Official press statement by the government of New Zealand

May 31, 2023 • 11:30 am

Here’s a new government of New Zealand statement by Kelvin Davis, the country’s Associate Minister of Education as well as  Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti, Minister for Children with responsibility for Oranga Tamariki, and Minister of Corrections.

It announces the building of a school (“wharekura”) that focuses mostly on science, and will be connected to indigenous ways of knowing (mātauranga Māori), which are a combination of practical knowledge, legend and oral tradition, superstition, religion, morality, and tips on how to live better. By now I know most of the Māori words, but only because I read this stuff all the time and look up what I don’t know in a Māori dictionary. Remember, this announcement is supposed to be directed at all the citizens of New Zealand, not just the small percentage who speak Māori.

The announcement (indented):

A new Year 7-13 designated character wharekura will be built in Pāpāmoa, Associate Minister of Education Kelvin Davis has announced.

The wharekura will focus on science, mathematics and creative technologies while connecting ākonga to the whakapapa of the area. The decision follows an application by the Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust and a consultation process.

“The wharekura will initially have a maximum roll of 72 ākonga. Its establishment recognises the importance of Wairuatanga that is deeply embedded within the marae communities of the Bay of Plenty – Waiariki District,” Kelvin Davis said.

Teaching at the wharekura will be conducted in te reo Māori and will deliver a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) programme supported by mātauranga Māori. This reflects Ngā Pōtiki ki Uta Ngā Pōtiki ki Tai – mai ngā kāhui maunga ki te moana: Tauranga Moana, Tauranga tangata: Te Arawa waka Te Arawa tangata: Mai ngā pae maunga ki te moana.


“Boosting Māori education is a focus for the Chris Hipkins’ Government, as shown in the recent Budget where $225 million went into areas including more classrooms and learning support,” Kelvin Davis said.

“Our goal is to grow the number of Māori learners in Māori Medium and Kaupapa Māori Education to 30% by 2040, and new wharekura like this will help us achieve this.”

“We are pleased to make this announcement in partnership with Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust as we continue to work collaboratively to foster increased participation, engagement and success for Māori through Māori immersion education,” Kelvin Davis said.

The next step is the appointment of an Establishment Board who will be tasked with developing the vision and direction of the wharekura and appointing staff.

A new Year 7-13 designated character wharekura will be built in Pāpāmoa, Associate Minister of Education Kelvin Davis has announced.

The wharekura will focus on science, mathematics and creative technologies while connecting ākonga to the whakapapa of the area. The decision follows an application by the Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust and a consultation process.

“The wharekura will initially have a maximum roll of 72 ākonga. Its establishment recognises the importance of Wairuatanga that is deeply embedded within the marae communities of the Bay of Plenty – Waiariki District,” Kelvin Davis said.

Teaching at the wharekura will be conducted in te reo Māori and will deliver a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) programme supported by mātauranga Māori. This reflects Ngā Pōtiki ki Uta Ngā Pōtiki ki Tai – mai ngā kāhui maunga ki te moana: Tauranga Moana, Tauranga tangata: Te Arawa waka Te Arawa tangata: Mai ngā pae maunga ki te moana.

“Boosting Māori education is a focus for the Chris Hipkins’ Government, as shown in the recent Budget where $225 million went into areas including more classrooms and learning support,” Kelvin Davis said.

“Our goal is to grow the number of Māori learners in Māori Medium and Kaupapa Māori Education to 30% by 2040, and new wharekura like this will help us achieve this.”

“We are pleased to make this announcement in partnership with Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust as we continue to work collaboratively to foster increased participation, engagement and success for Māori through Māori immersion education,” Kelvin Davis said.

The next step is the appointment of an Establishment Board who will be tasked with developing the vision and direction of the wharekura and appointing staff.

Can you understand that? Even if you’re a Kiwi you probably can’t because, according to N.Z.’s Newshub, only a very tiny fraction of the country’s population speak Māori:

Te reo Māori [the Māori language], listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as ‘vulnerable’, is only proficiently spoken by around one in 100 New Zealanders. Another 2.7 percent are able to hold a basic conversation, according to census figures – all up that’s around 185,000 people.

Since only about 16.5% of New Zealanders identify as Māori, that means that about 80% of the indigenous people don’t even speak this language, even in the ability to hold a basic conversation.

Are Māori-laden statements like this, then,  a big attempt a virtue signaling, or does the government hope that by issuing them it will drive the whole country to learn the indigenous language? I doubt it, because a paper from the Royal Society suggests that, without intensive intervention, the demographics of the country will doom Māori as a language.

But more important, what is being proposed, once you translate the announcement into English, is a school that will teach science only in Māori, will use the principles of matauranga Māori, including the “whakapapa of the area” (whakapapa is a Māori-specific term reflecting the privileges and duties of your tribal ancestry), and will involve a lot of money.  I may be wrong, but given the paucity of Māori-speakers, and the prevalence of scientific literature and texts in English, not to mention the issue of matauranga Māori not being science but including some practical knowledge—given all this, shouldn’t they just educate the children in English, and reduce the influence of a largely superstition-and-tradition-based knowledge system on a science curriculum?

Can mātauranga Māori help us understand climate change?

May 30, 2023 • 9:30 am

Judging from this video lecture and Q&A session below by a Māori climate scientist, the answer to the title question is “no”.

A New Zealand biologist and teacher sent me the 46-minute video, angered at its intellectual vacuity, as you can detect from his/her email. (By the way, the scientists I quote are different people, not just one disaffected person.  Plenty of Kiwi scientists are fed up with the nation’s drive to indigenize science, as well as its handing over tons of grant money to Māori researchers for dubious projects. But they dare not reveal their names for fear of losing their jobs and reputations. This is a country where academia is deeply involved in self-censoring). Anyway, the email:

“Yesterday I came across a teachers’ newsletter referencing a webinar titled “What te aro Maori can teach us about climate change?” It’s 45 minutes long long and fellow bio teacher [NAME REDACTED] and I could only stomach the first 17 mins, with references to the “sky god”. Readers might be able to get further, but I can’t take this garbage.”

I had trouble getting through it, too, as it’s pretty much anodyne gobbledygook with the ultimate message “we need to talk to each other”. But I managed to listen to the whole thing, though it took me two sessions.

Although I had trouble deciphering some of the Māori language (the use of which is imperative to establish your credibility), I believe the words “te aro Māori” in the title simply mean “Māori-centered focus.” The question at hand is clearly what using that focus, or using mātauranga Māori (Māori “ways of knowing”, henceforth “MM”) can tell us about climate change, and how to ameliorate its effects.

Sadly, nowhere in the entire presentation and question session could I find a single contribution that a Māori perspective contributes to our understanding of and work on climate change. Listen for yourself and tell me if you find anything substantive.

That’s not surprising: after all, it was modern (not “Western”) science that discovered the issue of anthropogenic climate change and is now working on how to ameliorate it, though that will involve not just science but politics.  And if the Māori perspective can contribute to the political solution at least, or provide useful scientific viewpoints, we’d like to know. But the effort here comes up dry, with the climate scientist spouting bromides that you’ll see below. In the end, I felt as if I had given up 45 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.  All I can do with that lost time is show the readers what the Māori themselves present as their best case for contributing to science. And the case is pitiful.

Here are the YouTube notes:

In our first Climate Conversation, Akuhata Bailey-Winiata (University of Waikato) will speak specifically about his work on the relevance and application of mātauranga and te ao Māori in climate change. The session will be facilitated by Glen Cornelius (Chief Executive, Harrison Grierson and Deputy President, Te Ao Rangahau). Bailey-Winiata is a climate change scientist.

Click to watch.  The take-home lesson is in a series of slides, some of which I’ve put below, but there’s not much to take home:

In lieu of his inability to really nail down proposals and solutions that differ between Māori and “Western” viewpoints,  Bailey-Wineata simply discusses the differences in between Māori and “Western” worldviews, and then makes up reasons why they’re relevant. One of the differences is said to involve the “Western” concept of linear time and the Māori concept of “Indigenous time” (slide below).  This turns out to be irrelevant because of the false suggestion that while Westerners have linear time, and don’t really look back much, the Māori view of time sees it as “event based” and “nonlinear”, with the “past and future just as important as the present.” Since climate change is really a problem for the future, but is detected by comparing past with the present, and solved by extrapolating into the future, this is a distinction without a difference, and not a contribution of MM to science. The slide:

When asked how MM-based scientific methods differ form those of modern science, Māori tend to emphasize the “interconnectedness of everything”, as opposed to the supposedly “Western” view that things aren’t much interconnected. Here’s the slide that emphasizes that supposed difference, but I see nothing relevant between this Māori view and the way modern science tackles climate change, which of course involves thinking about both past and future generations (cf. Greta Thunberg):

Below a slide meant to emphasize how Māori “long term views” can contribute to the climate change problem. Note that the lecturer brings in storytelling and water spirits, but again, this leads at best to only a week and unenlightening analogy between the dangers of water spirits and the dangers of climate change. I won’t get into the tail-flicking of the water spirit, supposedly a metaphor for a river changing course and causing flood damage (see here).

