Fiona Mackenzie: draft curriculum designed to foster ethnic division, to breed resentment and foster guilt

The draft curriculum seems designed to foster ethnic division, to breed resentment and to foster guilt, so it is highly likely to cultivate young activists. It reeks of psychologic abuse of the children in our education system and is inappropriate for teaching professionals to administer. If this is an example of the standard of current curricula, it helps explain the high level of anxiety being reported amongst New Zealand children. Consequently, I consider this draft totally flawed and beyond redemption.

Submission on ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories in the New Zealand Curriculum’
Draft for Consultation
January 2021


I support the teaching of history but believe that primary and early secondary school children are entitled to simple, irrefutable evidence-based information that is not designed to cause them distress. At this time of their lives, quality teaching of the basics of reading, maths and science are far more vital to the development of the child.

History’s inherent demands for research, analysis and rationale make it more suitable for the later years of secondary school and/or university. Robust history studies teach us how to research different information sources and perspectives from the era in question, to help us reach conclusions about what really happened based on our research findings.  These studies let us learn how and why things happened and evolved in the context of the times; how these developments may have contributed to the present we now know; and how we can use this knowledge to avoid some of the mistakes of the past in an effort to improve our future.
The best possible outcomes from studying history are to recognise and learn from humankind’s common foibles, and to understand how different environments, government and ideologies support or limit advancement. We can gain confidence in humankind’s ability, if given the right inputs, to achieve great things while overcoming challenges and adversity.

Unfortunately, this draft curriculum fails these requisites on so many levels. It is not satisfactory for Years 1-10 in our schools, reading more like political indoctrination even in the introductory statements: “If we want to shape Aotearoa New Zealand’s future, start with the past” & “Learning that cannot be left to chance” (which is ironic in the light of our internationally-recorded falling education standards in essential subjects).

The curriculum seems designed to foster ethnic division, to breed resentment and to foster guilt, so it is highly likely to cultivate young activists. It reeks of psychologic abuse of the children in our education system and is inappropriate for teaching professionals to administer. If this is an example of the standard of current curricula, it helps explain the high level of anxiety being reported amongst New Zealand children. Consequently, I consider this draft totally flawed and beyond redemption.

Note: My viewpoint is based upon studying history throughout my secondary schooling, majoring in history for my Bachelor of Arts degree at Auckland University, being trained as a teacher and teaching for period of time, plus other career/education/parental qualifications.



Language is for Communication

The mix of Te Reo with no translations or definitions even in the “in English” version of this draft seems designed to confuse or hide information from the majority of New Zealanders (including the many Maori) who do not speak Te reo. It gives the impression that the Ministry –

  1. hopes to keep New Zealanders in the dark,
  2. doesn’t want the public to know what’s being implemented,
  3. wants the ability to change the law by reinterpreting Te Reo as it suits, and/or
  4. is trying to undermine the public’s ability to hold the Government to account.

The Draft Employs No “World Context” for Children

Understanding New Zealand’s history must start with at least a general understanding of –

  1. Human Migration: Scientific findings have proven that all humans have originated from the same continent and have physically evolved different characteristics as they migrated outwards and around the world in search of the basics needs of survival, as well as the quest for more resources/opportunities. Migration/colonisation has been continuous and widespread. For a current update, check out the international news!
  2. Our Country’s Geological Formation: Being broken off/uplifted from under the sea can help explain our unique flora and fauna, our remoteness, and why there was no human habitation here for thousands of years after other continents and countries were well occupied.

Evolution of Our Country along with Its Name
Understanding the development of names for these islands is integral to understanding the history and formation of our sovereign country, i.e. Nieuw Zeeland or Nova Zeelandia, New Zealand, the transliteration to “Niu Tirani” used in the Treaty, and then much later as acclaimed historian Michael King pointed out, “Aotearoa” when it was selected and popularised as a romantic Maori name for our islands by Pakeha writers, such as William Pember Reeves, Stephenson Percy Smith and the Education Department's School Journal.
Note: It’s important to acknowledge that the separate tribes occupying these islands when European explorers first visited did not have a common ethnic name for all those living here, no governing body, or even a name for the combined islands. The term ‘Maori’ and an actual ‘government’ both came post-the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Understanding these facts would be part of appreciating how our country has evolved.

