Comments on "training parrots".
Over and above my dismay at discovering that teaching Maori words, songs and customs was compulsory for even pre-primary teachers in schools without any Maori children, I found the training of these teachers to be similar to my experience in the medical world. I did not--like the teachers--have to name my sacred mountain and river and sleep over in a marae, but ...
It goes back about a decade and-a-half: We were a group of public hospital employees--mostly new , but also some who missed previous 'opportunities' to do their compulsory, three-day 'Waitangi training'. The group consisted of administration staff, nurses and doctors (including an overseas trained specialist). Most of us did not have NZ citizenship and were desperate to conform to current norms.
Without going into detail, I can say positively that we were well fed. The rest was negative. The version of the Treaty that I had studied beforehand was hardly recognizable in our lectures. Questions were permitted, but only for the clearer understanding of what they were preaching. Questions outside their strict parameters were used during the rest of the course to mock the lack of understanding of the person who asked the question. The main cultural necessities for foreigners to the Maori culture is not to put your hand on a Maori child s head and not to ever sit on any surface that food is served upon. That was not mentioned and does not justify the compulsory three days dedicated to the course.
The memorable lectures were delivered by a very intelligent painted-face Maori who could regurgitate names of forefathers from both Maori and European sides. He stated that Aotearoa belongs to the Maori and that only 13% of the country was registered in the name of Maori. He went on to say that they would not stop until the entire country was theirs. That--he said--would be better, not only for the Maori, but also for the Pakeha.
Thank you for your article, finally giving me my first opportunity to mention my very disturbing experience. Only long after the event did I become aware of any negative vibes about the Waitangi course from people who attended. I am utterly convinced that the perception was largely negative but nobody dared to say so openly. At least one who did speak out, said that the course represented an unacceptable form of indoctrination and had--in her case--the opposite effect to that intended.
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