At a recent Christmas function, I spoke with someone about education. He informed me of an education conference that claimed that Māori failure at schools was due to middle-aged white female teachers failing to understand and recognise the cultural significance of being Māori. I was stunned by this; firstly, it smacked of critical race theory (CRT) and secondly, the lack of understanding that possibly young Māori are failing at school, not because of the teachers, but because some Māori children have poor backgrounds, do not get fed properly, have drug or alcohol problems, or simply have parents who do not value education and do not read to them or teach them maths.
My partner is one of those teachers, and she has had to deal many times with young Māori behavioural problems, a lack of interest in learning, alcohol, and drug abuse. However, she still cares for their education. There are two parts to this argument about Māori underachievement at school. The first is critical race theory which may seem unrelated to the statement made, but the implication of the statement is loaded with this theory. CRT is already infiltrating education institutions in the United States, Britain and now New Zealand. The above statement smacks of the essence of white privilege and that white people are inherently racist. Of course, this goes without saying that colonialism is as much to blame for poor Māori under achievement at school, as anything else. The second part is the social issues that surround underachievement, which sadly has a much greater impact on all children, not just Māori. This is a separate issue. Instead of dealing with the social issues that affect Māori, or even for that matter of poor education and learning across all children, not just Māori, te reo and Māori concepts and attitudes are being forced on all children at a time of gross underachievement in our schools.
What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Matt Goodwin provides a good example of CRT in his paper on Critical Race Theory in British Schools as:
“CRT can be defined as an ideology that is founded on the belief that the fundamental organising principle of society is racism, which has been created by white people for the benefit of white people. For this reason, CRT contends America is “institutionally racist”, interprets any disparity in outcomes between different groups as evidence of this “institutional” or “structural” racism, and argues that minority groups, which are forever being harmed by “microaggressions” and biases within this system, must be given preferential treatment over the majority to compensate for this racism.” *1
Currently it is hiding in our schools but comes out at times as the incident I have quoted above. It is easy to blame middle aged white female teachers for Māori underachievement when the problem is something totally different. In his book, “The War on the West”, Douglas Murray covers how critical race theory (CRT) has infected the educational system in America (and Matt Goodwin in one of his extensive articles, also covers of this issue in how CRT is now affecting the British system). For example,
“In Seattle, the public schools have claimed that white teachers in the schooling system are ‘spirit murdering’ black children” *2.
“At the East Side Community School in New York (amongst other things) … to ‘dismantle institutions’ and stress the necessity of ‘dismantling whiteness’ plus not allowing whiteness to reassert itself’. Over in the Bronx, a ‘Disrupt and Dismantle’ campaign led to one educator being ‘grilled’ about her ethnic (Jewish) background and being admonished for refusing to perform a ‘black power’ salute” *3
Douglas Murray also details how one teacher, Paul Rossi had to “heal my relationship with the students of colour” because he had questioned aspects of “objectivity’, “individualism,” and “fear of open conflict,” among other traits, as characteristics of “white supremacy” in a zoom meeting with students.*4 Yet, even though the school principal (George Davidson) agreed with Rossi that white children were being “demonized”, Rossi was eventually put on leave and had to resign.
As he left the school, “He said to the principal on his way out, the reason that the principal had not shared his concerns he had about racist training going on at his school was because ‘you know what happens to people who do. It is happening to me right now’” *5.
And dare I add, that at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, “There has also been a redesign of the eleventh-grade US history course that is now taught ‘from a critical race theory perspective.” *6
This leads me to another story that is relevant to the idea that CRT has crept into our schools. I use this story to provide a reference point to what has already happened in Britain and is now beginning to (if not already) happening here. I know of a child having their first day at school. The school held a welcome, a powhiri (a Māori welcome). As things go these days, mainstream, but in this case, it was completely over the top. The powhiri was totally in Māori and lasted 30 minutes. No consideration was given to the children who were mostly white, Indian, Chinese, Polynesian or of middle Eastern heritage. It was completely wrong, disingenuous, and arrogant to say the least. Naturally this was very upsetting to some parents.
