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Reality has a left wing bias

Written By: - Date published: 10:22 am, May 20th, 2021 - 54 comments
Categories: act, chris hipkins, colonialism, david seymour, education, racism - Tags:

Fresh from a claim that the Ministry of Education is trying to persuade kids not to eat home made lunches, David Seymour has taken aim at a new target, a radical education policy that intends to teach our kids about racism and inequality and what has happened in the country’s past.

From the Act website:

“The Government needs to explain why a new education programme is teaching primary school children about ‘white privilege’”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The promise of our country is to value each person as we find them and value their human dignity without prejudice. A policy that asks children to apologise for their colour is the worst form of bigotry. Dressing it up as anti-racism is hypocrisy.

“Every human shares 99.9 percent of their DNA. Government policy should focus on our common humanity and the challenges we each face as we go through life, instead of racially profiling children.

“What are teachers supposed to say to a ‘white’ child who may have no money or food at home, be abused, face a learning challenge, or any other challenge? How is it that their colour makes them privileged regardless of their individual circumstances?

“The Government’s latest attempt to push its version of the Treaty and co-governance in education is Te Hurihanganui, a programme being introduced in schools in Te Puke, Wellington, Nelson and Southland.

“The programme has a radical goal: transformative changes to “indigenise” and “decolonise” the education system.

“New Zealand children deserve a positive and inclusive education. No child should have to be apologetic about their creed or colour.

The statement refers to, shock horror, students learning about imbalance of power, racism and white privilege.  Weirdly Seymour acknowledges that “Māori do face worse social and economic outcomes across the board.”  But he does not want our children to learn about this or be able to question the reasons why.

For different reasons an expert authority also thinks that teaching kids about the effects of colonialism is a bad idea.  From John Gerritsen at Radio New Zealand:

An expert panel has warned that compulsory New Zealand history lessons next year could upset some children and lead to difficult classroom discussions.

The panel, convened by the Royal Society of New Zealand to advise the Education Ministry on the the draft Aoteaora New Zealand’s Histories curriculum, also criticised the draft for “overly compacting” the curriculum and omitting major topics including the 600 years of pre-European Māori life.

The new curriculum will be taught to all children from Years 0-10 from next year and is centred on three “big ideas” – Māori history, the impact of colonisation, and the exercise of power.

The expert panel said it strongly supported the intent of the draft, including placing Māori history at its centre.

But it warned that “history can hurt” and schools must take care when introducing the curriculum next year.

“In sites where loss of life and land has taken place, and in learning about legislation that diminished people (the poll tax, for example), there can be hurt extending over time and generations,” it said.

I am sure that teachers are up to the job of presenting these concepts and ideas with sensitivity.  And if we are to stop teaching kids subjects because they are disturbing and confronting then we will also need to stop teaching climate change.

In Parliament Chris Hipkins had the perfect response to the suggestion we should dumb down and sanitise what our kids are taught:

I want to ensure that young people in New Zealand understand all of our history—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and a recognition of the fact that we have passed down, through generations, discrimination that has led to some New Zealanders being disadvantaged in their educational journey, some New Zealanders not receiving the same opportunities as others. If our young people leave school with an understanding of that, that will be a damn good thing.

Seymour is right to think that the teaching of colonialism and inequality is a threat to his party’s support.  And for a party that is holding an event called Honest Conversations it is strange that we should not be having an honest conversation with our young people.

54 comments on “Reality has a left wing bias ”

  1. mac1 1

    Seymour writes, "“Every human shares 99.9 percent of their DNA. Government policy should focus on our common humanity and the challenges we each face as we go through life.

    Absolutely. First question. Why do racists still insist on discriminating on a minor genetic trait-skin colour?

    Second question for Mr Seymour. If good educators should focus on our challenges, why not focus on the challenge that racism brings for both perpetrators of racial discrimination and especially for those discriminated against?

    For we all surely lose.

  2. Anne 2

    An expert panel has warned that compulsory New Zealand history lessons next year could upset some children and lead to difficult classroom discussions.

