I was delighted that the teaching of the history of Aotearoa is to become compulsory in schools. There will need to be some good work done to develop the mahi. Also the history of our history – how contested it has been, the racial and wealth divides, the taking of the land, the destruction of whānau and whenua – are all topics that will need to be covered. Like many colonised countries, there is a need to move from the history of the victors to the history of the entire nation.
Fortunately, we have excellent history teachers and fantastic historians, Māori and Pākeha, that can write the curricula that will be needed. I hope it will boost a whole new generation of historians.
But where was the accompanying announcement that te reo Māori would also become compulsory in all schools? And our third language, NZ Sign Language? Just as we need to teach and care for our history, our languages need to be taught and examined. Language is the gateway to culture and understanding, and universal te reo is sorely needed.
I do understand why this would be more controversial, but the fact that it is controversial also shows that it is so needed. We need to mature faster as a nation in terms of these steps, to prevent the divisions that exist from taking hold further.
I have enjoyed Māori language week, but believe that every week should celebrate te reo Māori, our indigenous language.
Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.