The All Whites via Getty
The All Whites via Getty

If we're teaching kids that they have white privilege, surely we can’t have a sports team called the All Whites anymore?

Peter Williams 23/07/2021

OPINION: What’s becoming obvious is that the indoctrination of our education system with this concept called “white privilege” is starting at the top.

I stayed up well past my bedtime last night to watch the men’s football team win at the Olympic games for the first time ever. It makes such a difference to a team having a world class striker who can make the most of goal scoring opportunities, so well played Chris Wood. I noted by the way no taking of the knee before the match. This team just got on with playing - and winning. But in light of what is happening around the world at the moment, how long can a New Zealand sports team be called anything with the word “white” in it?

How long before the full men’s team, the All Whites, and these guys the Olywhites, have to change their name? I mean if we’re teaching kids that they have white privilege, surely we can’t have a sports team called the All Whites anymore can we? What sort of message does that send out to the world? Especially to our masters and mistresses at the United Nations?

Am I being serious? Not really. Well, I don’t think I am. But Jeez, if an opening ceremony director can lose his job for something he said 23 years ago, and a composer’s music can be written out of the opening ceremony because of something he did 35 years ago when he was at school, then frankly nothing, and I mean, absolutely nothing in this mad world is off limits anymore. Some days I just want to scream to the world, I’m sorry I even exist.

And the more I do that, the more I want to stop the bus, get off and hide under a rock while the madness passes. How will it end? When will it end? Even the poor innocent afghan biscuit can be no more. It has become a chocolate roughie. Did we ask rough people about that?

We did ask both the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and the Secretary of Education Iona Holsted to come on the radio and talk about these white privilege courses, but these two very white people refused to do so. Great eh. They’re not prepared to defend their mad decisions in public.

Yesterday Act Party leader David Seymour told us how the Ministry of Education has spent the thick end of $700,000 so far on courses for staff that teach them guilt and shame are natural responses to white privilege. There are about 4000 staff at the Ministry and in the last three years about 60 percent of them have been through this course called “Beyond Diversity,” a variation of an American course called  “Courageous Conversations about Race.” And on this course you apparently learn this: “white privilege acknowledges the history of colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as the current and continuing impacts it has on our society and systems.

Guilt and shame are something many human beings experience on this journey. People are provided with a space to share parts of their lived experiences that have remained silent and invisible for a long time.” So I read from that, people go on this course and confess their sins about being white. What’s becoming obvious is that the indoctrination of our education system with this concept called “white privilege” is starting at the top. We asked the Minister to talk about why it’s needed. He declined. We asked the Ministry boss Iona Holsted to talk about why it’s happening. She declined. But she did give us this statement.

This is it.

“The statistics show us that our education system is not working for Māori, Pacific and diverse learners.This professional development opportunity that we offer our staff is about building cultural competency. We are a diverse country and our staff need to work in a way that respects and complements the Crown’s treaty with Māori as tangata whenua and citizens. The training we make available encourages staff to understand the origin of Te Tiriti and how to engage. What we offer is designed to create opportunities for positive engagement, not to create guilt.  Our job is to create an education system that is equitable and fair for all tamariki, and we will lead by example.”

So I take it from that, one way to lift levels of educational achievement is for many of the teachers and administrators and curriculum setters to feel guilty about where they come from. Is that really a way forward? Isn’t this kind of course just another example of what the education professor Elizabeth Rata calls ethno-Nationalism? That is, your life and your being is defined by your ethnicity. And if you are a mix of ethnic backgrounds, choose the one with poorest social statistics and blame the other parts for what you have become.

The concept is nuts. We cannot help where we have come from. We all have opportunities in life. We all get to make decisions about our life. The choices we make decide our fate. We should not blame what happened in the past for what we are now. The key is to learn from the mistakes of history and never repeat them. The problem is ethno-nationalism is a mistake from history. We are on the cusp of making a major mistake in this country. And the Ministry of Education is not helping the cause. Neither being a victim nor being overcome with guilt for the sins of your ancestors will get us anywhere in life.

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