    An expert panel? Spare me the hand-wringing please!

    What are children made of these days. Marshmallow? What is wrong with telling children the truth. My generation was denied the real story of NZ's history and we have been the poorer for it.

    Imo, this is just another attempt at dumbing down the nation and keeping them ignorant by a bunch of aging pansies who can't handle the truth themselves.

    • Sabine 2.1

      Having gone through a particular history curriculum in Germany i can guarantee you that it will upset some kids. It depends on how you talk about it, what materials you show, etc etc. You are basically telling them that your – their – country is not perfect and free of sin so to speak.

      I think it will be ok, if it is understood that those in the classrooms are not hte ones at fault. And that what is discussed is History, and how to prevent it from being repeated.

      So i do hope that attention is paid to how the material is construction, what age group these history lessons are given too, and how difficult classroom discussions are being handled.

      • Anne 2.1.1

        Good points. Thank-you Sabine.

        Yes, I do recognise the presentation needs to be properly thought through and your personal history would be a prime example.

        Germany didn't try to hide the past behind a brick wall or make excuses for what was done in the country's name. I guess that it couldn't, but the new generations were told the unvarnished truth by the sounds of it and that is always what counts.

  3. Ad 3

    I've seen plenty of older white guys stand on the paepae and choke up after going through lessons on our land wars and afterwards- which they had no idea about from their schooling.

    So I agree there's no point pissing your students off with shaming and stigma either way.

    But the country simply makes a lot more sense when you've learnt a bit of its tragedy, as well as its hope.

  4. Pat 4

    The ability of 'education' to impact belief and action is over rated.

    • greywarshark 4.1

      Pat – citation? I would like to read who said that as I think it is true to some extent. Or could it be that we are all of us different and so some will have to go through the whole Three Stages of Wisdom before understanding, and some be ever untrammelled by learning.

      By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/confucius_131984

      Some other good quotes attributed to famous people:

      The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. Michelangelo

      We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. Swami Vivekananda

      Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
      Napoleon Bonaparte

      He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Jim Elliot (clergyman USA died before he was 30)

      Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God's gift, that's why we call it the present.
      Joan Rivers

      More reflection is what is needed I think. Turn off the television and read, and talk at the dinner table about what is happening in the close and far world, and it would be good to have discussion groups that meet at a cafe each week. Most of us don't do this at all, and so people like Mike Hosko fill the gap.

      • Pat 4.1.1

        It is not a quote, rather an observation…..and self evident.

        The point being that the hopes and fears generated by this policy are unlikely to occur.

        • greywarshark

          Well then it is not self evident. The ability of 'education' to impact belief and action is over rated. The advisors to the pollies can't see that it will not be the panacea hoped for. And I think your point is the policy once implemented and not performing the miracles expected, will bring us further in disagreement and exasperation.

          • Pat

            "And I think your point is the policy once implemented and not performing the miracles expected, will bring us further in disagreement and exasperation."

            Then you have not understood what I wrote.

            It is self evident in that 'education 'to date has not achieved any of its desired behavioural outcomes……which is not a reason to abandon the attempt, only the expectation.

            • Nic the NZer

              Which behavioural outcomes might we have expected from our education in New Zealand history?

              • Pat

                Perhaps you should ask David Seymor that question as he has the concern it is designed to do so.

              • Foreign Waka

                None, because History is generally not thought in schools, only in Universities. The question is whether enough qualified teachers are out there to actually be able to teach the subject.

                History in its wider context is about the development of cultures, expansion of populations from the first finger paints in caves to the most elaborate technological inventions, their expressions of art and language from all countries around the globe.

                How NZ fits within that wider world history and where did the people come from at any time of settlement, what was their background and where are we now.

                NZ has been settled estimated 1280–1320. So parallel to that time, the University of Florence is established, Jews are expelled from France for the third time, Treaty of Paris: Louis I, Count of Flanders relinquishes his claim to Zeeland (Netherlands) etc…


            • greywarshark

              Try, try, try again eh. Is it that education has concentrated on vocational training in a loose way, and far too general for young people wanting to enter the work force. So has failed in that, and also in the socialisation part of education that is recognised academically as being of importance, which would affect behavioural outcomes.