The lesson from the above: don’t put houses where they can be affected by climate change. But that’s just common sense, not a unique Māori-centric conclusion. Every insurance company in the US knows this.

Here’s a slide that again relies on weak metaphor: just as rivers in NZ can be “braided,” so, says Bailey-Winiata, so we need both Māori and “Western” approaches to science. (The constant use of the words “Western science” to refer to “modern science” irks me, but I use the term because the lecturer does.) At any rate, he says over and over again that both approaches are needed, but never says one tangible thing about what the Māori approach can add to how science is presently addressing climate change.

The Māori answer to the question “what can you add to how science is currently done?” invariably involves simply emphasizing the difference between Māori and non-Māori world views, but never translates these into tangible actions, much less telling us how they add to science in general.

Finally, here are Bailey-Winiata’s “take home messages”.   Again, they emphasize the difference in world view, but never tell us how those differences promote fruitful cultural interaction when it comes to scientific problems that affect society.


If you think I’m deliberately distorting what the lecturer says, and leaving out valuable contributions that a Māori view can bring to climate change, then by all means watch the video for yourself.

Bailey-Winiata‘s presentation is finished in 25 minutes, and in the rest of the video he answers listeners’ questions fed to him by moderator Grierson. Here are a few questions and answers. I’ll paraphrase some of them, and give quotes (using quotation marks) when I had time to write them down.

Question: “Are there difficulties matching the timelines from the event-based sense of time [hundreds of years] to a Western sense of time?”?

Answer: Yes, for Māori culture gives us a long-term view, so this changes “how policies and industry has been done.”  The Māori view tells us that “building the capacity to do these things within that spaces of change and policy is going to be crucial heading into the future, but yeah. . . it’s a hard question to answer in terms of. . .yeah.”

In other words, it’s gobbledygook.

Question:  “What challenges could you give us as engineers and as climate-change practitioners to embrace teo Māori and empower the use of MM amd mauri in the work we do?”

Answer: “The challenge is just to be open to new ideas to new concepts and new ways of knowing, of being, of doing. . . . we need to open ourselves up to these different knowledge systems. . .have conversations with your Maori colleagues, have a cup of tea with them, and just talk.” Answer: “be openminded and understanding. .  see the other side.

There’s a strong smell of kumbaya in such answers.

At one point, when asked what kind of new Māori-centric institutions we need to promote indigenous world views, Bailey-Winiata says that the Māori need “safe spaces” for discussion.

“Be openminded, be aware of time, everything is interconnected. . . “:  this is what we hear over and over again. What we don’t hear is how MM adds to modern science.

Question: How can we use the past to inform how we deal with climate change (emphasis on the past is part of the Māori “nonlinear” view of time)?

Answer:  We can “use history to understand how we can look forward in the future.” Māori tradition tells us “what can we draw resilience and inspiration from.”

Of course using the past to inform the future is already an integral part of climate-change solutions.

Question:  Is there existing literature in Maori available on climate change for the general public?”

Answer:”It’s very sparse. . . . . there’s a lot about Māori natural hazards that you can draw parallels with, but not much historical work has been done.”

Short answer, “no.”  Bailey-Winiata then lists several Māori people who are “pushing the boundaries of this area of climate change in Maori, and the literature is bound to come out”. But where is that literature? I look forward to it.


Question: “Do you think that Pākehā [the Māori word for European descendants] need to get on board with accepting some of the Māori values when planning projects, especially when accepting climate change.”

Answer; Bailey Winiata mentions the famous Listener letter of 2021, in which seven University of Auckland academics argue that MM should not be taught as if it were equivalent to modern science, and then claims that this misguided viewpoint is spreading.  Instead, he says, we need to “be open to the idea of new ways of knowing and new ways of doing”. and “we need to move forward because climate change is happening.”   The moderator, of course agrees, as he has with everything that Bailey-Winiata says.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends: a presentation of the value of Māori ways of knowing in addressing anthropogenic climate change—and from a Māori climate-change scientist with a Ph.D.  Either he’s totally unable to express the values he sees in using MM to address the problem, or there is no value of using MM to address the problem. I tend toward the latter view, for MM was developed before “Western” scientists raised the problem of climate change, and MM is a worldview that contains a bit of practical knowledge but nothing that bears on climate change unless you think that the “long view,” supposedly contributed by Māori lore, has something to add. In fact, that could even be deleterious, for at one point Bailey-Winiata mentions even bigger climate change in the past—something that climate-change denialists often cite when arguing that today’s changes are simply part of the historical cycle of climate change on Earth.

Since this is a half-hour lecture by a credentialed Māori climate-change scientist, I take it to be the best case that can be made for infusing MM into modern science, at least in terms of climate change. And the case is not only weak, but nonexistent. There is no “there” there.

Let me emphasize that by criticizing MM as a valuable contribution to modern science, I am not criticizing the Māori people themselves, who had a rough time of it, but are now reaping reparations in the form of affirmative action, jobs, grants, and the like. But I will argue that their “way of knowing” is way overemphasized, and that the government and academic powers of New Zealand, in a desire to cater to “the sacred victim,” are being sold a bill of goods.

A new paper presages the death of science in New Zealand

April 30, 2023 • 12:00 pm

Here’s a paper from the journal Environment and Planning F:Philosophy, Theory, Models, Methods and Practice that one can take as the definitive statement of the value of indigenous “ways of knowing” (mātauranga Māori, or MM) in New Zealand, and why they are at least as good as, but less “harmful” than, colonialist Western knowledge. Nearly all the authors save Tara McAllister are on the Faculty of Science at the University of Auckland, which used to be (note past tense) the best university in New Zealand. This paper is a dreadful and nearly impenetrable piece of work, but I went through it, and I’m here to tell you several things:

a. This paper does not tell us how Pūtaiao, defined as “Kaupapa Māori science” (the Māori are of course the descendants of Polynesians who peopled New Zealand when Europeans arrived and settled), will actually operate, except that it’s supposed to be the special purview of Māori, and non-Māori can’t properly practice it. (“Kaupapa Māori science” is defined in the glossary—yes, the is one—as science done according to “Māori approaches, principles, and vision”. ) There is not ONE EXAMPLE of Kaupapa Māori science showing its distinctness from modern science, or how it will supplement or be superior to modern science.

b. The paper shows us how heavily the academic version of MM has been influenced by French postmodernism. This accounts not only for several features of Pūtaiao, like intersectionality and standpoint epistemology, as well as by the claim that science is deeply and thoroughly infected with racism and genocide, but also explains why the paper is written in a way that is nearly impossible to understand. I used to reject claims that those who pushed Māori ways of knowing were infected with postmodernism, but this paper makes it clear that at least those academics who defend these ways of knowing are postmodernists.

c. The paper is replete with victimology and virtue flaunting, beginning with each of the authors identifying their sub-tribe of Māori at the outset, ending with a long description of the biographies of the authors (their standpoints), and, most obviously, being heavily larded with Māori language throughout (remember that 16.5% of New Zealanders are Māori, only 1% less than the percentage of Asians in the country, while Europeans are about 72%).   Moreover, those who speak Māori are much rarer: as Newshub notes,

Te reo Māori [the Māori language], listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as ‘vulnerable’, is only proficiently spoken by around one in 100 New Zealanders. Another 2.7 percent are able to hold a basic conversation, according to census figures – all up that’s around 185,000 people.

The fact that you can’t understand this paper without a glossary unless you’re one of the 1-3% of Kiwis who speak Māori, combined with its constant claims of victimization of indigenous people and of the evil deeds of Western science and scientists, makes this effort a prime example of “the authority of the sacred victim.” But victimology does not justify or buttress a “way of knowing”, and so the paper turns into a long disquisition about the philosophy of Pūtaiao as argued by Auckland academics.  It says nothing concrete about what kind of science Pūtaiao will produce, why it needs its own institutes to keep it separate from “Western science”, how it differs in practice from modern science, what its advantages are over modern science, and so on. Any real scientist reading this will cry out “Just give me one lousy example of the kind of scientific research you’re talking about. Tell me about questions and projects which Pūtaiao will approach differently from modern science, and how the Māori methods are superior.”

They do not even come close to addressing that question in this long and tedious paper, which makes me, at least, echo H. L. Mencken: “What are the sweating professors trying to say?”

d. Finally, since we have big-shot professors pushing this line of inquiry, and the government and all those who wish to keep their jobs will fall in line, this bodes very poorly for the future of science in New Zealand. Science being turned into a form of indigenous “ways of knowing” that are not recognizable as, much less compatible with, modern science, and a “science” like the one described here threatens to put its head up its fundament by an obsession with victimology, philosophy, etymology, identity politics, and local lore.

