the above comments what is this to do with MM? So what, Maori have a culture that had a structure and they ate people sometimes. They also famously stole a battleship and menaced Europeans during the Maori wars by sailing up and down and firing on them. This story is just as relevant and a lot more entertaining.

      1. Must be one of those oral history stories that gets better and more entertaining with the retelling. HMShips Hazard and North Star were small ships of 18 and 28 muzzle-loading guns (hardly battleships) whose crews suffered casualties in actions against Maori, who proved much more adept at land combat than the British had expected. But no Royal Navy ship was “stolen” or seized or even boarded by Maori warriors. Working a deep-hulled square-rigged navy ship is a bigger challenge than an outrigger canoe.

        A good reason to stick with written science cultures. The other stuff is mythology

        1. My point was these are non sequitors and I don’t know why it is so important to point out that the Maori didn’t have a written history. Exactly what is the point of this comment? You seemed to have missed my larger point in your rush to snark.

          1. Not at all. Your rendition of oral history shows why it cannot be relied on for anything important. In NZ or anywhere else. That’s precisely on point.

            1. And why is oral history being discussed? And it can be relied on. You are basically saying only written history has value. That’s short sighted and btw again has nothing to do with this post. It seems to me several comments on this post are veiled attempts to disparage Maori as somehow inferior to Europeans. And my story was not oral. I did read it in a for realz book by Europeans years ago.

              1. Oral history changes with the retelling. Written history doesn’t as much. We don’t have the originals of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, but we can be fairly confident we know what he originally wrote. There’s no such confidence with any oral history.

                This is not disparaging the Maori, it’s just a plain fact. If you don’t have a written history, historians can’t tell us what happened.

              2. You’re missing my point. Why are we going on and on about Maori oral history in a way to assert European superiority as if to say “look we had to teach the poor savages an alphabet” when this is about the ideas of MM being equivalent to science? I have yet to see someone engage these ideas. More and more comments on these posts move from disparaging ideas to disparaging people. Look at the post where I question this in response. It is a complete non sequitor.

              3. Again. Not talking about the merits of oral history. This post was about the methods of science. Oral history has nothing to do with that. You are arguing a straw,an of what I am saying. Nowhere have I said oral history is superior to written history.

              4. Diana M: this is Steve G’s last sentence @ #3: It’s hard to have a detailed history and body of science when you have no written language. I think he’s on topic and right, but perhaps you are justifiably replying to someone else’s comment.

                In NZ we have a problem with the reliability of conflicting written and oral histories which are incorporated into government reports for historical reparations, and now the new NZ history curriculum; these have become part of the political campaigns waged over NZ’s future.

                Thus, part of the impetus for the NZ history course arose from the claim that in the war in the Waikato in the 1860s, colonial forces committed an atrocity by burning a church with women and children inside, but independent written records from the time strongly suggest that account is untrue, so perhaps the oral account is wartime propaganda. A plaque recently installed on the Auckland waterfront says the land was given by the local tribe to the colonial government, a widely accepted account; written records say it was offered as a gift but declined by Governor Hobson, who chose to buy it. And why was it offered as a gift? Probably because the local tribe had been so ravaged by recent tribal warfare, it saw government presence as a deterrent to further raids.

                It is clear to anyone who reads written translations of speeches made in 1840 at Waitangi and the signing of the Treaty and shortly after at Hokianga where more chiefs signed, that both those who signed or initially refused to sign, clearly understood that they were subordinating their own authority to the British Crown, a view quite inconsistent with the notions of co-governance currently prevailing in our government, bureaucracies and parts of academia.

                I’ve read several NZ histories of our internal wars. At first glance, the hijacked battleship sounds like a very tall tale.

                In NZ, conflicts between written and oral history matter.

                For an interesting and very different context of how important retaining a particular ancient document was, read The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, though I don’t know enough to check properly his historical judgements.

              5. Again though – what does this have to do with teaching MM as equivalent to science? It seems to me it’s not discussing the faults of science but instead suggesting that these people (hardy har) didn’t even have a written language so how can they work with us? It isn’t a language issue, it’s a methodology issue. One works, one doesn’t.