              I think we should halve education in general subjects and concentrate on learning skills. We obviously can't all work in the prioritised tech world, and to have large numbers of people who know little else will bring down salaries; a free market supply and demand economic law. Young people at secondary school should be doing job placements, finding out their abilities and preferences instead of being let out of school knowing nothing practical and physical. They will have their on-line abilities still, but know how to look after their body and soul when the tech-masters look past them.

              And how can we get better behavioural outcomes?

              • greywarshark

                Here is an example of gaining skills at secondary school jobs leading to an opportunity. When readiness and opportunity and being around in your sphere of interest come together that is when you get a job you want.


                Justine Cullen spent 5 years as the editor in chief of Elle magazine in Australia….
                Her entry into the world of magazines was a mixture of hard work and an unlikely connection.

                "I had been slaving away at work experience for my entire senior schooling career and I'd show up after holidays and I was just lucky that I was in reach of these magazines…but at the same time I just happened to be dating someone who was very connected in the magazine world."

                Cullen got her first break when her high school boyfriend was asked by an editor to MC an event for a magazine on the same night as her Year 12 formal.
                "The only way that she could get him to do her event instead of coming to my formal was to make me an employee."

              • Pat

                "And how can we get better behavioural outcomes?"

                How indeed.

                "Ministry of Education figures show more than 60,000 students are classified as chronically absent, missing at least three days of school every fortnight. Almost 40 per cent of pupils are not going to school regularly. "


                The education system is expected to fulfil functions it is incapable of.

  5. Nic the NZer 5

    Are those of us who question the legitimacy of the concept of 'white privilege' still allowed to consider ourselves left wing?

    I recently saw a debate between two sides being pro and anti CRT. Notably the pro CRT side rejected Robin De Angelo and Ibrahim X Kendi as viable representatives of CRT. Robin De Angelo of course being the leading authority on 'white privilege'.

    • greywarshark 5.1

      For those panting to keep up with changes CRT stands for Critical Race Theory I should think.

      Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is a theoretical and interpretive mode that examines the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expression. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism/critical_race_theory.html

      • Nic the NZer 5.1.1


        A search for 'A debate on #CriticalRaceTheory' on youtube will find it. Though I thought the Pro-CRT side never presented a version of CRT which they would defend.

    • Stuart Munro 5.2

      The validity of CRT varies somewhat with socioeconomic stratum.

      Middle class and above perhaps – but that bracket that, in the US, is called white trash experience denial of opportunity and discrimination too. I'm not sure I'd want to teach white privilege to disadvantaged white working class children – though in the US where police violence compounds the issue it might make more sense.

      No species of identity politics is the defining character of the left in any case – that would be socioeconomic justice.

    • DS 5.3

      I consider myself firmly left wing, and I see the concept of white privilege as a toxic divide-and-conquer initiative, to distract from the bedrock rationale of the Left. Namely, class.

      As though having more Maori CEOs will make the slightest difference to anything.

      • Ad 5.3.1

        That's not particularly useful in this country.

      • Nic the NZer 5.3.2

        Problem here is I can't see any difference between this critique and what David Seymour said. Apparently his critique denies reality, ignores history, is obviously right wing and (though not stated directly by Mickey) is racist.

  6. Robert Guyton 6

    "I am sure that teachers are up to the job of presenting these concepts and ideas with sensitivity. "

    Love your optimism!

  7. coreyjhumm 7

    It's incredibly important to teach the true history of nz and keep Maori culture and language alive.

    As much as this is important so is class, and while I want the true history of nz taught and how we can come together to achieve a truly equal nation, I really don't want upper middle class academics and woke activists going round telling poor white people in low decile schools who are in state housing , homeless or living in a motel and eating from food banks that they are privlidged because they are white. We see this all the time. That's what uk labour does and they've lost their traditional base and gained an upper middle class base.