Fact vs. Stories, Myths & Legends
It’s essential that children are taught the difference between fact and credibility of different types of information. It’s fact that archaeological/scientific findings date the earliest Polynesian settlement in these islands as 1320-1350.
Why these people left where they came from and how they got here is supposition based on genetic commonality within the Pacific, the use of canoe and verbal stories, myths and legends.

It’s essential that children understand that the first known contact between Europeans and the separate tribal groups in these islands involved explorers with their thirst for knowledge and need for essential supplies (water and food) and an opportunity to repair and maintain their ships.

Their expeditions then left these islands to carry on exploring or to return home. But once the explorers confirmed the existence of this land, they were followed between 1790 and 1840 by individuals ranging from sealers, whalers, traders, missionaries, ex-convicts and assorted adventurers (of Dutch, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, British and North American origin) with whom the majority of tribes/native peoples voluntarily integrated for work, companionship and protection.

The Three (not so) Big Ideas of this Draft

  1. “Maori History is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand.”
    This “Idea” suggests that Maori history is one united experience, while this Draft omits any information on the inter-tribal colonisation of these islands pre-Europeans arriving, the inter-tribal competition for resources and power, the living conditions, the warfare (with the associated capture of slaves, deaths and cannibalism), nor environmental impact of bush clearing and the hunting to extinction of several unique birds found nowhere else in the world e.g. the moa and Haast eagle.

    Fortunately some of this history has NOT been continuous, thanks to most chiefs ceding sovereignty to Queen Victoria as a way to end the tribal genocide of the Musket Wars, obtain protection from unscrupulous people, and to partake of the many beneficial opportunities provided by the Europeans.

This extremely bigoted and discriminatory “Idea” also fails to acknowledge the ongoing interrelationships and contributions between many ethnic/national groups, to the point where there are few if any Maori New Zealanders who do not share some heritage with other ethnicities. Our country’s development over the last 200 years has resulted in a unique and still evolving New Zealand culture based on our mixing and sharing of bloodlines, learnings, experiences and values.  Consequently, we have produced talented individuals/groups capable of great achievements in so many fields (science, music, sport, business, entertainment, exploration, politics, IT, etc), way more than expected from such a small population. To suggest that New Zealand’s history all centres on our Polynesian heritage is an absurd claim.

  1. “Colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand society.”
    As already stated, migration and colonisation are facts of human existence worldwide, throughout time – not just the last 200 years. Polynesian tribes (Maori) colonised these islands and then each other continuously between the 1300s and 1800s.
    Appallingly, the explanations of what is actually to be promoted by this ‘Idea’ are completely untrue. For example:
    1. “Colonisation began as part of a worldwide imperial project.” As substantiated written history attests, Queen Victoria was completely uninterested in colonising New Zealand, and only conceded to do so in 1840 if the majority of the tribes wished for it, in order to protect tribes from each other (after the genocidal Musket Wars) and from some predatory property purchases being made by some English subjects.

    2. “It sought to assimilate Māori through dislocation from their lands and replacement of their institutions, economy, and tikanga with European equivalents.” This claim is absurd, totally unsupported by the facts and is blatant propaganda seemingly designed to promote racial disharmony and resentment or worse. I believe it would qualify under the current government’s proposed ‘hate speech”.

      It’s important to remember that tribes didn’t even have a written language (or the need for one) until various English missionaries and academics helped develop one by documenting the oral languages/dialects they encountered and learnt. The Crown unwound the predatory land deals that had been done pre-1840, so that Maori chiefs could willingly resell the land (for a fairer, market price) to the Sovereign Queen to on-sell to settlers (as per the Treaty of Waitangi); Maori traded for goods; Maori elders pushed their children to learn English so they’d have more opportunities; Maori moved to the cities for work and lifestyle opportunities; Maori formed relationships with individuals from other ethnicities; Maori learnt from exposure to worldwide advances; Maori grasped new opportunities with both hands. This stuff happens! Who would now tell Dame Kiri Te Kanawa that she mustn’t become a world famous opera singer or Taika Waititi that he couldn’t be an internationally acclaimed film director and actor so they could remain true to their Polynesian roots?