New Zealanders who want to really help understand the universe and engage in genuine science, as opposed to science permeated with religious lore, morality, special private language and statements about how “everything is inteconnected”, had best go overseas to do their studies. I’m absolutely serious. This paper, and everything I’ve read, tells me that science in Aoteoroa—what the authors call “New Zealand,” (a country whose name is being subsumed into Māori)—is no longer circling the drain, but is actually in it. 

If you worry about how American science is being wrecked by ideology, well, New Zealand will show you what the next step in this process will look like (Canada is getting there, too). I have no confidence that the degeneration of science in New Zealand can be corrected, for those who oppose what’s happening have been silenced by fears of ostracism or of losing their jobs. (Thanks, Royal Society of New Zealand!)

Click screenshot to read the article for free, or download the pdf here.

To get a flavor of the paper, read the abstract, which I’ll put below:


Overcoming the long-standing distrust of ‘research’ is especially challenging within the colonial structures of Western science. This article aspires to rise to this challenge by conceptualising Pūtaiao as a form of Indigenous research sovereignty. Grounded in Kaupapa Māori Theory, Pūtaiao is envisioned as a Kaupapa Māori way of doing science in which Indigenous leadership is imperative. It incorporates Māori ways of knowing, being, and doing when undertaking scientific research. An essential element of Pūtaiao is setting a decolonising agenda, drawing from both Kaupapa Māori Theory and Indigenous methodologies. Accordingly, this centres the epistemology, ontology, axiology and positionality of researchers in all research, which informs their research standpoint. This approach speaks back to ontological framings of Western scientific research that restrict Indigenous ways of researching in the scientific academy. Furthermore, Pūtaiao offers tools and language to critique the academic disciplines of Western science which are a colonial construct within the global colonising agenda. As such, the theoretical search for Indigenous science(s) and Indigenising agendas explore the dialogical relationship between both knowledge systems – Kaupapa Māori science and Western science. This relationship necessitates setting a decolonising agenda before an Indigenising agenda can be realised, whereby they are mutually beneficial rather than mutually exclusive. This article is an affirmation of the work and discourse of Indigenous scientists. In this way, Pūtaiao becomes a pathway for asserting Indigenous sovereignty over and redefining scientific research for future generations of Māori and Indigenous researchers.

It would help if they actually TOLD us how modern science (properly decolonized) and Kaupapa Māori science are mutually beneficial.

I’ll give a few quotes from the paper to apprise you of its tenor.

MM as science:

In summary, Pūtaiao reframes the current scientific discourse around the inclusion of mātauranga Māori in science to consider the relationship between Te Ao Māori, and science through Kaupapa Māori Theory and methodologies. Importantly, science is not conceptualised simply as scientific knowledge but understood as a knowledge system.

The evils of “Western” science and postmodernism and the intent to “disrupt” modern science:

Importantly, culturalist approaches alone are not sufficient to disrupt, decolonise and transform knowledge systems, such as science. This is illustrated by a critical examination of the colonial origins of science and the consistent use of science as both a justification for, and a tool of, colonial violence and oppression against Māori and Indigenous peoples. Culturalist approaches are distinguished from structuralist approaches by their focus on aligning space, structures and systems with Māori and Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing.

. . .  Science including eugenics, genetics, genomics, epidemiology have been, and in many cases continue to be, used to scientifically justify racism and colonial violence in the form of ‘genocidal violence (killing of peoples), linguicide (death of languages), epistemicide (destruction of knowledge systems), cultural genocide (destruction of cultures) and ecocide (destruction of eco-systems)’ (Havemann, 2016: 49).


Simultaneously, we might also recognise the internal diversity of Māori experiences and local knowledges, such that there may not be one ‘true’ or comprehensively singular perspective shared by all Māori. Here, a relativist ontology might be useful in situating intersections of age, race, gender, class, sexuality, rural and urban positionalities in a sociocultural context configured by matrices of power relations, and multiple perspectives within and between Iwi, Hapū and whānau. In this way, a Māori ontology is inclusive of specific ontologies of diverse whānau, Hapū and Iwi, based on shared understandings and experiences through whakapapa.

Simultaneously, we might also recognise the internal diversity of Māori experiences and local knowledges, such that there may not be one ‘true’ or comprehensively singular perspective shared by all Māori. Here, a relativist ontology might be useful in situating intersections of age, race, gender, class, sexuality, rural and urban positionalities in a sociocultural context configured by matrices of power relations, and multiple perspectives within and between Iwi, Hapū and whānau. In this way, a Māori ontology is inclusive of specific ontologies of diverse whānau, Hapū and Iwi, based on shared understandings and experiences through whakapapa.

The equivalence of modern science and Pūtaiao in rigor and creation of knowledge about the universe:

Western science, in this context, approaches scientific knowledge and methods from a Western worldview, based on Western ways of being, knowing and doing. In contrast, Pūtaiao as Kaupapa Māori science centres Māori ways of being, knowing and doing. Both approaches are equally rigorous and create reliable knowledge. The participation of Māori within the science knowledge system, however, is not a choice to subscribe or assimilate to Western science or Western worldviews.

The admission that Pūtaiao is really more than science.  It seems clear that one of the “advantages” of Pūtaiao as the authors see it is that it is NOT just a way of producing knowledge and that knowledge itself: it is also a way of telling us how to live. That’s why MM is not equivalent to science.

Mātauranga is central to Kaupapa Māori. Mātauranga is both a body of knowledge, and an epistemology – a way of knowing and worldview. Royal (2009) states that,

The purpose of indigenous knowledge is not merely to describe the world (acquire facts about phenomena) but ultimately to understand how one may live well in it. Indigenous knowledge is thus value-laden and value-driven. It seeks mutually enhancing relationships between the human community and the natural world. (p. 114)

Here, whanaungatanga, relationships, are a critical element of Kaupapa Māori, mediating research at every stage. Extending on this, Hoskins and Jones (2017) express that,

The identity of ‘things’ in the world is not understood as discrete or independent, but emerges through and relates to everything else. It is the relation, or connection, not the thing itself, that is ontologically privileged in Indigenous and Māori thought. (p. 51)
This is the nature of how we come to know as Māori. Literature, both academic and the literature shared through whakapapa kōrero (ancestral narratives, histories), waiata (songs), whakataukī (proverb, aphorism), whakairo (to carve), and many more ways are key to expressions of mātauranga within Pūtaiao. The environment is central to understanding mātauranga, as Durie (2005) explains,
Seriously, what do these have to do with with science?
But wait! There’s more: (“Whakapapa” is defined in the paper’s glossary as “a way of knowing about the world through intergenerational relationships.” It is the genealogical aspect of MM that allows the incorporation of legend and ancestral stories into MM.):

From Kaupapa Māori critical theories and social constructionist approaches we explore how whakapapa ‘provides the theoretical or epistemological basis for a Maori “way of knowing” about the world’ (Roberts, 2013: 93) where ‘whakapapa maps epistemologies (including tribal concepts, principles, ideas, and related practices) and locates them within a particular context’ (Bean et al., 2012). As described by Burgess and Painting (2020),

The concept of whakapapa explains the origins, positioning, and futures of all things. Whakapapa derives from the root ‘papa’, meaning a base or foundation. Whakapapa denotes a layering, adding to that foundation. Rooted in creation, generations layer upon each other, creating a reality of intergenerational relationships. Everything has whakapapa, all phenomena, spiritual and physical, from celestial bodies, days and nights, through to the winds, lands, waters, and all that transpires throughout. (p. 208)
Whakapapa, is not only a body of knowledge but a way of understanding the universe, and all its complexities, by weaving existence together within genealogical constructs as the foundation of Māori ways of being, knowing and doing.

Finally, because I’m getting tired and also angry,

The Māori brand of science must have its own safe space, and can be practiced and analyzed only by Māori:

For a Māori axiology, data ethics acts as a beginning, a process to create axiological space in research and recognise that in order for Māori Data Sovereignty to be realised, Māori data must be subject to tikanga and Māori governance. Here, Māori Data Governance refers to tikanga, policies, laws, and structures through which Māori exercise control and autonomy over Māori data (Kukutai and Cormack, 2020). Te Mana Raraunga – the Māori Data Sovereignty network – have published a charter outlining tikanga for data, and a Mana Mahi (Governance-Operations) framework to support the inherent rights of Māori with regards to Māori data. In Pūtaiao, this is based on whakapapa in terms of a deep intergenerational relationship with people and the natural world.
Kukutai and Taylor (2016) have identified six key ways to advance Māori Data Sovereignty:
1. Asserting Māori rights and interests in relation to data.
2. Ensuring data for and about Māori can be safeguarded and protected.
3. Requiring the quality and integrity of Māori data and their collection.
4. Advocating for Māori involvement in the governance of data repositories Indigenous Data Sovereignty.
5. Supporting the development of Māori data infrastructure and security systems.
6. Supporting the development of sustainable Māori digital businesses and innovations.

In this way Pūtaiao or “Kaupapa Māori science” becomes the exclusive purview of Māori themselves—almost like a club or fraternity. This is very different from modern science, in which all are welcome to participate, including of course Māori. Modern science is an international enterprise with a worldwide form of practice and recognition of results, while Pūtaiao can be practiced only in Aoteoroa (the authors outline how they’ve constructed a self-contained institute practicing Pūtaiao), and its analysis is deemed refractory to inspection by “outsiders” from modern science.  After all, who wants Māori science judged by those evil Western scientists who purvey genocide, linguicide, and even ecocide and epistemicide?

If you have any doubt that these authors±who appear to be almost oblivious to the fact science is not philosophy—are clueless about how to attain their goal, read the final 1½-page section of the paper, “How do we transform scientific research?” It’s a big metaphor about trees and forests with no concrete answers to the question.

In the end, we have a lovely country, with lovely people, falling victim to a form of postmodernism that has affected academia to the point that it no longer accepts modern science, though it pretends it does. (Of course these same people are flying in planes, using antibiotics and GPS devices, and so on.) But New Zealand’s excessive fealty towards the authority of the sacred victim, the Māori, and the citizens’ unwillingness to say, “Stop the madness!” is going to erode whatever good science is left. It’s very sad, but in the end it is the fault of the people themselves, and of their government.

Mishigass at the Ontario Museum: claims of parity between modern science and indigenous “ways of knowing”

April 29, 2023 • 11:30 am

I’m back to viewing and reading about claims that indigenous knowledge is coequal to—or even better than—modern science (often characterized as “colonializing” or “Western” science). This is always a painful exercise for me, because although indigenous people have indeed produced empirical “observational knowledge” that can be important, they have not adopted (except as participants in) the rigorous methodology of modern science that involves doubt, testing, hypothesis-making, quantification, blind tests, and so on.

Thus practitioners of indigenous knowledge (or “other ways of knowing”) don’t have any methodology to advance knowledge of the universe except to simply make more observations. The most striking lacuna in these other ways of knowing is the absence of hypotheses, based on present (provisional) truths, that can be tested lead us to further truths. This lacuna is painfully evident in this video from the Royal Ontario Museum, a 1¼-hour discussion of science vs. “First Nations ways of knowing”, held on the occasion of an exhibition of painting around that theme.

Every speaker strives mightily to espouse a parity between First Nations “ways of knowing” and modern science’s genuine way of knowing.  The reader who sent it to me the video said this:

I find it nearly impossible to follow the speakers’ trains of thought.

If you listen, you’ll see what that reader meant.

In the end, this video—similar to what is claimed by those who espouse parity between Māori “ways of knowing” and modern science in New Zealand—merely demonstrates that the “parity” comes down to two anodyne assertions that fail to demonstrate any equivalence between science and local ways of knowing:

a.) Local ways of knowing (seen both in this video and in the works of Māori advocates) emphasize “connections between everything”.  This may be part of the ideology, superstition, or morality of local people (and is formally true in physics), but, as my Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin once said,

“my gardening has no effect on the orbit of Neptune because the force of gravitation is extremely weak and falls off very rapidly with distance”

“Connectedness”, if important, will emerge as part of science itself, as in attempts to unify the fundamental forces of physics.  It is not any kind of “indigenous science”, but an emotion, a religious belief, or an assertion. And the idea itself does not profitably advance modern science.

b.) Insofar as the exponents of indigenous science do see connections with Western science, they are only weak and totally useless metaphors. Here is their typical form:, “Well, this aspect of our knowledge looks like quantum mechanics or the Big Bang.” But they never arrive at quantum mechanics or the Big Bang on their own: they simply look at the achievements of modern science and say, “see, we had stuff in our culture that looks like some assertions of modern science.” But it is modern science that has found these truths, and people like Elder Wilfred Buck in this discussion are always playing catch-up to that science. (Quantum mechanics is a particular victim of this kind of metaphorizing.)

Have a listen, for example to Elder Buck’s (15:30) comparison of the Cree myth of humans coming from a “hole in the sky” as energy beings that then become material beings to the “particle theory” of physics, “quantum physics” and “multiple realities” (presumably “multiverses”). This is about as weak and unenlightening as metaphor gets!

Here are the YouTube notes (I’ve added links)

This panel brings together some of the most brilliant minds in their fields for a conversation on how Indigenous and Western thinking on knowledge, being, and science intersect, with particular focus on themes explored in the exhibition Kent Monkman: Being Legendary, presented at ROM from October 8, 2022 to April 16, 2023.

Panelists include:

Dr. Leroy Little Bear – a Blackfoot scholar whose thinking compares western academic metaphysics to the Blackfoot cultural metaphysic that has developed from unique relationships to land, the ecosystem and the observable cosmos over a thousand generations in the northern plains.

Elder Wilfred Buck – Cree author, science educator, and Indigenous star lore expert – who posits that the depth of knowledge obtained through Indigenous Methodologies are on par with present day scientific theories put forward by leading scientists.

Dr. Kim Venn – astronomer, physicist and specialist at UVic in observational stellar spectroscopy – who analyzes stars to study the fossil record of the chemistry of the Universe at the time and place where they were born.

Kent Monkman – Cree visual artist and the artist-curator of Being Legendary.

The conversation is moderated by acclaimed Anishinaabe filmmaker and self-proclaimed “science geek,” Lisa Jackson, whose upcoming feature documentary Wilfred Buck weaves together Wilfred’s past and present life with his sky stories as it explores colonization’s impact on Indigenous ways of knowing.

This panel discussion with Kent Monkman, Dr. Leroy Little Bear, Elder Wilfred Buck, Dr. Kim Venn, moderated by Lisa Jackson was recorded Thursday, April 6, 2023 at the Royal Ontario Museum.

I listened to the entire thing. There is a lot of self-identification and touting of various First Nations cultures, self-congratulation about the wonderfulness of the panel, as well as weak analogies to science (“quantum mechanics” and “dark matter” are mentioned several times, and one expert in spectroscopy even apologizes for the colonialist nature of the periodic table!). But there is not a single instance in which a speaker shows any aspect of indigenous knowledge that advances, supplements or is even equivalent to a finding of modern science. Again, we find are only weak parallels and indigenous metaphors.

There is, however, plenty of the “authority of the sacred victim“: a touting of the view expressed in the eponymous book:

Suffering can make sacred, so it may partly be nature, and not culture alone, that leads us to apprehend a sacred aspect in victims of oppression. Those who recognize this sacredness show piety—a special form of respect—toward members of oppressed groups.

You can see this in the near-groveling of the one non-indigenous member of the panel, Dr. Venn, towards Elder Buck.  Yes, of course Canada’s indigenous people were horribly oppressed, with some of their their children removed from homes, put in schools, and forbidden to practice their culture or even speak their natal language.  That must be recognized, taught, and, where necessary, compensated for. But we also have to recognize that suffering does not give you special expertise in understanding the universe, or the ability to make valid comparisons between indigenous knowledge and modern science. As we wrote in our paper that I mentioned yesterday:

The scientific method is the core of liberal epistemology. In The Constitution of Knowledge, Rauch addresses the current epistemological crisis by reaffirming the central tenets of liberal epistemology (developed by Popper, Albert, Weber, and others). Namely, that provisional truth is attainable and that a truth claim can be made only if it is testable and withstands attempts to debunk it (the Fallibilist Rule). He also emphasizes that no one has personal authority over a truth claim, nor can one claim authority by virtue of a personally or tribally privileged perspective (the Empirical Rule).

And yet both rules are violated over and over again in this video, in other places in Canada, and in New Zealand.

It’s a shame that this is put on by the Royal Ontario Museum, which, one would think, would value real scientific knowledge above superstition, origin stories, or even observational knowledge. Couldn’t it just have programs on First Nations people without dragging in modern science?

But Canada is now in the throes of touting the authority of the sacred victim, and, as the introducer—along with giving the obligatory land acknowledgement and noting the “colonialist roots of this Museum”—pledges to make the museum a place “where all indigenous peoples have a deep and full sense of belonging.” That can happen only if the Museum gives scientific credibility to the myths of indigenous people, and never, ever says anything that would put sacred myths and stories in doubt.

Well, here you go:

Our big paper on the importance of placing merit over ideology in science, and an op-ed in the WSJ

April 28, 2023 • 8:14 am

Here is the story of (and links to) our Big Paper on Merit, Ideology and Science. (One colleague and I have a paper in press on the intrusion of ideology into our own specific research areas; that will be out in late June.)  As for this behemoth of a paper, which, we think, says things that need to be aired, we managed (after a long haul) to get it published in a respectable, peer-reviewed journal: The Journal of Controversial Ideas, founded by Peter Singer and two other moral philosophers. If you click the screenshot of the title below, you’ll go to the Journal’s website where you can download the pdf. (If you can’t get a pdf, they’re free, so ask me.)