              6. Ahhh… mea culpa. I’ve distorted the discussion with my own historical and political obsessions.

                The advance of science is made possible with the detailed, accurate observations of predecessors and contemporaries made available to others for (sceptical) testing and hypothesis development; that requires a written language as well as standardised, precise measuring instruments, maths and lenses, none of which were available to MM prior to the early 19th century, yet MM proponents wish to claim pre-European traditional knowledge and undemonstrated, untested spiritual entities and qualities as equivalent to science, and are quite unable, as far as I can tell, to identify specific MM knowledge from the last two centuries equal to science in predictive power and use.

                When a Maori journalist writes that MM was science because ancient Maoris recognised the stink of feces contaminated water as unhealthy but fails to comment on coliform counts and water purification/filtration methods, when a principal claim of MM is that the remarkable achievements of Polynesian (which is then conflated with Maori) navigators is science but fails to note that it was James Cook from the other side of the globe with a chronometer and sextant who accurately mapped NZ and other parts of the Pacific, then we are not in the presence of science so much as ethnic chest beating.

  4. There are important medieval European technologies (some developed from Chinese, Indian, or Arabic inventions) that underlie the progression to science and modernity, such as: the mechanical clock, eyeglasses, the stern-mounted rudder, the wheelbarrow, treadwheel-operated cranes, gears, innovations in milling, etc. The existence of written language no doubt facilitated their spread and their improvement
    —culminating, of course, in Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press in the 1440s, which in effect gave wings to written language itself.

    Indigenous cultures that lacked written language thus missed out on these developments and their
    sequelae, which constitute the modern world. Romanticism about the unique wonders of pre-literate
    cultures reflect, it seems to me, either of two impulses. One is simple resentment against the literate
    culture where modernity did develop. The other is simple play-acting, the spring under post-modernist affectations a generation ago and now wokery.

  5. So are all these variants of Wokeness just the result of too much guilt? Just as Trump tapped into fear of being replaced as the dominant tribe, the Woke have tapped into the dominant tribe’s guilt. Perhaps the solution is to live for today and the future. Don’t forget history, but don’t let it bite you in the ass.

  6. “An independent review into allegations of casual and structural racism at Waikato University has concluded the claims are “incorrect, inaccurate”, and reflective of differing perspectives.”

    “Six senior Māori academics made the allegations earlier this month in a letter to the Ministry of Education. The allegations included Māori expertise being ignored, tokenism, lower pay for Māori staff and no meaningful commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi.”

    “Although the university had already publicly rejected the allegations, the council of the university unanimously agreed for an independent review, led by Sir Wira Gardiner and Hekia Parata, to look into the matter from 7 September.”

    “It found that because New Zealand’s public institutions, including universities, adhere to western traditions and cultures, there is a case for structural, systemic, and casual discrimination at the university.”

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/426948/waikato-university-review-finds-racism-claims-were-incorrect-inaccurate

  7. In 1990/91 on and off I dated a student at the U. of Waikato for a long time. Its (then only) campus is only a few hours bus ride from Auckland so I was in Hamilton and at the uni. frequently.
    Socially Waikato U. is now unrecognizable.
    Virtue signaling Maori language pandering (remember; a language very, very few people speak in NZ) strikes me as so obnoxious and fake. And I think it alienates the 85% non-Maori (“Pakeha” whites and many others) and many Maori people also.

    D.A.
    NYC

    1. And I think it alienates the 85% non-Maori (“Pakeha” whites and many others) and many Maori people also.

      So, a 15% proportion who do speak (or read, or write) some of the indigenous language. That’s fairly comparable to the proportion of Gaelic speakers at my (bi-lingual) university at sub-tropical Aberdeen.
      Oh, dear that doesn’t bode well.

  8. There seem to be a lot of people in Australia who claim to be aborigine, but who are clearly rather white. I’m wondering what percentage of these ‘Maori’ Academics are *really* Maori, rather than whites with a small amount of Maori blood.

  9. “But the combination of regarding the 1840 treaty as nearly a sacred theological document”

    I think it would be more accurate to state that it is regarded in New Zealand as our founding document, giving it some degree of equivalence to the US Constitution. Whether such documents are always interpreted in a functional, as opposed to dysfunctional, manner is always an open question of course (2nd Amendment anyone?).

    1. That’s fine, but as I say, unlike in NZ, the Constitution can be amended (the Bill of Rights and all the other subsequent amendments) by the legislature, and can be–and is–constantly interpreted by the judiciary. Certainly the Treaty is never amended and probably not often interpreted by the courts.