      Yes, New Zealand has developed from a primitive society to a first world environment in the last 200 years, as have many other countries enjoying the advantages of the enlightenment, education, industrialisation, the arts, international trade, scientific breakthroughs, etc − but that is to be celebrated by us all. Cultures everywhere evolve by fostering the good and rejecting the less advantageous. New Zealand is no different and most Maori have benefited accordingly, with greatly improved lives, relationships, living conditions and opportunities. Integration has largely been voluntary and opportunities sought after.

  • “In its varying forms, colonisation − including privileges deriving from it and the enduring assertions of tino rangatiratanga and mana Māori – continues to evolve” (no translations or definitions provided in this ‘in English’ document!). This is mumbo jumbo, seemingly ignoring our country’s evolution and our multicultural peoples’ wish to enjoy all the benefits of being “New Zealanders”. It seems to be aiming at undoing our country’s relatively good race relations and advancement, reducing us to a divided and resentful society. It is certainly not to the benefit of all New Zealanders, let alone those identifying as Maori.

  1. “The course of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history has been shaped by the exercise and effects of power.”
    Why focus on just New Zealand’s recent history without context? The exercise of power has influenced all living creatures since time immemorial −  amongst trees in the forest, herds of animals, flocks of birds, tribes of humans, governments of countries, regions of the world. As Darwin pointed out, it’s always been the survival of the fittest on Earth – at least until stable, economic and enlightened power enabled welfare and science to help the weak to survive and live on.

    A New Zealand “history/political study” of power should surely start with how tribal chiefs came to their positions and how they maintained them, and the resulting inter-tribal warfare in this country. Then while nothing is ever 100% perfect, a few facts about how New Zealanders have largely thrived since 1840 thanks to those colonial imports of private property rights, law and order, and democracy.  This “power” is certainly preferable to that of inter-tribal warfare or Labour’s goal of “co-sovereignty with Maori veto” by 2040. And isn’t it ironic that the Ministry of Education appears critical of “the exercise and effects of power” yet is using it to impose political ideology on small, vulnerable children!

The “Three National Contexts”

Despite this document being "in English" for English-speaking people, it presents Te Reo statements as key drivers of this part of the proposed curriculum. I have commented on the provided sub-text below:

  1. “This context focuses on how the past shapes who we are today – our familial links and bonds, our networks and connections, our sense of obligation, and the stories woven into our collective and diverse identities.”
    Our interpretation of “the past” can contribute to who we are today but children need to know that it need not predetermine or restrict it. Conveying that to children is surely a key responsibility for any educationalist or parent worth their salt. And “stories” not based on factual evidence must be treated as subjective.

    New Zealanders have largely integrated very well, so share experiences, families and all the advantages of living in a first world country. This is well worth celebrating and we have a combined obligation to maintain and enhance it.

  2. “This context focuses on the relationships of individuals, groups, and communities with the land, water, and resources, and on the history of contests over their control, use, and protection.”
    This is a massive, complicated subject involving economics, science, environmentalism, international trade, government and political ideology so is usually best approached at tertiary level. It is totally inappropriate to be imposing this on children who are yet to learn the basics of reading/comprehension, maths and science.

  3. “This context focuses on the history of contests over authority and control, at the heart of which are the authorities guaranteed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi and The Treaty of Waitangi. It also considers the history of the relationships between the state and the people who lived here and in the Pacific.”
    This is blatant political activism. Over a period of 180 years, the Treaty has been embellished, distorted, twisted and mangled into a fantastic, mythical document completely out of context for the times. The curriculum ignores how New Zealand has led the charge in social justice and equality. It ignores our largely peaceful multi-cultural society.

Rohe and Local Contexts

  1. “Rohe contexts as defined by iwi and hapū and guided by the question What stories do local iwi and hapū tell about their history in this rohe?” Why is this limited to Maori only? Do you not think that many New Zealanders have strong associations with the land and relevant “stories” to tell?