The point of “In Defense of Merit in Science” is simple: merit is now being downgraded by ideologues in favor of conformity of science to predetermined—usually “progressive”—political goals.  This is a disaster for science and the public understanding of science. (One example is the ideologically-based denial that there are only two sexes in animals.) The paper is in effect a defense of merit as the best and only way to judge science and scientists, and a warning that if prioritizing merit in science erodes (as is happening), we’re in for a bumpy ride, as Russia was in the time of Lysenko. (Russian biology still hasn’t recovered from the ideologically based and totally bogus science of the charlatan agronomist Trofim Lysenko. Stalin had Lysenko’s faulty ideas of agronomy made into official agricultural policy, and the result was that millions of people starved to death in the U.S.S.R. and China. Opponents of Lysenkoism were fired or sent to the gulag.) We’re not—and hopefully will never be—at that disastrous point in this century, but the inimical effects of downgrading merit in science and using ideological criteria instead are already pervasive and evident. I’ve written about them at length. (One is the valorization of “indigenous ways of knowing”, which is poised to destroy science in New Zealand.)

But I digress: here’s the paper’s abstract.


Merit is a central pillar of liberal epistemology, humanism, and democracy. The scientific enterprise, built on merit, has proven effective in generating scientific and technological advances, reducing suffering, narrowing social gaps, and improving the quality of life globally. This perspective documents the ongoing attempts to undermine the core principles of liberal epistemology and to replace merit with non-scientific, politically motivated criteria. We explain the philosophical origins of this conflict, document the intrusion of ideology into our scientific institutions, discuss the perils of abandoning merit, and offer an alternative, human-centered approach to address existing social inequalities.

There are 29 authors, men and women of diverse nationalities and ethnicities, ranging from junior researchers to Nobel Laureates (two of the latter). You will recognize some of the authors, like Loury and McWhorter, whose work I write about a lot.  All the authors are in alphabetical order, but I have to note that by far the largest share of the work on this paper was done by Anna Krylov, as well as her partner Jay Tanzman. Anna was generous enough to not take the first authorship, to which she was fully entitled. But the alphabetization does bespeak a certain unanimity among authors in the way we feel about this issue.

Click the screenshot to read the paper (or rather, to get to a place where you can download the pdf).

There’s also a lot of Supplemental Information, juicy stuff, crazy quotations from scientists, ancillary data, and, of course, the authors’ biographies, at this site

The paper is a long one—26 pages—but I’d urge you to have a look. We’re hoping that this represents the beginning of pushback by scientists against the ideological degradation of our field, and that by speaking out, we’ll inspire others to join us.

Now, a bit about our troubles in publishing it.  We sent the paper to several scientific journals, which will remain unnamed, and they all found reasons why they couldn’t publish it. One likely reason was  that merit in science (and everywhere else) is being displaced in favor of, well, “political correctness”, and defending merit is seen as an “antiprogressive” view.  In other words, any journal publishing this would be inundated with protest. (But I’m sure Peter Singer doesn’t care: he’s been the victim of opprobrium all his life, and I’m a huge fan.) We were at a loss of where to put this laborious piece of analysis, but then I remembered the new Journal of Controversial Ideas, and suggested sending it there.

They finally accepted it, but I tell you that it was a VERY stringent review process, requiring two complete revisions of the paper. That’s good, because the paper was vetted by several critical reviewers and I think it’s a lot better for having been criticized and rewritten. And nobody can argue that it wasn’t reviewed!

But it’s always struck me as VERY ODD that a paper defending merit should be so controversial that we had to place it in a journal devoted to heterodox thought. So I decided to write an op-ed about this irony, joined by Anna.  The op-ed, too, was rejected by a certain famous newspaper, but the Wall Street Journal snapped it up immediately. Yes, the WSJ’s commentary section (this piece is classified as a commentary) is largely conservative, but, as I always say, who else would publish a piece that’s offensive to The Elect?

You can read our Commentary by clicking on the screenshot below, but it’s paywalled and by agreement we can reproduce only a short part of the piece. Perhaps you know someone who subscribes and can fill you in on the rest. By the way, it was the editors, not us, who wrote the title and subtitle. I love the title, but the subtitle may strike some as a bit hyperbolic.

Here are the first three paragraphs of our Commentary (what they asked us to limit social-media publication to), but I hope the paper won’t mind if I add the last short paragraph, just because I like it.

Until a few months ago, we’d never heard of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, a peer-reviewed publication whose aim is to promote “free inquiry on controversial topics.” Our research typically didn’t fit that description. We finally learned of the journal’s existence, however, when we tried to publish a commentary about how modern science is being compromised by a de-emphasis on merit. Apparently, what was once anodyne and unobjectionable is now contentious and outré, even in the hard sciences.=

. . . . Yet as we shopped our work to various scientific publications, we found no takers—except one. Evidently our ideas were politically unpalatable. It turns out the only place you can publish once-standard conclusions these days is in a journal committed to heterodoxy. . .

. . . But [our paper] was too much, even “downright hurtful,” as one editor wrote to us. Another informed us that “the concept of merit . . . has been widely and legitimately attacked as hollow.” Legitimately?

In the end, we’re grateful that our paper will be published. But how sad it is that the simple and fundamental principle undergirding all of science—that the best ideas and technologies should be the ones we adopt—is seen these days as “controversial.”

Well known German and French newspapers have also agreed to publish pieces on the JCI paper; these will be coming out in a week or so and I’ll link to them as they appear. I notice that Bari Weiss has also mentioned the paper in the TGIF column in The Free Press today. (Nellie Bowles, the regular TGIF author, is on a reporting trip to Texas.)

Finally, there’s a press release that you can see by clicking on the link below. It describes what the paper is about, what our goals were, why it was published in The Journal of Controversial Ideas, and a few quotes about the paper from authors. If you can’t read such a long paper (shame on you if you don’t!), at least read this:

A juicy comment by an author:

Commenting on publishing in the Journal of Controversial Ideas, co-author and professor of mathematics, Svetlana Jitomirskaya, says: “To me it feels quite absurd that we even had to write this paper, not to mention that it had to be published in the Journal of Controversial Ideas. Isn’t it self-evident that science should be based on merit? I thought that no scientist took arguments to the contrary seriously. I was shocked by the reasons PNAS rejected our paper. The reviewers, all presumably distinguished scientists, were clearly in favor of the opposing arguments.”

Nick Matzke on Mātauranga Māori vs. modern science

April 5, 2023 • 11:00 am

You may well recognize the name of Nick Matzke, as he was the former Public Information Project Director of the National Center for Science Education, wrote a lot of good anti-creationist material (including a debunking of the “irreducible complexity” of bacterial flagella as adduced by IDers), and played a major role in organizing the prosecution in the Kitzmiller et al. vs. Dover Area School District et al. case in 2005, the case that pretty much killed ID stone dead. Nick also wrote a lot at the pro-evolution website “Panda’s Thumb.”

I crossed swords with Nick a few times about the NCSE’s policy of asserting a comity between religion and evolution (a tactical decision, I think), but we met in person at the Evolution meetings in Snowbird, Utah, resolved our differences, and I’ve respected the man ever since. He went on to get his Ph.D. in evolutionary phylogenetics at Berkeley, did a postdoc in Australia, and now holds a position as a senior lecturer in biology, concentrating on phylogeny, at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland.

Being in New Zealand, and a scientist, Nick is well placed to pronounce on whether the “ways of knowing” of the indigenous Māori people, Mātauranga Māori (MM), are coequal to modern science. As you know, I’ve written about this subject many times, and have vehemently opposed the government’s and many local academics’ view that MM should be taught in secondary school science classes as coequal to science (see all these posts).  While MM does contain some experiential knowledge gained by trial and error (catching fish, navigating, harvesting berries, and so on), it also comprises theology, legend, morality, superstition, and all manner of stuff that isn’t “science” by modern lights. It’s a gemisch that belongs in sociology and anthropology classes, not science classes.

Nevertheless—some Nick confirms in the interview below—the NZ government is going full steam ahead with the plans to push MM as science, as well as giving heaps of dosh for MM-themed projects that are often bizarre.

So here’s a long (80 minute) interview that Nick gives to James Kierstead about his career, fighting creationism, the Dover trial, and, in the last 45 minutes, the question of whether MM can be considered science. I listened to the whole thing, and was especially interested in Nick’s fight against ID. But of course I mainly wanted to hear his take on MM. As a professor at the University of Auckland, which has taken strong positions that MM and science are pretty much she same thing, Nick was, I thought, in a precarious position. If he came out against the equivalence of MM and modern science, he might get in trouble with his Kiwi colleagues.

