Bassett on the history curriculum

Michael Basset writes:

Along the way, our modern Ministry of Education reveals that it is woefully ignorant of historical facts. For example, far from rushing to add New Zealand to the British Empire, Britain was extremely cautious before dispatching William Hobson; the Colonial Office was seriously worried that the Musket Wars between Maori had reached the stage where nothing short of military intervention would protect Maori. The Ministry’s paper makes elementary grammatical mistakes with its presentation, failing sometimes to get its nouns and verbs in agreement. I have only a few words of Te Reo. I wonder if all the Maori explanations that will be understood by only 2 to 3% of the population are more accurately expressed?

The content of the Ministry’s presentation is utterly depressing. Fancy selecting those three “big ideas”! Translated, the first one is that Maori history is fundamental to understanding everything about New Zealand. The second one, translated, is that the consequences of unstated, but implied, wicked colonization continue “to influence all aspects” of our history. The third is that colonists’ power exerted over the years has invariably inflicted damage, injustice and conflict on Maori. Nothing about economic development which lifted New Zealand after the Treaty from a state of anarchy where 25% of the entire Maori workforce between 1810 and 1840 had been killed and eaten, and others enslaved. The development of the modern economy is of no account in the Ministry these days where no one seems to give a thought to where their salaries come from. And, as I predicted, there’ll be no mention of the Musket Wars in the new curriculum.

Dr Bassett has three degrees in history, was a senior lecturer in history and a member of the Waitangi Tribunal. He has published 13 history books and authored four biographies for the Dictionary of NZ Biography.

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