  2. “Historical contexts relevant to local communities and guided by the question - What stories are told about the people, events, and changes that have been important in this area?”
    Great care and critical thinking is required to select stories that add to the sum of human knowledge. What about sourcing historical facts or researching the validity of such “stories” – or is that irrelevant when there are one-sided politically-inspired messages to instil in children?

    A prime example of such a myth aggressively propagated to children is the one about 144 women and children being burned alive in a Rangiaowhia church by pro-Government forces in 1864. The two possible churches in question (St Paul’s Anglican Church or St John’s Catholic Church) interestingly seems to have survived intact and unharmed long after 1864 as evidenced by paintings and written reports done post this apparent event. And the pro-Government forces included Maori. Refer to research reported on:

  3. “Contexts chosen by students when inquiring into the history of the rohe and local area.” This could be a fun but is again an area open to abuse and manipulation. No doubt, the choices made by the children and the resources available to them will be Ministry and Teacher directed, as it would be rather difficult for school aged children to search out completely independent and valid sources.

“Three Inquiry Practices” are Inappropriate for Targeted Age Groups

  1. Identifying and using sequence.
    “The construction of narratives about the past is based on the ability to sequence events and changes, to identify relationships between them, and to make connections with the present. Depending on the frame of reference used in sequencing, the same story will be told in different ways.”
    This narrative approach has been well criticised by acclaimed historians. For example, in 1931 Regius Professorof History and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Herbert Butterfield criticised oversimplified narratives (or "abridgements") which interpreted past events in terms of the present for the purposes of achieving "drama and apparent moral clarity". Butterfield especially noted: "If history can do anything it is to remind us that all our judgments are merely relative to time and circumstance".

    History taught in “story-form” to children is the very definition of “abridged” and superficial. Without fact and context, it serves no other purpose other than to force its authors’ views on young minds.

  2. Identifying and critiquing sources and perspectives. This sounds good in itself, but when we read that children will be required to pay “deliberate attention to Matauranga Maori sources and approaches”, the curriculum is back to supplanting historical fact with “myths and legends” and political ideology.

  3. Interpreting past decisions and actions……”making ethical judgements concerning right and wrong”.
    With good parenting and teaching, children can certainly learn what’s right and wrong in simple situations relevant to them, but a curriculum requiring children to make ethical judgements about historical events based on abridged (factual or otherwise) lessons is totally inappropriate and has the potential to be an unfair burden on developing minds. Such decisions cannot be made superficially in a vacuum – they inevitable involve a huge number of issues and involve a depth of contextual and philosophical understanding not always achievable by children.

An Aggressive Political Agenda Inappropriate for School Children

This ‘history’ curriculum is blatantly political, presenting unsubstantiated statements/claims as indisputable facts.
Examples include:

  1. Maori navigation to New Zealand was deliberate and skilful”. Despite a great deal of research, there is no proof of this. What we understand about Polynesian navigators is only found in myth and legend, and what science has shown to be prevailing winds and currents in the Pacific Ocean.
  2. Maori are “indigenous”. Science and archaeology actually disproves any claim to indigeneity (defined as originating or occurring naturally in a particular place); Maori are simply earlier immigrants/colonisers.
  3. Maori are in “partnership” with the Crown. “It is clear that Maori did not cede their mana to the Crown and that they signed in the belief that it would give them power to govern in partnership with the Governor.” There being no united governing body in these islands prior to 1840, it is absolutely absurd to suggest that the many Chiefs ceding their tribal sovereignty to Queen Victoria were ever considered a “partnership”. This concept only came about due to the political activism of the late 20th Partnership doesn’t feature in the Treaty of Waitangi, nor in any of the discussions or events before, during or after. Instead, the recorded debates and speeches support the chiefs’ acceptance of the Queen’s sovereignty.
    Meanwhile, many of this Draft’s propositions (“key knowledge”, “questions to guide inquiry”) are totally inappropriate for the targeted 5−15 year age range, especially without context and credible evidence. Some of the propositions would be challenging enough for university students to research and analyse, especially as they embrace economics, science, technology and worldwide social and political movements!

