Volume 65 1956 > Volume 65, No. 1 > Comment, p 1-4
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A MODERN MAORI CARVING
Made at Rotorua for erection in the new meeting-house, Tapeka, at Waihi village, Lake Taupo, by John Taiapa, a Ngati-Porou carver.

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COMMENT:

THE CRITERION for inclusion of articles in the Journal is that they make a contribution to general cultural knowledge and understanding. The fact that two of the articles in the present number, while fulfilling this requirement, also throw further light on a current issue of personal concern to many members of the Society gives them an added value. The decisions recently taken regarding Maori education are of great importance for the Maori future. The article by Mr. Parsonage gives the background, from an administrator's point of view, of the decisions; the article by Mr. Ritchie provides a study of how the decisions were translated into action in one particular case.

That they would be translated into action quite quickly in some instances was to be expected. The 1956 Committee on Maori Education did imply in its findings that changes in the status of schools should be dependent upon the will of the Maori communities involved, but this did not preclude attempts at persuasion in cases where the Department felt that change was desirable, and the Committee would never have been formed unless something positive was intended. Fair persuasion is one thing, however. To secure apparent complete agreement by not noticing objections or by overlooking qualifications is another.

From this angle, Mr. Ritchie's article does not make pleasant reading. It describes a situation which is the harder to excuse because it is a situation which could have occurred only in a Maori community, which is still much more easily overawed by officialdom—especially Pakeha officialdom—than a European community. Yet if there is one certain finding both of common experience and social anthropology it is that, outside totalitarian regimes which have methods denied to us, change cannot be forced upon a people without upsetting morale. Understanding and free consent are vital. The whole history of Maori-European relationships has been be-devilled by failure to learn this lesson. In seeking agreement to changes in the status of schools any appearance of bureaucracy should be avoided. There is a way to avoid it too. The Committee on Maori Education should not have been set up to produce very general findings and then to vanish. It should be kept in existence to supervise the application of its findings in each case.

The good intentions of the officials concerned in the situation described by Mr. Ritchie are not in doubt. All that can be criticised is their lack of sensitivity to the feelings of the group with which they were dealing. Such sensitivity is not easily come by, and it usually requires training. Mr. Parsonage in his article goes far to contradict the strictures on the Maori Schools system made by Mr. Powell in the September, 1955, number of the Journal, but he also substantiates one indictment of the system when he says:

“It is true that there is no special training for teachers wishing to enter the Maori Schools' service.”
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To argue, as he then does, that a fundamental interest in the Maori people is enough to make such training unnecessary is not convincing, because it does not agree with the experience of administrations elsewhere, nor is it borne out by the results in New Zealand. Fundamental interest is one necessity; long experience is another; but trained understanding of Maori ways of thought is a third. Many persons may acquire it in time by themselves, but others cannot. With the changes in Maori education which are now contemplated there is a greater need than ever for training to make sure that Maori children get the understanding they deserve. The obligation is on the Department to see that it is given.

This brings us to our final comment. The Committee on Maori Education which approved the general principle of integration of the Maori Schools into the ordinary educational system of the Dominion also recommended that “every possible means should be adopted to strengthen the teaching of Maori history, legends, songs and art and crafts in all schools.” The second recommendation should be recognised as a condition of the first, and should be given equal priority. The sentiments expressed by Mr. Masters in his letter will find wide endorsement in our Society which has as one of its main objects the promotion of wider interest in Polynesian culture.