3 min read

we choose

Let's imagine a future in which we don't have to argue about the worth of a language, but foster it so that our students just use it to describe, make sense and value their world.
we choose

The Green Party announcement that they will create a plan for universal te reo Māori in public schools has naturally generated a lot of reaction across the New Zealand media, both mainstream and social.

Don Rowe's piece in the Spinoff is an excellent response to the mostly negative commentary.

Rodney Hide has provided his opinion, in a piece titled Cost of te reo Māori too high - and I have to wonder what he thought about the implementation of a digital curriculum, which was heartily supported by industry and business. Because many of his critiques of te reo as a distinct part of the curriculum, can be applied to that one.

Oddly enough, they weren't by Rodney or any other fair minded libertarian conservative thinker - why would that be?

To those who speak to the economics of the matter, that students are better off learning Mandarin or Japanese, let me pose this thought.

Many of our students will remain in Aotearoa, and I can only assume you'd want them to be contributing to a vibrant economy here. I mean, it's not like Ngāi Tahu and other iwi are investing just for fun.

Because if they do, and part of what it is to be Māori, is to be successful where they are - by definition te reo needs to be a part of that?

Because you wouldn't be saying that Māori competing and suceeding in the market, playing by the rules of the market, making prudent and entrepreneurial investments for the benefit of New Zealanders is a bad thing. Would you?

Because if you were, that might be a little bit, I dunno... racist?

There's also no reason students can't also learn Mandarin or Japanese as well - being bilingual doesn't prevent anyone from becoming multilingual.

As per Don's piece, there are some concerns, and I share them, about how this policy will be implemented.

Namely, where are these teachers proficient in te reo going to be found and trained. Secondly, and Rodney also makes this point, where does this extra component get placed into the school day - and the curriculum itself. - what would need to be removed, or what would be taught less of?

Because in 11 years of working in education, schools have never been told to do less of one thing - every political party promises that we can and should do more.

Which in and of itself is aspirational, but as I tweeted,

We need to do better, and sometimes that's got to mean we do less of somethings.

But as I read some of the nay-sayers, and let's be honest, there's a fair share of lazy racism and straight up ignorance on display; and as I confront my own biases around implementation of the policy, I remembered these words, from a young President speaking at Rice University.

We choose to go to the Moon! ...

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win ...

In these times, of all times, we need lofty ambition. As a nation, we're not really that good at doing so.

"She'll be right" sums up our Kiwi aspirations mostly.

So let's look at this initiative from the Greens as a choice to be lofty, to dream big.

Let's look to accept this challenge, to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills.

Let's imagine a future in which we don't have to argue about the worth of a language, but foster it so that our students just use it to describe, make sense and value their world.

Because how cool would it be to have te reo Māori spoken by an astronaut from the ISS, or from a moonbase, sharing what they were doing with classes across Aotearoa.

"Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei"

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