      I think most Americans would see the Declaration of Independence as our founding document, ahd the Constitution as the Roolz.

      1. Certainly. A Constitution is amendable. A treaty is not. The other important distinction is that the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris 1783, and the Constitution were all written (beautifully) in a single language which all signing parties could read and write indicating a common understanding. Subsequent interpretation in one language is hard enough. When the two languages don’t have the same words to describe key founding concepts like sovereignty and land ownership—because the two cultures themselves didn’t—the difficulties are compounded.

        In Canada, all our official documents and federal laws are translated in English and French, even the original English ones like the British North America Act. The fidelity of translation is a point of professional pride among translators and is never a source of dispute about meaning. What we do not do is pretend that pre-literate aboriginal languages containing mystical concepts can do the work of constitutional lawmaking. An Indigenous Rights case must be argued orally and in writing in English (or French but few Native people want to speak French, even in Quebec.). Even the now controversial Numbered Treaties by which we obtained, after Confederation, what are now the western provinces were written and signed in English only. The weight to give to oral speechmaking versus written chicken-scratching remains a source of resentment but the words are not in dispute, and neither is the “foundedness” of the Canadian state itself. Conquest, even if only partial in our case and accomplished almost entirely, aside from the Riel Rebellions, by our British and French predecessors, has the virtue of staying power.

        Good luck, New Zealand.

  10. If this experiment, which is bound to implode, was only carried out at Waikato the damage would be limited.

    The below article from Times Higher Education about the direction Auckland (or should I say Waipapa Taumata Rau) is on provides for an interesting read (free, but you need to sign up)

    https://www.timeshighereducation.com/depth/does-teaching-indigenous-knowledge-need-be-examined

    It links to this language plan for Auckland

    https://cdn.auckland.ac.nz/assets/auckland/on-campus/life-on-campus/maori-life/revitalising-te-reo-maori/university-of-auckland-te-reo-plan.pdf

    The University of Otago, where I am employed currently operates under the vision: ”A research-led University with an international reputation for excellence”.

    This will change will change with the university’s 2040 vision:

    https://www.otago.ac.nz/about/official-documents/otago744043.pdf

    I think the observation that the treaty is treated “as nearly a sacred theological document” is spot on, and when one actually reads this very terse document you wonder how anyone can think it can or should inform or lead a university. But you see the term “treaty-led” increasingly.

    The top brass at the universities all seem to be in on this (look at the Deputy Vice Chancellors and Pro Vice Chancellors who signed up to Hendy and Wiles’ petion) so am afraid there is no getting the genie back into the bottle. Personally, I am so sufficiently close to retirement that I can sit it out, but I genuinely worry for my children and the future generations here in NZ (or Aotearoa as virtue signalling people invariable will call it). Also, as has been observed by others, these moves will likely hurt the very people they intend to help the most. Privileged people like me can move back to Europe, send our children to private schools and Universities abroad. These (typically extremely well-paid) ideologues take innocent kids (including Maori) in the lower socio-economic groups as hostages.

  11. What interests me in view of what is happening at the universities: How do the majority of Maoris (not activists, academics or politicians) actually view these developments?

    Do they think they are good and necessary? Do they shake their heads in the face of the frantic activism of some groups of people? Or do they think that there are bigger problems among Maori, such as lower per capita income or lower life expectancy, that should be addressed more urgently?

  12. Science, mathematics and technology are not anyone’s ethnic “culture”, they are a collaborative effort of all of humanity since the stone age, with any meaningful progress or new invention anywhere in the world soon taken up by the rest of the world, if more slowly in premoderrn times. There is only one science the world over, taught by all schools and universities everywhere. Science as a matter of course includes making use of folk knowledge, where appropriate, like testing traditional medicines for their medical properties.

    After reading through the treaty, I’d say there is one obvious and sensible ways to interpret what its provision might mean for universities: As long as there are NZ universities that teach English literature, Christian religion, and English/European history, arts and the like, at least some universities must provide classes in the Maori equivalents, like Maori language, literature, culture, religion and history, including history of ideas.
    With regard to science classes and degrees, there is only one possible interpretation of the treaty: Maori citizens have the same right to science education as all other NZ citizens — although it is up to debate whether they have a special right to science education in the Maori language.

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