    Poverty doesn't care what colour your skin is, poverty is poverty. There is absolutely racism in this country but much of the prejudice and discrimination in this country is as much about classism as it is about anything else but we don't talk about class anymore because if we did we'd have to accept that we're a classist nation, it's much easier to talk about race, gender and sexuality than class because it doesn't usually cost money to fix these problems.

    Look at the right, if you're a rich Maori or Asian or LGBT person they will bend over backwards to do a deal but if you're a poor Maori, Asian ,white or LGBT+ person they don't wanna know you. Sections of the woke left often have this snobby superior classist attitude when it comes to poverty which is as bad as the right.

    Can we teach class in schools too?? It's actually one of my biggest concerns with modern left thinking is we focus so much on identity politics which is often necessary but we leave out class and we have a generation of people coming out of uni who because most of them come from privlidge and have been talked about identity to death, a lot genuinely believe that white people can't be poor and that a white beneficary is more privlidged than a brown millionaire.

    I don't see why a school curriculum can't include the real history of nz, a term on civics ie NZ politics and our political system and egalitarianism and classism and how nz used to be before the 80s revolution. None of this is taught in school and I remember finding out how racist, classist nz is and how different nz used to be and how our political system works on my own outside of school and most people only kinda know these things so it’d be great to get it in the curriculum

    • greywarshark 7.1

      Yes. cjh
      I really don't want upper middle class academics and woke activists going round telling poor white people in low decile schools who are in state housing , homeless or living in a motel and eating from food banks that they are privlidged because they are white.

      Poverty doesn't care what colour your skin is, poverty is poverty….we'd have to accept that we're a classist nation,

      Very true. In some ways the welfare state smoothed that over. We did not have to think of each other, we had set up a system and had some safety nets, and that gave everybody a chance to get what they needed in life, didn’t it? Except that it was gradually abandoned – oh we don't need that any more.

      And got taken for granted, we all needed to be committed to it and to pass it on to others after us. But we were seen to not take the obligations imposed by receipt seriously, NZs had to try harder, so things were made harder for the young. And though it would upset people greatly, that attitude is both classist and ageist by the retired. To suggest that the retired should commit to some work in recognition of the increasingly longer time spent as a pensioned retired person, just amounting to a few hours a week, or a few weeks in the 'picking season' or mentoring or coaching with reading or trade skills as an obligation just hurts people's brain.

      As for classism its in the USA and UK, it happens everywhere. Read Maeve Binchy about class in parts of Ireland, India with its levels, there are peons in every country. When a country keeps assisting those at the poorer end to enable themselves to improve their position it is doing the right thing.

      Give allowances for education, take mobile vans around remote areas, have bonded training with a finite number of years where sent and rights of some choice, and forget the garbage about indentured labour which I've heard quoted against that. And prevents effective manpower planning in medical staff etc. This about slavery etc. And remember that being in a steady job with reasonable pay has been described as wage slavery, because there is more to life than following a path from home to your place fo work for years; if you come to dislike your work then it could be a burden. Simenon has written about the psychological wounds of that in some of his stories.

      But while slavery is illegal, it has not disappeared. Contemporary slavery in the form of indentured labour, debt bondage or domestic servitude still exists in many places – including the richest countries of the world.25/05/2017 https://theconversation.com/debt-bondage-domestic-servitude-and-indentured-labour-still-a-problem-in-the-worlds-richest-nations-78150

      • greywarshark 7.1.1

        And just rereading the above – debt bondage – isn't being forced to pay higher and higher amounts for a home which is mortgaged to some financial entity that is not the governmentd, a form of debt bondage. Government by embracing neo liberalism with freemarketism has abandoned itself and us to bondage of a sort we had never contemplated much less understood (they hadn't either or most of them). Only special seers in India chose to subject themselves to such 'discomfort' of lying on a bed of nails.

        People in NZ if asked whether they wanted to mortgage all their future for present world trading advantages, would have thought about it and the voting would probably have been two-thirds against it. With the other one-third looking for immediate gratification, or being risk-taking and considering that we would win more than we'd lose, or just being off on a theory-based wet dream (the projections show that GDP would rise by 5% exponentially etc.)