Considering that few children could undertake the necessary robust and independent research to validate some claims, I can only conclude once more that the intention is to indoctrinate impressionable young minds in an effort to create division and cultivate them as activists for Maori sovereignty, e.g.

  1. “Different stereotypes of a ‘New Zealand’ identity have been purposefully constructed at times to define who is included and who is excluded”
  2. “Nineteenth-century immigration schemes were designed to create a British colony and consequently shift the balance of power from Maori to settlers.”
  3. “Maori have communicated their distinctiveness through cultural practices that have sometimes been appropriated and used inappropriately. To what extent have Maori had control over their cultural identity and the use of their culture?”
  4. “New Zealand’s settler government and the Crown were determined to undermine mana Maori, especially by acquiring Maori territories. The New Zealand Wars and the legislation that followed demonstrated their willingness to do this by any means.”
  5. “How do the concepts of whakapapa, manaakitanga, mauri and kaitiakitanga express Maori custodianship of the environment?”

These propositions are simply ridiculous.

What a Renowned Educationalist Has to Say

In anticipation of this draft Curriculum, Professor Elizabeth Rata last year wrote “History is complex and our understanding is only as good as the latest evidence. That evidence must be provided so students can see that everything must be justified. Opinion and belief are not enough. That’s where we need to bring in philosophers to keep an eye on the justifications given to what the specialists select. Evidence can lead to false inferences. Politics can lead to distorted claims. History is the perfect breeding ground for ideologies.”

(With reference to teaching a historical topic)….. “using history specialists was the only way to ensure that the content is the most up-to-date, has a range of evidence for claims made, uses Māori and European, oral and written sources, and contains information from the past through to the present. Each piece of information needs to be verified and the (topic) showed just how complex this process is.

She also asked:
“How will New Zealand History content be selected and justified given that the Curriculum Unit in the Ministry was dismantled years ago. Where is the curriculum expertise today? And ….after the topic is selected, who chooses the content? Part of our democratic responsibility is to decide what our children should know. We need a wide-ranging and vigorous national discussion about our history. What information should we include to ensure that students received the full picture?”

Ref: Professor Elizabeth Rata (Director of the Knowledge in Education Research Unit in the Faculty of Education & Social Work at the University of Auckland) NZ History - What to Teach? | Newsroom

Well, it is clear that Professor Rata’s expertise and advice was not sought or taken in the development of this Draft History Curriculum!

  • What a Renowned Historian Has to Say
    Professor Michael Bassett was ‘deplatformed’ by NZ Herald-owner NZME for his views on this draft curriculum, which goes to show how politically ideological it is. Needless to say, he was totally unimpressed with the effort, writing: “……our modern ministry of Education reveals that it is woefully ignorant of historical facts”.


Apparently millions of dollars were spent writing this Draft Curriculum, yet the result has little to do with history. It is very obviously a mechanism by which the Government’s approved separatist ideology will be embedded into the brains of every New Zealand child. The draft demonstrates a reason for the continuing decline of our education standards and our race relations under the current government; it will certainly do little to benefit our society, while doing much to cultivate hate and despair. Authoritarian nations throughout history have manipulated children in this way, and I’m ashamed to see New Zealand following in the footsteps of Hitler Youth, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Soviet Russia and North Korea in abusing the minds of children as young as five. No doubt, pre-schoolers will be next.

Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi has stated in a Cabinet paper that he wants the Royal Commission’s proposal for the Hate Speech Law to be widened to include an intent to “stir up” hatred, and for it to be criminalised. On that basis, he might want to get legal advice on this draft Curriculum.

To conclude, Prime Minister Ardern frequently refers to our “team of 5 million”, yet her Government seems determined to divide and separate us into distinct and warring factions. People who promote victimhood or foster disunity for political gain deserve no respect and certainly no place in the government of our nation.  And this draft History Curriculum is totally flawed and an embarrassment. It is not fit for purpose, and deserves no place in our schools.

Fiona Mackenzie                 


2nd May 2021

Ministry of Education
P O Box 1666
Wellington 6140
DX Number: SR51201

By email: [email protected] and [email protected]