But Nick is not a man to be daunted by that kind of stuff, as we knew from his dogged fights against ID. You can hear in the video, beginning at the time schedule below, that Nick, while respecting MM as a unique form of indigenous culture, as well as respecting its empirical knowledge, doesn’t think it should be taught as science. If you want to hear that part, start 35 minutes in:

Here’s the schedule from the YouTube site, indented. My own comments are flush left:

0:12 Phylogenetic biogeography

14:10 Evolution and intelligent design

Nick sees a striking similarity between his fights with Intelligent Design and his take on MM, as both deeply involve clarifying “what is to be considered science?”

35:32 Matauranga Maori and science

Here, at about 46 minutes in, Nick proffers a definition of “science” which is modern science—and doesn’t include MM. His take is that science uses “methodological naturalism”: the assumption that natural laws are working always and everywhere. Science also involves explicit hypothesizing, deliberate tests of hypotheses, the rejection of authority as a source of truth, and, importantly, ruling out the supernatural. MM clearly doesn’t adhere to this definition, as it’s not hypothesis driven, explicitly ACCEPTS authority and legend as a source of truth, and INCLUDES the supernatural (stories of the gods are part of MM).  Nick notes that if you don’t accept MM as science, then “a lot of people get mad.”  That’s an understatement! You could be fired for that view!

1:00:10 Mauri and vitalism

In Māori culture, “Mauri” is defined this way:

life principle, life force, vital essence, special nature, a material symbol of a life principle, source of emotions – the essential quality and vitality of a being or entity.

And it has been invoked as something that was to be used in the chemistry curriculum for 14- and 15-year-old: particles and atoms were said to have their own “mauri”. To Nick (and to me) this is an unacceptable form of vitalism, given that science has found no evidence for vitalism or teleology in any aspect of science. Nick in fact wrote a letter to the New Zealand Herald highlighting this (see below).  My own post on mauri and chemistry (and electrical engineering!) is here.

1:05:15 Whakapapa and genetics

“Whakapapa” is construed by MM as a very broad and important form of ancestry:

. . . genealogy, genealogical table, lineage, descent – reciting whakapapa was, and is, an important skill and reflected the importance of genealogies in Māori society in terms of leadership, land and fishing rights, kinship and status. It is central to all Māori institutions. There are different terms for the types of whakapapa and the different ways of reciting them including: tāhū (recite a direct line of ancestry through only the senior line); whakamoe (recite a genealogy including males and their spouses); taotahi (recite genealogy in a single line of descent); hikohiko (recite genealogy in a selective way by not following a single line of descent); ure tārewa (male line of descent through the first-born male in each generation).

But, as Nick notes, it’s often used to comport genetics with MM, with the assertion that “Whakapapa” was simply the early Māori conception of what modern scientists call phylogeny, ancestry, genealogy, and other forms of genetic descent and ancestry. But Nick notes that this is stretching the indigenous term to cover a diversity of genetic discoveries made only after 1900, and the connection is more metaphorical than real. He adds that he once applied for a grant to study phylogeny, and notes (as one must do in NZ grant proposals) that phylogeny could be seen as a form of whakapapa. But for that, he says, a reviewer criticized him strongly.

Nick makes one important point: There really hasn’t been a good debate in New Zealand about the equivalence of MM and modern science. Everything has been in the form of letters or blog posts (often by foreigners like Richard Dawkins and me), including “The Listener Letter” that got seven Auckland professors in trouble for noting discrepancies between MM and science. Early on, Auckland’s vice Provost Dawn Freshwater promised that Auckland Uni would hold a debate on this very issue, but of course that was an empty promise. It’s been several years since she made sucha promise. Yet such a debate is badly needed before NZ science, catering by government decree to “other ways of knowing”, goes down the drain.

Re the issue of mauri and vitalism, you can read Nick’s letter to the New Zealand Herald (which they apparently didn’t publish) here or here.

Here’s an excerpt:

I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland. I teach evolutionary biology, but I also have long experience in science education and (especially) political attempts to insert pseudoscience into science curricula in the USA.

I just read the NZ Herald article on mātauranga Māori and NCEA: How mātauranga Māori is being rolled out in schools, Rangi Mātāmua explains the knowledge system.

Unfortunately, I think the NZ Herald is uncritically repeating an overly rosy take from NCEA and the Ministry of Education. At least amongst scientists and science teachers, there has actually been a huge controversy over the NCEA Level 1 Chemistry & Biology draft curriculum.

A particularly significant problem is that the concept of mauri, meaning life force, was inserted directly into the basic chemistry curriculum. Please google the phrase “Mauri is present in all matter. All particles have their own mauri” — this is the language that NCEA used in their pilot Chemistry standards in 2022.

Unfortunately, the concept of ‘life force’ is a well-known pseudoscience, known as vitalism. Vitalism was experimentally debunked by chemists in the 1800s. Having a government agency force it back into the chemistry curriculum by political fiat — while steamrolling the vehement and informed objections of science teachers — is a huge problem. Vitalism is a pseudoscientific error on the same level as asserting that the Earth is flat, or that the world is only 6,000 years old. If vitalism is right, then all of chemistry and biochemistry is wrong.

Just recently, at the end of 2022, the NCEA Level 1 Chemistry/Biology standards were quietly updated to drop mauri, without any explanation of what happened or why. So the Ministry of Education told teachers and students that mauri-in-particles was valid mātauranga Māori and science for most of 2021 and 2022, and now, suddenly, it isn’t.

. . . . And, despite the change, the “mauri is present in all matter” pseudoscience is still on the NCEA Chemistry/Biology website in numerous places, right now!

He notes that this issue has “received zero attention from the New Zealand media so far.”

I’m glad Nick spoke out on this issue, though the insertion of MM into the NZ school curriculum as science is pretty much a done deal. It got accelerated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and is being continued by her replacement, Chris Hipkins, who was Labour’s education spokesperson who supported the conflation of science and MM.

Poor New Zealand! Every week I get letters from disaffected Kiwi scientists who abhor the mixing of “other ways of knowing” with science. In fact, I got one this morning.

Canada resembling New Zealand in equating science with indigenous “ways of knowing”

March 29, 2023 • 10:15 am

New Zealand is a lost cause insofar as science education is concerned, for the government and educational establishment is doing all it can to make local indigenous “ways of knowing” (mātauranga Māori, or MM) coequal with modern science, and taught as coequal. This will, in the end, severely damage science education in New Zealand, and drive local science teachers (and graduate students) to other countries. It won’t help the indigenous Māori people, either, as it will not only give them misconceptions about what is empirically “true” versus what is fable, legend, or religion, but also make them less competitive in world science—both in jobs and publishing.

Now, I would be the first to admit that indigenous knowledge is not completely devoid of empirical knowledge.  Indigenous people have a stock of knowledge acquired by observation as well as trial and error. This includes, of course, a knowledge of the indigenous plants and their medical and nutritional uses, when the best time is to catch fish or pick berries, and, in perhaps its most sophisticated version, the ability the Polynesians to navigate huge expanses of water. (That, of course, was also done by trial and error, and must have involved the demise of those who didn’t do it right—something that’s never mentioned.)

Is observational knowledge like this “science”?  In one sense, yes, for you can construe “science” as simply “verified empirical knowledge”.  But modern science is more than that: it’s also its own “way of knowing”—a toolkit of methods, itself assembled by trial and error, for obtaining provisional truth. This toolkit, as I explain in Faith Versus Fact, includes the practices of modern science, including hypothesis-making and -testing, experiments, replication, pervasive doubt and criticality, construction models, concepts of falsifiability, and so on.

Because modern science comprises not just facts but a method codified via experience, indigenous knowledge generally fails the second part, for it lacks a method for advancing knowledge beyond experience and verification. Indeed, I know of no indigenous science that has a standard methodology for ascertaining truth. Yes, various plants can be tested for their efficacy in relieving ailments, but this is done by trial and error—in contrast to the double-blind tests used to assess the effects of new drugs and medicines.

Still, indigenous knowledge can contribute to modern science. This can involve bringing attention to phenomena that, when tested scientifically, can be folded into the domain of empirical fact.  Quinine and aspirin were developed in this way. And, of course, local ecological knowledge of indigenous people can be valuable in helping guide modern science and calling attention to phenomena that might have otherwise been overlooked. Nevertheless, what we have is experiential knowledge on one hand—a species of knowledge that rarely leads to testable hypotheses—and modern science on the other, which is designed to lead to progress by raising new testable hypotheses.

The concept of “indigenous science”, then, baffles me, especially if, as in New Zealand, it’s seen as coequal to science. It’s not, though, for it lacks a methodology beyond trial and error for determining what’s true. But because of what philosopher Molly McGrath called “the authority of the sacred victim.”, indigenous “ways of knowing” are given special authority because they’re held by people regarded as oppressed. This leads their “ways of knowing” to be overrated as competitors to modern science. Indeed, MM is a pastiche of real empirical knowledge, but also of religion, theology, ideology, morality, rules for living, authority, and tradition. This kind of mixture characterizes many indigenous “ways of knowing”, making it necessary, when teaching them as science, to not only distinguish “fact” from “method,” but to winnow the empirical wheat from the ideological and spiritual chaff.

As I said, it’s too late for those in New Zealand, with real science being diluted by MM, but only now am I realizing that Canada, which of course harbors indigenous people with substantial power, is starting a movement to teach “indigenous science”, too. And the way it’s going it doesn’t bode well. For example, here’s a job ad for a high-paying “Director of Indigenous Science” on a Canadian government website (click screenshot to see the whole thing):

The position is, first, to “bridge” Indigenous and Western science (of course although modern science started flowering in sixteenth-century Europe, it is no longer “Western” and should not be called as such, which insults all the working scientists not in the West):

The Indigenous Science Division is seeking a Director who will bridge the gap between Indigenous and Western sciences! Do you want to participate in establishing partnerships with Indigenous knowledge holders? Do you possess strong communication skills and have a desire to engage with this community?

But the implicit assumption is that there is indeed indigenous science comparable to modern science. How can they be bridged? By supplementing modern science with things like medicinal plants that haven’t been tested using a proper method? Or by bringing the methods of modern science into indigenous science, which I don’t think is the goal here/ Indeed, the position assumes there already is an indigenous “science” that seems to go beyond experiential knowledge. Here are some of the criteria you must meet to be considered for the job:

– Experience working with Indigenous knowledge systems or science.

– Experience developing and implementing policies and programs related to Indigenous science, Indigenous knowledge, or science programs.

– Experience in building and maintaining relationships with Indigenous communities, organizations, or multiple stakeholders, including different levels of government.

– Experience providing leadership and guidance to staff in incorporating Indigenous science, Indigenous knowledge or science into their work.

And what you must know:

– Knowledge of Indigenous Science, including traditional ecological knowledge, Indigenous research methods and methodologies, and perspectives on environment and natural sciences.

– Knowledge of Indigenous Science frameworks, such as Two-Eyed Seeing, which integrate Indigenous and Western knowledge systems.

Yes, of course traditional ecological knowledge, if it’s established as true, would count, but I’m curious about what constitutes “indigenous research methods and methodologies.” If they do exist, I’d be pleased to learn about them.

But the stuff about “Two-Eyed Seeing” is misleading, for, if you read the article in the British Columbia Medical Journal below, you find that seeing nature through a modern science lens (one eye) as well as an indigenous science lens (the other eye), you are basically valorizing the oppressed rather than invigorating science. Click to read:

The definition of “Two-eyed seeing” from the paper’s background material:

Two-Eyed Seeing developed from the teachings of Chief Charles Labrador of Acadia First Nation, but Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall of the Eskasoni First Nation was the first to apply the concept of Two-Eyed Seeing in a Western setting. Specifically, Two-Eyed Seeing “refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing, and to use both of these eyes together for the benefit of all.”

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t show what the “indigenous eye” can contribute to vision, for the piece is mostly about gaining the trust of indigenous communities if they are to be involved in your research. And that’s necessary, of course: you just don’t go barging into an indigenous community to use them as research subjects or helpers without their complete cooperation, including discussion of how they’d benefit from the research and exactly what is being studied. But the article is NOT about empirical truths gained from indigenous “ways of knowing.”

Finally, if you were thinking that you can’t “decolonize” mathematics, you’re wrong. Here’s a link to a “professional learning session” sent me by a Canadian teacher who saw it and was upset by it. (By the way, I get quite a few emails from Canadian educators who are upset by the “decolonization” of scientific/medical knowledge via “indigenous knowledge”, but, like people in New Zealand, they dare not object for fear of professional damage.)

The session is on April 29, and you can register to see it online by clicking on the article—at least I think you can. You might have to be a Canadian teacher.

Click to read:

What’s on tap in this session (my bolding):

In this session Dr. [Lisa] Borden will share stories from her research and teaching life that have been influenced by the knowledge learned from time spent alongside Elders and knowledge keepers within the Mi’kmaw community in Mi’kma’ki or what we now call Nova Scotia. Through a series of moments, she will share how her philosophy for decolonizing mathematics education has been shaped and how this in turn shapes her mathematics teaching. Key ideas that will be shared include ideas about ethnomathematics, the role of community-based inquiry and social justice, the importance of a culturally enabling pedagogy informed by language, and the importance of a holistic approach to advancing students’ mathematical understandings.

Lisa Lunney Borden is a Professor in the faculty of education who holds the John Jerome Paul Chair for Equity in Mathematics Education striving to improve outcomes in mathematics for Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian youth. Prior to coming to StFX, she had a teaching career in We’koqma’q First Nation where she spent ten years as a secondary mathematics teacher, a vice-principal and principal, as well as the provincial mathematics leader for all Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey schools in Nova Scotia. Lisa credits her students and the Mi’kmaw community for inspiring her to think differently about mathematics education which continues to shape her work today. She is committed to research and outreach that focuses on decolonizing mathematics education through culturally based practices and experiences that are rooted in Indigenous languages and knowledge systems. She is a sought-after speaker nationally and internationally and has a passion for working with teachers and their students. Lisa has helped to create the Show Me Your Math program that inspired thousands of Mi’kmaw youth to share the mathematical reasoning inherent in their own community contexts, and an outreach program called Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities that brings similar ideas to Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian youth as an afterschool program. She currently serves as the President of the Canadian Mathematics Education Study Group, and sits on the Canadian Mathematical Society’s reconciliation committee.

Now I’m not sure what’s included in “ethnomathematics”. If it’s just approaching teaching math but using examples familiar to indigenous folk, then it’s not an alternative form of mathematics but a method of teaching. If it really adds stuff to the knowledge of mathematics, I’d like to know what. (Be always wary when you see the term “holistic approach” applied to education. And the notion that ethnomathematics has something to do with “social justice” scares the bejeezus out of me.) Perhaps ethnomathematics is mathematics + ideology, in which case it’s not an eye that sees, but a hand that propagandizes.

h/t: Luana

The New Zealand Herald does a hit job on Dawkins

March 4, 2023 • 11:00 am

Richard Dawkins made a short visit to New Zealand last week, during which he went after the concept of Mātauranga Māori (MM)—the indigenous “way of knowing”—as a supposed replacement for science. (The government has decreed that MM be taught as coequal to science in secondary-school classrooms, although this “way of knowing is a melange of practical knowledge, religion, traditional stories, morality, and superstition.) I posted about Dawkins’s visit here, noting that he’d written a “diary piece” in the Spectator that was critical of MM as science (though not as anthropology or sociology).

I knew this would cause a kerfuffle, and, sure enough, the New Zealand Herald, the country’s biggest newspaper, put out a hit piece on Dawkins. Click below to read it; if it’s paywalled you can read it archived here.

The piece first describes what Dawkins said in his Spectator piece, not neglecting to mention that Elon Musk issued a brief tweet seconding Richard’s thoughts. When you read the piece, notice the dry, almost sarcastic way that Dawkins’s views are reported—in a manner guaranteed to irritate the woke. He even mentioned the giant flightless moas which were, of course, hunted to extinction by the Māori. That’s almost taboo to say, though it’s true. (Richard didn’t mention that they also destroyed much of the North and South Island’s forest by burning and agriculture. Some “stewards of the environment”!)

Where the knife goes into Dawkins is when the paper calls for comment only on one person: Dr. Tara McAllister, a Kiwi (and Māori) freshwater ecologist whose research career  has largely morphed into a series of papers attacking the racism and white supremacy of Kiwi science and trying to gain scientific equity for MM. In fact, McAllister won a research award from New Zealand’s Royal Society largely for an incendiary paper called “50 reasons why there are no Māori in your science department.” Although she says the article was “somewhat cheeky”, it is in fact dead serious, basically accusing the whole New Zealand academic establishment—and the seven Auckland Uni professors who, in the infamous Listener letter, said that MM was not equivalent to science—of being riddled with racism.  Here are the first eight reasons (the people named in #1 are the signers of the Listener letter):


UPDATE:  McAllister actually won the award for a paper that’s just as misguided, “Why isn’t my professor Māori?“, which details the “inequities” in universities and blames them on racism. Here’s a table from that paper (and remember, it got a prize for being a research paper):


I’m sorry, but the Māori are not victims: the government is turning education inside out trying to give indigenous people more research money , positions, and power, and people like McAllister are furthering this enterprise by claiming that, contrary to facts, they are all victims. (Yes, they were once discriminated against by “colonists”, but now they’re the most lauded group in the country.) It’s not wrong to say that McAllister is making her career by playing the “racist” card to gain more power for MM.  And shame once again on New Zealand’s Royal Society for giving her an award for such a vile, divisive, and inaccurate paper.

