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As the New Zealand History Teachers Association says, it and historians would view any mandated ‘‘national story’’ with horror, preferring the presentation of multiple views, along with teaching the skills of how to analyse and evaluate them. The association has also been clear that blame in the present for past events is not productive.
Many will see this move for New Zealand history to be taught in all schools and kura as long overdue, when for decades pupils have learned more about what shaped other countries than what happened here.
Last week, education minister Chris Hipkins released the draft curriculum content for Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories for public consultation. The subject will be compulsory for pupils in school levels 1 to 10.
In his announcement, he pointed out different parts of the country will have different histories to explore.
For instance, in Otago, pupils may delve deeper into the region’s Maori and Chinese heritage and how it has helped shape the area into what it is today, while in Northland Maori histories and early Croatian stories would be relevant.
Seven themes were identified for coverage when the government made its decision on the histories in 2019 : the arrival of Maori, first encounters and early colonial history, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its history, colonisation and immigration to New Zealand including the New Zealand Wars, evolving national identity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, New Zealand’s role in the Pacific, and New Zealand in the late 20th century and evolution of a national identity with cultural plurality.
Already, there has been criticism from National’s education spokesman Paul Goldsmith who has described the first draft as lacking in balance and needing revision. He considers identity and identity politics are too prevalent and there needs to be a greater emphasis on our economic history and how our democracy developed.
Regardless of whether changes result from the public consultation, which runs until the end of May, we should not lose sight of the value of teaching young people to consider events from a variety of standpoints and then critically evaluate them.
We hope there will be enough time to ensure all teachers are confident about their ability to deliver this new curriculum material.
AND ANOTHER THING
Moves towards putting the H into Wakatipu seem to be gathering steam, three years after Ngai Tahu elder Sir Tipene O’Regan raised the issue.
Whakatipu is regarded as the undisputed Maori spelling and, as well as being the correct name for the lake, also appears in the names for other landmarks such as the Dart River (Te Awa Whakatipu), Hollyford River and valley (Whakatipu Katuka) and Harris Saddle (Tarahaka Whakatipu).
The question came to the fore when the new Whakatipu Wildlife Trust was launched in 2017.
The Department of Conservation named its Queenstown visitor centre Whakatipu-wai-Maori and the new BNZ branch in Frankton which opened last year also bears the Whakatipu name.
Predictably, the idea of the h addition was criticised by Otago regional councillor Michael Laws who might still have been smarting from his ultimately unsuccessful battle against putting the h in Wanganui when he was mayor there.
We would like to hope everyone has learned from the Whanganui saga and that moving to Whakatipu could be achieved without acrimony and years of pointless bickering.
There will be views on either side of the argument but, much like the teaching of New Zealand histories, this change seems sensible and ultimately inevitable.