  8. greywarshark 8

    Just a little bit of music from Willie Nelson and some old guys, not at all photogenic, but full of music down to their toes. It makes my heart feel good, and a bit of sweetness is necessary to keep energy up.

    The World is Waiting for the Sunrise

    and I’ll throw in some happy tractor music.

  9. Sconnell 9

    "For different reasons an expert authority also thin[k]s that teaching kids about the effects of colonialism is a bad idea."

    I don't see any indication that the panel is saying it is a bad idea – isn't the message "this engages with long-standing areas of hurt, so take care", not "so don't do it"?

  10. Pete 10

    Act has got rid of its education policy from its website. They have a racing policy up.

  11. McFlock 11

    The promise of our country is to value each person as we find them and value their human dignity without prejudice.

    Who the hell promised that? And why haven't they honoured it for a couple of hundred years?

    At least the social contract is a de facto acceptance of the social structures unless you revolt or leave. This "promise" seems to have been suddenly invented so ACT can keep kids in ignorance about our history.

  12. KJT 12

    I to find the leaving out of the history of labour relations and class and the lack of inequality, which were once defining characteristics of NZ culture, as well as pre European Polynesian and Māori history glaring omissions.

    I wouldn't like to have to teach their three threads without the context of the above.

    hat Māori and Polynesian workforce participation was higher than Pakeha for a while before the 80's is just one of many examples of the intersection of class, the labour movement and colonialism.

  13. As an historian myself, the draft curriculum has been corroded by CRT. History has to be told warts and all so lets explain the injustices of the Maori Wars but also admit that Maori civilisation was hardly the utopia that Mutu and co allege and the research of Paul Moon as in 'This Horrid Practice' should be drawn upon and utilised in the curriculum. Unfortunately you cannot debate with CRT exponents as to them all rules of logic are colonialist and racist.History has to be more objective than that and put both sides fairly and equitably.

    • greywarshark 13.1

      Thank you Dr Ginther I think you have expressed well what many people are concerned about – a half-truth can be more devastatingly damaging than the whole truth explained, and its context also.

      • Thanks greywarshark. The Chinese (PRC) history curriculum under President Xi is wiping out all mention of Mongolian input into Chinese civilisation, overlooking the origins of Kublai Khan for example. I am scared that we will go the same way with our curriculum.

    • Sacha 13.2

      Who decides what is fair and equitable?

      • Nic the NZer 13.2.1

        Did ACT have anything to say about the previous revisions of treaty history? I am going to say no, they didn't in the absence of evidence.

        CRT has no place in history, except maybe it should itself be history.

        • Sacha

          How does that address my question?

          • Nic the NZer

            History does not need equity.

            • greywarshark

              Could that be expanded to say that history does not need equity – it is about what happened, and that must include background to the time and show how it refers back to the culture of the people involved? History should be about knowing with understanding otherwise it is in danger of being regarded as a one-off. And it all falls in the quest of humans to find what? What makes us do such things – wild, wonderful and kind, or stupid, senseless and callous.

              I think that learning history should involve some thoughts about culture and principles, about creating cultures and destroying them. That ideas can excite people in good and bad ways, so we must think about what we do.

              Is that seen as too much. If we are to understand that we have been wrong in the past, it is not enough to acknowledge it, but to understand and prevent serious reoccurences.

            • Sacha

              History has to be more objective than that and put both sides fairly and equitably.

              Who decides now what counts as fair and equitable?

              • Nic the NZer

                I emphasise the objective over the fair and equitable there and read that statement effectively as history should be objective. Students are entitled to apply whatever morals and values to what has happened of course but these should not be prescribed by the curriculum. I don't think there is any other way you can teach history is a secular institution.

                • Sacha

                  Who decides what counts as 'objective'? This is not a novel question.

                  • Nic the NZer

                    That responsibility would appear to fall to historians who compile research and the Ministry of Education putting things in the curriculum.

                • Incognito

                  I think presentism should be avoided in the new History Curriculum.

    • Foreign Waka 13.3

      Thank you.

      To look at CRT teachings and perpetrating propaganda (yes it is), what caliber teacher is going to teach history in the class room I wonder? Some 40% of students are not attending in the first place and most likely 30% will be bored and playing on their phones. For those left to listen, it could equate to raising a generation of radical thinkers with some serious future issues in the making. I do hope we are not embarking on a similar situation as in Zimbabwe or South Africa. Brutality and discrimination is not bound by color or race but by a persons perception and upbringing. Good save NZ, this is all I can say.

    • solkta 13.4

      You talk about corrosion of history but then talk of "the Maori Wars". These were wars waged by the Crown against Maori. Why do you not call them the Crown Wars or the Pakeha Wars? Or the New Zealand Wars like most historians do now.

      • McFlock 13.4.1

        Nice illustration that history is never close to "objective".

        Every curriculum, book, and lecture has to omit far more areas of interest than it includes, and these editorial decisions and framing are always subjective.

        I have no idea about "CRT", but it seems to me that discussing NZ history without close discussion of 600 years of pre-colonial history, 200 years of colonisation, and power structures that led to the events in our past all just reduces history to a rote-learned list of dates and names and no understanding of how we got to where we are.

        We can indoctrinate kids with a national myth of benevolent colonists and (ahem) birth of a nation at Gallipoli. Then they'll be all surprised when something turns to custard for them. Or we can give kids a knowledge and perspective that will help them avoid problems when they are the decision makers, long after we are dead.

      • RedLogix 13.4.2

        Whatever you care to name them, it puzzles me why these relatively modest series of conflicts – in which at total of barely 3,000 people on both sides lost their lives – remains such matter of high concern, while the Musket Wars earlier in the century resulted, at least according to Michael King, in the quite brutal genocide of almost 40% of the entire Maori population at the time rates scarce mention.

        These earlier wars were a far greater and more devastating event that's been pretty much airbrushed out of mention in polite company these days.

  14. "Reality has a left wing bias"

    From the headline I was reminded of Martin Luther King's quote that the arc of history bends towards justice.

    I have the mental image of David Seymour trying to bend this arc back the otther way.

    • RedLogix 14.1

      "Reality has a left wing bias"

      Perhaps it would be more accurate to deconstruct that rather tired little claim as ' the left constructs it's models of reality with the same confirmation biases everyone else is prone too'.

      Imagining that you're somehow ideologically immune to confirmation bias pretty much ensures you will be captured by it.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 14.1.1

        That "tired little claim" is the title of the post under which we are all commenting.

        Reality has a left wing bias

        PAUL KRUGMAN: Reality's liberal bias
        At one level, this turn of events shouldn't surprise us. The U.S. right long ago rejected evidence-based policy in favor of policy-based evidence, denying facts that might get in the way of a predetermined agenda. Fourteen years have passed since Stephen Colbert famously quipped that "reality has a well-known liberal bias."

        At another level, however, the right's determination to ignore the epidemiologists is politically reckless in a way previous denials of reality weren't.

        Right-wing politics supports the view that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position on the basis of natural law, economics, or tradition.

        Right-wing politics involves, in varying degrees, the rejection of some egalitarian objectives of left-wing politics, claiming either that social or economic inequality is natural and inevitable or that it is beneficial to society.

        Conservatives claim to hate "cancel culture" — but it's the heart of the right-wing agenda
        In short, canceling everyday people in the way that conservatives portray "cancel culture" to work was the exact opposite of what motivated Rodgers to coin the term in the first place, as well as how it's been used on Twitter. Think about that anytime you hear the term used.

      • McFlock 14.1.2

        It's called a sense of humour, dude.

        It's not a claim, as such.

        As far as I can find, it started as satire, and has largely been used that way ever since. The joke is usually used when tories have to ignore or omit bits of reality that don't fit their political narrative. Such as the way Seymour is trying to omit large aspects of NZ political history from the curriculum because apparently we're all free of prejudice and any sort of power imbalance in this country.

        I guess he thinks a song fixed it.

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