At any rate, McAllister is the only Kiwi scientist quoted about what Dawkins said in the Spectator piece, and everything she says is negative. So much for getting different points of view! (And yes, they exist, though most Kiwis who oppose the government’s police censor themselves lest they lose their jobs.)

McAllister criticizes Dawkins for his lack of expertise in MM and, of course, for being a racist. Her quotes take up half the article, and remember, this paper represents New Zealand’s most mainstream media. Here’s the article’s second half:

Dr Tara McAllister, whose research has sought to address the under-representation of indigenous scholars in academia, responded to Dawkins’ column.

“It is boring, embarrassing, inaccurate and full of racist tropes,” she told the Herald.

“It is clear Richard Dawkins has no expertise on mātauranga.”

She said Dawkins’ comments were damaging and – like the public letter from the University of Auckland professors – “function to embolden other racist scientists in Aotearoa”.

“Dawkins’ comments are, however, a great example of how clearly white supremacy is ingrained in Western sciences globally, and how colonising scientists continue to attempt to undermine the global resurgence of indigenous knowledge, which I will incorporate into my teaching and research,” she said.


Advertise with NZME.

“It is abundantly clear that Dawkins knows nothing about mātauranga Māori.

“We have plenty of experts in mātauranga, like Rereata Makiha, Rangi Matamua and Ocean Mercier. Richard Dawkins is clearly not one of them. He has no relevancy here in Aotearoa.”

McAllister said there was “a very long history” of mātauranga Māori being excluded and marginalised in Aotearoa since colonisation.

“I believe that its incorporation into the curriculum, in principle, is an important step in the right direction,” she said.

Notice her claim that Dawkins and the signers of the Listener letter were racists and colonizers, that Dawkins can’t criticize MM as science because he knows nothing about it (believe me, you don’t have to be an expert to see that it’s by no means coequal to science), that all criticism of MM is “racist” (it isn’t; read Dawkins’s piece, for he says nothing racist), and that MM should be incorporated into the curriculum, certainly as science. If the last bit is what she truly feels, then she knows LESS about MM than Dawkins does. Part of MM involves empirical knowledge, but most of it has nothing to do with what we think of as modern science.

Four things are clear to me from reading this article and from following the government’s woke path in New Zealand

1.) Scientists there are fighting a losing battle, largely because they are prevented from speaking out by fear of losing their jobs (see Richard’s Spectator piece). Yet despite this, I get at least one or two emails a day from Kiwi scientists objecting to the takeover of academia and science by MM.

2.) The indigenization of Kiwi academics is being helped along and promoted by the mainstream media who crank out biased pieces like this.

3.) The fear of Kiwi scientists and other academics to speak out on this issue—and a frank discussion really is needed—is driven by their fear of being called “racists”.. And nobody is better at wielding the “racist” and “white supremacist” trope than the prize-winning Dr. McAllister.

4.) New Zealand’s Royal Society remains a joke. Imagine giving a “research prize” to McAllister for her promotion of MM as science, especially the victimization narrative in her “50 reasons” paper.

Richard Dawkins touts science above indigenous “ways of knowing” in New Zealand

March 2, 2023 • 9:15 am

Just this week Richard Dawkins made a quick trip to New Zealand to give talks, interviews, and podcasts.  Much of what he involved evaluating the merit of Mātauranga Māori—the indigenous “way of knowing” that includes practical knowledge, ideology, superstition, tradition, religion, and morality—as a competitor to modern science. I’ve written about this issue a gazillion times on this site (see here for a collection of links), arguing, along with the seven professors at Auckland Uni who signed a letter to The Listener, that while MM should be taught in anthropology or sociology class, it is not even close to being itself “science”.  Richard has also promulgated this view.

But despite the palpable incompatibility between MM and modern science, the New Zealand government is going full steam ahead on teaching MM in science classes—indeed, in replacing the entire educational system of the country with a Māori-infused curriculum. It’s fine, of course, to be inclusive by adding local values and history (and some practical methods) to national education, but New Zealand is surrendering wholesale—and that includes its science funding—to the will of the indigenous people, although they comprise fewer than 17% of the inhabitants. In its behavior, including peppering government documents and decree with Māori words (as Richard notes, few, even among the Māori, speak the language), New Zealand is the wokest country I know of. Those who oppose this risk public opprobrium and even their jobs, so one hears little about the science/indigenous knowledge clash in the NZ press. It is a Land of the Cowed.

Richard is featured today in two article in UK papers: a report in the Times and his own take in a Spectator “diary entry”. I give the headlines below, but it’s likely that both are paywalled. I therefore also give links to the archived articles, which are free. Try clicking the screenshots and, if that doesn’t work, go to the archived links I’ll give.

As you see, Richard didn’t pull any punches about MM vs. science during his visit. I expect this will cause a huge kerfuffle in New Zealand, but it’s about time that people stopped being cowards about this issue and debated it honestly. People like Richard and I are foreigners and have nothing to fear, but many Kiwis can and have lost their jobs for speaking up against the fulminating indigenization of their country.

First, Richard’s own report on his visit to NZ in the Spectator. Click below, and if it doesn’t work you’ll find it archived here.  I’ll give a few excepts from each piece.

Some snippets, written with passion and Dawkins’s characteristic panache. The “magnificent seven” are the seven Auckland Uni profs who spoke up for science in The Listener. (Two are now deceased.)

Perhaps the most disagreeable aspect of this sorry affair is the climate of fear. We who don’t have a career to lose should speak out in defence of those who do. The magnificent seven are branded heretics by a nastily zealous new religion, a witch-hunt that recalls the false accusations against J.K. Rowling and Kathleen Stock. Professor Kendall Clements was removed from teaching evolution at the University of Auckland, after the School of Biological Sciences Putaiao Committee submitted the following recommendation: ‘We do not feel that either Kendall or Garth should be put in front of students as teachers. This is not safe for students…’ Not safe? Who are these cringing little wimps whose ‘safety’ requires protection against free speech? What on earth do they think a university is for?

To grasp government intentions requires a little work, because every third word of the relevant documents is in Māori. Since only 2 per cent of New Zealanders (and only 5 per cent of Māoris) speak that language, this again looks like self-righteous virtue-signalling, bending a knee to that modish version of Original Sin which is white guilt. Mātauranga Māori includes valuable tips on edible fungi, star navigation and species conservation (pity the moas were all eaten). Unfortunately it is deeply invested in vitalism. New Zealand children will be taught the true wonder of DNA, while being simultaneously confused by the doctrine that all life throbs with a vital force conferred by the Earth Mother and the Sky Father. Origin myths are haunting and poetic, but they belong elsewhere in the curriculum. The very phrase ‘western’ science buys into the ‘relativist’ notion that evolution and big bang cosmology are just the origin myth of white western men, a narrative whose hegemony over ‘indigenous’ alternatives stems from nothing better than political power. This is pernicious nonsense. Science belongs to all humanity. It is humanity’s proud best shot at discovering the truth about the real world.

No punches pulled! I love “cringing little wimps”, but the whole piece rings with righteous anger.

And below is the ending, which is pure Dawkins (“Kia ora” is Maori for “hello,” but literally means something like “Good health to you.”):

Postscript on the flight out: Air New Zealand think it a cute idea to invoke Māori gods in their safety briefing. Imagine if British Airways announced that their planes are kept aloft by the Holy Ghost in equal partnership with Bernoulli’s Principle and Newton’s First Law. Science explains. It lightens our darkness. Science is the poetry of reality. It belongs to all humanity. Kia Ora!

And the report from the Times, which you can also find archived here.

This is really just the Times reporting on what Richard wrote in The Spectator, but there’s a bit of extra background information:

The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has hit out at the New Zealand government for proposing to teach traditional Maori mythology as equal to modern science.

The government of the former prime minister Jacinda Ardern proposed adding Matauranga Maori, or “Ways of Knowing” to the science curriculum, provoking a furious row. The proposal was put forward by the ministry of education, led at the time by Chris Hipkins, who succeeded Ardern after her shock resignation in January.

The government has taken several steps to incorporate indigenous beliefs into government policy over recent years. In 2017, the Ardern administration granted legal personhood to the Whanganui River, closing one of New Zealand’s longest-running court battles. The Maori had campaigned for more than a century to secure legal protection for the river, and the ruling prompted other countries to grant legal rights to natural treasures.

Dawkins is a long-term critic of Matauranga Maori. In a 2021 letter to the Royal Society of New Zealand, he wrote: “Science classes are emphatically not the right place to teach scientific falsehoods. Creationism is still bollocks even if it is indigenous bollocks.”

Will his visit and talks have any influence in the country? I would hope so, for Richard is much respected in the Kiwi scientific community. Sadly, though, few scientists, academics, or government officials dare stick their heads above the ideological parapet lest they be decapitated by the Scythe of Wokeness.

A talk and a curriculum from New Zealand

February 15, 2023 • 12:15 pm

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.