As a result, the child moved to a private school. The father phoned the headmaster and told him why they were removing their child – they wanted their child to be part of a multi-cultural school. The headmaster’s response was, “so they are going to a white school.” It was a deeply loaded statement. He knew right then they had made the right decision. Even two teachers at the school told the parents they understood why they were moving their child to a private school. It should be noted all the teachers at the junior school are all lovely white middle age/class women. This is happening across New Zealand, a fact strangely pointed out to me from someone in Melbourne. The point is that the New Zealand education system is surreptitiously using CRT to promote Māori values and concepts over the broad need of everyone else. It is stepping further and beyond CRT. Yet, it is important to contend that this approach is part of CRT too.
“CRT contends that all Western nations are institutionally and inherently racist and so their shared history, identity, myths, memories and unifying stories need to be ‘deconstructed’, or openly repudiated.”*7
This approach is very dangerous for many reasons. In his book “Liberalism and its Discontents”, Francis Fukuyama argues that CRT “has morphed into a destructive and divisive creed that is attacking liberalism in four areas.” *8
“It prioritises the rights of fixed identity groups above individual rights. It prioritises some groups over others and so erodes the core principle of universal human equality on which liberal societies were founded. It encourages scepticism if not hostility toward free speech and scientific rationalism as methods of apprehending truth. And it fosters a deep intolerance of views which deviate from CRT, and which often leads to calls to use the instruments of state and social power (e.g., schools, universities, media, and so on) to enforce this orthodoxy on politics and the prevailing culture.” *9
As Goodwin explains, there is a fifth reason. “It has absolutely no interest in the specific historical and cultural context in which nations operate. *10. This is where Britain comes into sharp focus with the dilemma we face in New Zealand.
“Britain, seen through the lens of CRT, is no different from America. Both countries are structurally racist societies which have a shameful past, a stigmatised majority and so need to be radically re-organized around sacred minority groups and their “allies” (a term which itself reflects how CRT activists believe we are in a war).” *11
While Goodwin goes on to explain the problems CRT is causing in Britain and the divisions it is causing among young and old, he does summarise my point above in a British context, of which I believe is highly relevant to New Zealand, especially in the context of holding 30 minute powhiris totally in Māori, forcing Māori prayers on school children four times a day, to rewriting our history curriculum to contend the evils of colonisation on an unsuspecting indigenous race, without explaining the wider virtues of colonialism or a collective shared history (this is also happening in the science curriculum).
“Whatever your politics, whether you are on the left, the right or in the centre, the fact remains that deeply ideological concepts such as “white privilege,” “systemic racism” and “unconscious bias” are political ideas that are heavily contested. They do not come close to representing consensus values in society or have sufficient evidence to be taught to children as though they are objective knowledge and truth. Furthermore, teaching children about these contentious issues in a politically biased way is against the law. Schools in Britain are required to remain politically impartial and should offer a balanced presentation of opposing views when political issues are discussed. “*12
Footnote: I know of a child who wanted to be in the school video explaining te reo. She was told she could not participate because she was pakeha.
*1 Matt Goodwin – Critical Race Theory is infecting Britain’s schools, page 3
*2 Douglas Murray – The War on the West, page 52
*3 Douglas Murray – The War on the West, page 52
*4 Douglas Murray – The War on the West, page 53
*5 Douglas Murray – The War on the West, page 54
*6 Douglas Murray – The War on the West, page 54
*7 Matt Goodwin – Critical Race Theory is infecting Britain’s schools, page 4
*8 Matt Goodwin – Critical Race Theory is infecting Britain’s schools, page 4
*9 Matt Goodwin – Critical Race Theory is infecting Britain’s schools, page 4
*10 Matt Goodwin – Critical Race Theory is infecting Britain’s schools, page 4
*11 Matt Goodwin – Critical Race Theory is infecting Britain’s schools, page 4
*12Matt Goodwin – Critical Race Theory is infecting Britain’s schools, page 5