WILLIE JACKSON: Make Te Reo compulsory in schools


Professor Paul Moon is someone I have come to respect over the last few years. He is a Pakeha historian who writes on NZ history and race relations.

His latest book, “Ka Ngaro te Reo,” is one that all Kiwis should take note of. It tracks the factors that have led to the Maori language almost becoming a lost tongue.

Moon says: “If we use the analogy of a patient, then Te Reo Maori is on life support. The heart might be still pumping but the prognosis is pretty grim”.

Moon is right, the Maori language is in a perilous state and needs all the support that it can get.

Moon also believes Maori can hold governments directly responsible for where the language is today as successive governments were responsible for virtually outlawing Te Reo. Government policies made it clear that my parents and grandparents were not allowed to speak Te Reo at school and the consequences of that are you have had at least two generations of Maori who have grown up without their language.

If we didn't have a Maori language renaissance in the 1980s when Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa started, then I think you could have put money on the language being dead today.

However, Moon says despite the renaissance we are still in dangerous waters and the ceremonial use of the language has created a false public perception of stability.

Moon says more resourcing should be made available for Te Reo and the Government needs to draft legislation and policy to promote speaking Maori in the public sector. This makes sense, what doesn’t make sense though is Moon’s view that New Zealanders should not be compelled to learn Te Reo. I would have thought that this would have been a natural conclusion for him.

He trots out the standard nonsense that Kiwis hate being compelled to do anything. It may sound plausible but doesn’t take away the fact that New Zealanders are compelled or compulsorily have to do a lot of things.

Here's a few of them: We have to pay our taxes, we have to vote, we have to send our kids to school, we have to respect others in cafes and bars and not light up a smoke, we have to stop at the traffic lights when they turn red and I could go on and on.

However, the strangest point about this compulsion debate is how come it's oka for all Kiwi kids to compulsorily learn English at school but Maori is seen as one step too far?

It's always been my view that the language can only survive if our kids, Maori and Pakeha, grow up speaking Te Reo together. Te Reo should be compulsory in schools like English and maths. All the rubbish that is spouted about peoples’ freedoms being breached needs to stop.

No one will collapse or die if Maori becomes an integral part of the New Zealand curriculum. Maybe we shouldn’t use the word "compulsory" which is a word that somehow turns your average Pakeha into a political activist against Maori. Let’s just say Te Reo, like English and maths, will soon be available for every New Zealand child in their school.

Maybe Paul Moon might reconsider adding this policy next time he writes a book about the future of the Maori language.

Willie Jackson and Alison Mau, 12-3pm weekdays on RadioLIVE 

source: data archive