Students who sat NCEA level 3 history exams last week might be very worried to hear the Prime Minister tell a Radio Station that New Zealand was one of the few countries that was settled peacefully by Europeans.
Those students who wrote about a bloody and violent settlement of Aotearoa in their NCEA exam; who wrote about the deaths of thousands of Maori and hundreds of Pakeha in land wars, about the wrongful confiscation of millions of acres of land, must think they’d got itall terribly wrong if the PM says New Zealand was settled peacefully.
But teachers we’ve spoken with today can put their minds at rest.
The Prime Minister, in fact, was the one who would have failed last week’s NCEA level 3 history exam had he written about the peaceful and rosy settlement of New Zealand.
History teachers have told us that students of New Zealand history are taught a very different version of events; of a very unpeaceful process, one where Maori who fought against the Crown as it sought to obtain more land for settlers were punished with the confiscation of their land or even by death.
Kids who learn about New Zealand history are taught, in fact, that the direct source of the land wars in the 1860s was a misundertanding of the Treaty – a misunderstanding that led to horrible bloodshed and laws, such as the New Zealand Settlement Act 1865, which legislated for the confiscation of Maori land for use by settlers.
To call that a peaceful settlement is an example of the same kind of staggering arrogance as displayed by Australian Prime Minster Tony Abbott when he said last week that there was nothing but bush in Australia before the white men came along.
But John Key didn’t finish there. He said early Maori would have been grateful for the injection of capital Pakeha brought with them when they settled in Aotearoa.
Maori would have been grateful.
For the capital.
The Prime Minister’s warped view of history is an insult to all New Zealanders, especially to those who died trying to protect their land, and to Maori who are still fighting for the full settlement of past grievances today.
It is a perspective that is belies history, but is also damaging to race relations and undermining decades of efforts, including even by his own Government, to address some of the historic wrongs.
In reality, if John Key wanted to pass NCEA level 3 history he’d have needed to produce an essay much like this one.