GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Civics & History should be compulsory in schools


I’d like to see Civics and History made compulsory school subjects up to the end of secondary school.

Why? Because our collective memories would be so much longer and we’d remember the importance of voting and how we handled the business bullies and political con-artists the last time .

This week the Banks have been threatening the government with price hikes and job loses if they are forced to behave with decency.

This is not a new problem – as demonstrated in this segment of a speech President Franklin D Roosevelt delivered over 80 years ago

Then,as now, the Banksters wanted the government to dance to their tune but Roosevelt faced them down.

The clip is just 12 seconds long but I post it in the hope our government and the RNZ will show similar courage in demanding better behaviour from our banks – especially from 4 big foreign owned ones who have taken the lion’s share of the New Zealand market.

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Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. A couple of thoughts on this Bryan.
    One is that I agree that history should be compulsory, particularly the history of one’s own country.
    In NZ we actually get little of our own history taught to us, we learn a lot about British and European history I suppose because it is assumed that most of us have European ancestry and want to explore that.
    In contrast, Americans soak up their own history until they are so full they might burst.
    It might be partly because they have a longer history than we Europeans in New Zealand, but it is also because they feel that knowing about their past is actually important. You can argue whether or not they want to know because they have made some terrible choices along the way and want to avoid doing such again, etc. but at least they are willing to talk about it.
    In New Zealand we seem unwilling to explore the past too deeply, and I assume it is because it scares us to think our colonial past is actually not so very long ago.
    Also I think that over the last 40 years ago history has been painted by our neo-liberalistic indulged society as the last refuge of the lefty. It could be argued that historians have traditionally been more inclined to the political left because they say things that many people don’t want to hear.
    Can you imagine that Fairfax, NZME and Mediaworks will want NZ children to be taught about our country’s injust and bloody colonial past?
    Not a chance!
    That is why history is not a compulsory subject in high schools now, and it won’t be changing soon whilst the international media giants control most of what we hear and say.

  2. That is a good clip of Roosevelt, good find. We seem to be a tabula rasa
    for much of our history and even Don Brash disagreed about aspects of bank behaviour with the main British one. What is democracy? There would be a different meaning to everyone when closely questioned. And the Nanny State, that derisory term for a working modern polity providing services to a good standard enabling everybody to have social mobility.
    that might take on an appreciative tone if we had learned about the reality of building a decent, good-law-abiding nation with citizens that didn’t take their legacy for granted.

  3. I’d like to see affordable, healthy housing and a functional country that is not hurtling towards civil unrest and violent dissolution , but I suppose everyone has different priorities, eh Bryan? Planning on a return to teaching, then?

    Big Four foreign (Australian) owned banks, and a big one-ethnicity-to-rule-them-all foreign (PRC) owned Beehive… mm… hmm…

  4. John A Lee was a Labour Party stalwart who pushed for Nationalisation of the Bank Of NZ.

    This was opposed by Nash after Nash returned from a trip to London.

    Neither Savage, Nash or Frazer had courage to take aboard the sovereignty of NZ’s banking.

    Lee pushed for state housing and was put in charge of the development.

    The Govt financing State Housing was a crucial part of our recovery from the depression years.

    Lap dog politicians do not talk of state banks.

    We need inspired leader/ thinkers with courage.

    • So when tax cuts hit payrol tax falls by $10 billion or what ever. GDP demands growth so the private sectors borrow to make up that shortfall in productivity. This is payroll tax we are talking about.

      At least I would try and co pare apples with oranges to try and make a point. One really expensive finance industry may not be worth its $4 billion price tag when compared with a massive bureaucracy that may well, kill people. Y’know population control.

      We are still stuck in the 1950’s where we bitch about illegals, rich people, genetics, instead of saying hey look they’re doing something correct, we should copy them.

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