• Written by Michael Belgrave, Professor History, Massey University
New Zealand is one of few places in the world where teaching the country's own history has not been compulsory. from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-ND

From 2022, New Zealand history will be taught at all schools as part of the compulsory national curriculum. The announcement is an astonishing turnaround, given that the ministry of education and parliament’s education and workforce select committee were opposed to any degree of compulsion just a few weeks ago.

New Zealand has been one of few countries in the world not to ensure that its citizens have some experience of their own past at school. As a history professor, I give frequent visiting lectures and in one of these, last week, only two students could clearly identify 1840 as the year of the Treaty of Waitangi, despite two thirds of the class being New Zealand born. None of them knew much about the treaty itself or about New Zealand’s colonial history, or about the Waitangi Tribunal, which has been dealing with treaty settlements for the last 30 years.

It would be hard to imagine that students in the United States did not know the importance of 1776, the year that sparked the American Revolution. Or for those in India and Pakistan to be ignorant of 1947, the date of partition, and the struggle that preceded it. Or for Australian university students not to be aware of the date of federation in 1901.


Read more: The kīngitanga movement: 160 years of Māori monarchy


History is more than dates and events

The campaign to have history taught in New Zealand schools has been long and sustained, led notably by a group of Ōtorohanga secondary students, who were surprised to find that they lived close to several key events of the New Zealand wars, including the battle of Ōrākau and the sacking of Rangiawhia in the 1860s. The New Zealand History Teachers Association presented an impassioned submission to a parliamentary select committee this year, but none of this was enough at the time to convince the ministry.

As Graham Ball, the association’s president commented, and as all historians know, history is as much about debate, contested narratives and disputed interpretations, as it is about facts.

Understanding why things happened, and their consequences, requires a significant grounding in historical knowledge, including dates, people, events and the context in which everything takes place. But how we explore these facts, how we interpret them, and the lessons we learn for the present, are all dramatically influenced by politics, cultures and the expectations of today’s society.

Each generation reinterprets the same facts, remembers new ones and forgets others. Teaching history at school, even to primary school students, will be far from simply providing a list of what they need to know.

Deciding what we must teach our children and our grandchildren about our past is a question we have avoided for decades, going back to a time when history was almost always someone else’s: largely the tales of British kings and queens and the wars which marked their reigns.


Read more: Why children need to be taught to think critically about Remembrance Day


New Zealand’s diverse history

Much of the impetus for having New Zealand history taught in schools has been around understanding colonisation and its impact on Māori. Some of the calls were for the compulsory teaching of colonial history, Māori history, or even just the New Zealand wars. The current decision has a much broader brief, as it must. Today’s schoolchildren have to see in their history the experience of their own communities, as much telling the story of recent migrant communities and their place in New Zealand as the story of 19th-century colonialism.

This is a debate that cannot be left to historians and history teachers, and government will find it needs to be well resourced. We need both a national debate and one in local communities.

Our stories have a lot of pasts to include: the histories of hapū and iwi, as well as Māori as a whole, the Irish, the English and Scots and other Europeans, as well as Samoan and other Pacific communities. They need to have places for early Chinese and Indian migration, as well as for the large number of diverse communities that have arrived here in the last half century.

These histories need to be alive to other forms of difference, to gender, to poverty and to divides between rural and urban communities. But they should not just be divided histories. They should also explore the society these communities created here, examining what they had in common, as well as what has separated them.


Read more: Want a safer world for your children? Teach them about diverse religions and worldviews


Defining a history curriculum

At my own university, interest in medieval studies has risen substantially, reflecting the Game of Thrones and Vikings effect. Fantasy and history that replicate a medieval world appear a safe place to understand the past, where a distance of centuries allows an understanding of history that rarely has political impact in the present.

In making New Zealand history compulsory, we are forcing our young people to confront the challenging questions of inequality, racism and legacies of the Empire.

This will only be a success if it avoids easy stereotypes, and simple narratives that divide the world into heroes and villains. At the end of their compulsory schooling, New Zealanders should know more of the detail of their past, but they should also have the skills to handle its complexity and its contradictions.

They need histories that are not too earnest, that cover not just the good, the bad and the ugly, but the funny, the ludicrous and the entertaining.

Michael Belgrave does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Michael Belgrave, Professor History, Massey University

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-its-time-for-new-zealanders-to-learn-more-about-their-own-countrys-history-123527

Some Of The Best No Cost And Paid Options Of Making Videos For Instagram By Video Editing Tools

We, in our lifetime, have always thought of making an Instagram video. Because videos are more engaging and compelling than other kinds of posts, they serve and deliver a lot more value to the v...

News Company - avatar News Company

For a stress-free move – make the right checklist

It’s often said that success has less to do with the actions you take and much more to do with the quality of your planning and your goals. But great planning is about the right checklist; not...

News Company - avatar News Company

Are your kids using headphones more during the pandemic? Here's how to protect their ears

Shutterstock During the coronavirus pandemic, have your kids been using headphones more than usual? Maybe for remote schooling, video chats with relatives, or for their favourite music and Netflix sh...

Peter Carew, Lecturer, University of Melbourne - avatar Peter Carew, Lecturer, University of Melbourne

how Australia compares to the rest of the world

Molly Glassey/Pexels, CC BYWhen it comes to coronavirus cases, deaths and tests, Australia is performing better than many other countries with comparable populations and geographies, a new COVID-19 da...

Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling - avatar Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling

A Guide On How To Choose The Best Drinking Water Supplier

There’s something nice about having quick and convenient access to fresh crisp water. Here in Perth, there isn’t a shortage of water but most of it is a little on the salty side. That’s wh...

Aussie Natural - avatar Aussie Natural

Installation Guidelines and Standards for Suspended Ceilings

If you are thinking of installing a suspended ceiling in your residential or commercial premises in Perth, you may want to know about the standards that are required so that you can comply with ...

Heron Ceilings - avatar Heron Ceilings

The fascinating history of clinical trials

Wellcome Collection, CC BY-SAClinical trials are under way around the world, including in Australia, testing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.These clinical trials largely fall into two groups. With o...

Adrian Esterman, Professor of Biostatistics, University of South Australia - avatar Adrian Esterman, Professor of Biostatistics, University of South Australia

Why does crowd noise matter?

Sporting codes are restarting as part of easing restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. In Australia, the NRL season has just restarted, the AFL will resume on June 11, and Super Netball will retu...

Alex Russell, Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, CQUniversity Australia - avatar Alex Russell, Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, CQUniversity Australia

Plates, cups and takeaway containers shape what (and how) we eat

ShutterstockHome cooks have been trying out their skills during isolation. But the way food tastes depends on more than your ability to follow a recipe. Our surroundings, the peoplewe share food with ...

Abby Mellick Lopes, Associate Professor, Design Studies, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Abby Mellick Lopes, Associate Professor, Design Studies, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology Sydney



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion