Re-writing history by pretending it never happened

The education system did me proud when I learned New Zealand history – briefly – at primary school. It never bothered again; British history was much more important; but there were always Weet-Bix cards to collect, and they told you all you’d ever need to know about the national story.

We learned how lucky Maori were that we brought them Christianity, and that we won the Land Wars, which were called the Maori Wars. Maori seemed to have been unaware of their good fortune, but any simmering resentments were tidied away neatly with memorials erected to Pakeha soldiers who fought, and the “friendly” natives who joined our side. Since then there’s been the odd spot of bother, we can’t think why.

I’m pleased to see that the Ministry of Education is holding fast to that line, because we should be protected at all costs from the embarrassment of history. Knowledge can only confuse.

Look what happened to New Plymouth’s mayor, Andrew Judd, who took the time to read a history book, learn that there was another side to the story, and realise he’d been unconsciously racist, as many of us are, all his life. He’s been reviled and spat on by upright citizens who have better things to do than read, and has no intention of standing for election again.

What makes his case especially interesting is that Taranaki saw some of the most vicious encounters and land confiscations in our history, at Parihaka and Waitara in particular.

But the Education Ministry is right: no need for local students to have to bother with all that, especially where there is such a large Maori population in Taranaki. Uppity we do not need. Continue reading

  • Rosemary McLeod is a New Zealand writer, journalist, cartoonist and columnist.
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