What is PCC(E) banging on about today? This post is about the decolonizing of government school curricula in New Zealand, especially of “early childhood curriculum.” Why do I care? I’ve explained it before: I hate to see a country I love going down the tubes, especially in science and academics. But you should also realize that there are few people in New Zealand who can publicly say the things I can, or publicly post letters opposing the ideological domination of science and academia by indigenous people. Anybody who had a job in New Zealand would get fired for writing posts like this one. So it’s also a resource for the many disaffected kiwis who, because of pervasive “cancel culture” in their country, never get to hear those who support them. These posts may bore you, and in that case just skip them!
Yesterday I posted a letter to the new Prime Minister of New Zealand (and its new Minister of Education), signed by Elizabeth Rata and three other academics. Rata is Director of the Knowledge in Education Research Unit on the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. Although she was instrumental in helping Māori students, her refusal to equate Māori “ways of knowing” with science, or to take the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti) as a binding document that gives indigenous people the right to dominate at least half of the public school curriculum, has caused her to be canceled among “progressive” Kiwis. Plus, as noted below, she signed the (in)famous Listener letter (see it here), which caused a huge uproar despite the fact that its sentiments were rational and correct. This is from Wikipedia:
Rata was one of the principal figures in developing the kura kaupapa schooling project. She was the secretary of the combined kōhanga reo whānau seeking to develop continuation for Māori language learners graduating from kōhanga reo and was a member of the original Kura Kaupapa Māori Working Party. However, according to Rebecca Wirihana, herself an early Kura activist, “Elizabeth has been wiped out of the history of kura kaupapa.” Her recent criticisms of the direction of Māori immersion education, and of the insertion of mātauranga Māori into New Zealand education, have prompted some highly critical responses.
. . . In July 2021, in the context of a review of the NCEA (New Zealand’s National Curriculum), Rata, along with six other University of Auckland professors and emeritus professors published a controversial letter entitled “In Defence of Science” in the New Zealand Listener, which said indigenous knowledge (or mātauranga Māori) “falls far short of what can be defined as science itself”.
This 26-minute talk, by Rata, called “New Zealand’s descent from democracy into ethno-nationalism”, was pointed out by reader JS428 in a comment on my post. What it’s about is the “decolonization” of New Zealand that’s supposedly based on the Treaty of Waitangi (1840). Ti Tiriti has been subject to various interpretations, and has been used to call for the equality of Māori ideas and culture with all other ideas and cultures in the schools. Although Māori constitute only about 17% of New Zealand’s population, they claim this hegemony because they’re the descendants of indigenous Polynesians who colonized the island, and also because they interpret Te Tiriti as giving them that right. But remember that New Zealand is now a multi-ethnic society, with these proportions of groups given in Wikipedia:
As at the 2018 census, the majority of New Zealand’s population is of European descent (70 percent), with the indigenous Māori being the largest minority (16.5 percent), followed by Asians (15.3 percent), and non-Māori Pacific Islanders known collectively as Pasifika (9.0 percent).
Yet, as you’ll see below, Rata is pushing back in this talk, calling for a return from the tribalism (based on “treatyism”) between Māori on one hand and everyone else (83% of the population) on the other. What’s happening in New Zealand is that a Māori-based ideology (Rata calls it “ethnonationalism”—the equivalent of CRT in America—is demanding not just education equity, but educational equality. That is, striving for instructional equity would occupy a far smaller proportion of academic instruction than would equality. (Of course I favor educational equality insofar as it means that all students should be given the same opportunities and treated the same. Rather, by “equality” above I mean that half of the curriculum should be devoted to studies of Māori culture, language and ways of knowing.)
Rata asserts that this ideology controls language, the media, and education in New Zealand, and she’s not far wrong. Her discussion of education starts at 15:49 in the talk.
What I’m concerned with, as was Rata in the letter she co-signed yesterday, is summarized in her quote: “Our education system is indoctrinating children into re-tribalism.” I will let you be the judge of that by perusing the official government “preschool curriculum” below. Her two reforms for education itself are these. First, “remove the treaty and its principles from all education” (remember, it’s the treaty which makes activists demand to make Mātauranga Māori—Māori “ways of knowing”—coequal to science in the classroom). And you’ll see how the Treaty is used on p. 3 of the preschool curriculum below. Second, Rata asks the country to “rebuild the education system to teach academic subjects—the source of the “partially loyal individual”—rather than ideological dogma.
Below, which you can access by clicking on the screenshot (the pdf is here), is the newest (2017) version of New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum, required to be taught in all public pre-schools. Look through it yourself (don’t read it unless you want to wade through 70+ pages of palaver), and see if you detect what I do: an insidious attempt to take over education via the tribalism Rata mentions about above.
The title page itself, almost entirely in Māori, is echoed throughout the document. Note that already on page 3 they invoke the Treaty as justifying the extreme intrusion of ethnicity into the curriculum. They say it’s a curriculum for “all children,” but it’s really a curriculum for the Māori—certainly not for the equally numerous Asians, whose culture and language don’t permeate this document. (Try finding some Chinese or Hindi words in there!) Now this document does contain, as did the higher-level curriculum I discussed yesterday, some good goals. But just skim through the pages and see the pervasiveness of the treaty-based ideology.
You’ll be the judge; I haven’t the spoons for any kind of detailed analysis. You won’t be able to understand a lot of this document unless you already speak Māori, or have a dictionary in hand. Remember, look at the cover and recall that English is by far the language most widely spoken in New Zealand.
As always, I’m not at all opposed to making New Zealand students learn about Māori history and culture: they bloody well should! But ethnicity-based teaching cannot be allowed to dominate all aspects of schooling to the point that New Zealand students begin falling behind comparable countries in academic achievement. And that’s already happening. And the government doesn’t seem to mind. Many Kiwis, as David Lillis mentioned in the comments yesterday, are self-censoring on this issue because they fear for their reputations and livelihoods.