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No. 45 (December 1963)
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This is the text of a paper read by Mr Oppenheim at the Leadership Conference held by the Council of Adult Education in Auckland recently. It is published here in a slightly shortened form. As always in ‘Te Ao Hou’ the views expressed are those of the author only. We hope that you will write to let us know whether or not you agree with him.

Maori Children
in Auckland Schools

The results of the population census of 1961 show that Auckland has a total Maori population of 19,847 or approximately 5 per cent. This population is, furthermore, concentrated in relatively few areas within the city.

By itself this figure means little, but we may add that this number is unlikely to become smaller, indeed if present rates of migration and natural increase are maintained it will certainly become much larger very rapidly.

The fact is of course that people, both Maori and white people, are crowding into Auckland in greater numbers every year; already almost a sixth of New Zealand's population lives in this town. It is this crowding and its speed which generate problems.

Consequences for Education

In this paper I shall discuss the consequences for education of this rapid expansion. Let me say at the outset that this will not be an essay in social science, dimensioned by statistics and boundaried by the guide posts of research. It is a blunt statement of my own views, arrived at I admit with some regard for evidence, but also slanted by what I consider to be the good life, and the well ordered state. My concern is the social pressures which come to bear on the Maori child and how schools are involved in them.

We have reached our first clue then in the hunt for consequences, the fact of a relatively large migrant population concentrated largely in the more decrepit areas of a smallish town. Already an almost classic situation is beginning to arise, one in which the older immigrants are being displaced, with attendant conflicts, by the newer people of alien culture and attitudes. This is the experience of cities such as New York, Chicago and London, and it is now, on a smaller scale, to be our experience. It is caused not merely by the movement of Polynesians, but by the movement of the whole of New Zealand's population.

Let us look for a moment at the figures so far published from the Census of 1961. In the 27 statistical areas included in Auckland city, the total Maori population increased from 5,600 in 1956 to 8,009 in 1961, an increase of 75%. Almost all areas showed an increase, the inner city accounting for 5,230. There was a decrease in Auckland central, due no doubt to re-development, and there were falls in two other areas, Mission Bay and Kohimarama. Even the white fastnesses of Remuera and St. Heliers were breached, the Maori population of the former increasing from 38 to 89 and of the latter from 6 to 18.

By way of contrast Wellington's total for 1961 was 2,620. This startling increase in the Maori population, then, is exclusively part of Auckland's development. Because of the predominant youthfulness of this population and the high birth rate the result has been a general increase in school population.

Concentration of Immigrants

In certain areas the increase, as we have seen, has led to a concentration of rural Maori immigrants, with a consequent rise in the proportion of Maori children to those of other ethnic groups; I say other, not white, because the areas which are the reservoirs for Maori population function in the same way for immigrants of other ethnic groups; Cook Islanders, Samoans, Indians, and so on.

In two primary schools in these areas, special conditions have been introduced, classes have been reduced to 25 children, teachers have been given inducements to teach in the schools, a special language class is operated, and other

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amenities provided. So far these are the only schools in Auckland city where such special conditions have been established and in neither case has it been stated that this was because of the large numbers of Maori children, although in fact Maoris formed the biggest group in each school.

So far I have been speaking about the concentration of Maori population. Now let us look at the problems which beset the children in these schools. Let me say straight away that research is woefully limited at all levels, so that much of what I say must be guess work, helped out by personal experience.

First, why do people come to the city?

In general city life is more rewarding than rural life; cities contain a variety of people, of entertainments and of opportunities which are simply not available in country districts. Living is dearer, but wages are higher and work is more readily available. Family finances can be subsidised by working mothers, living is more convenient, the city dweller has a different outlook, even in New Zealand, from the countryman.

These are the things which induce people to come to the city, but if you look at the Real Estate columns of any paper you will see that high on the list of priorities is suburban living. New Zealand cities have not so far met the challenge of urban life and many people fear the creation of a truly urban environment.

Maoris seem to be less susceptible to this variety of double-think than whites and are prepared to accept relatively indifferent housing conditions for the sake of convenient location. This of course is not wholly true, since there are often barriers of one kind or another to a Maori's living anywhere else, except perhaps a State suburb. However, the fact remains that Maoris are becoming Auckland's true urban population, along with the other ethnic groups who live in the inner city. I am not persuaded that this is a bad thing, indeed it is for Auckland generally, a good thing, in that it is gradually livening up an otherwise dead town.

Problems for Children

For children however, it poses problems. The urban dwelling child seeks his amusements in rather restricted areas and is subject to hazards which the suburbanite knows nothing about. In my experience the Maori children of the inner city were frequently insecure in their feelings towards both home and outside environments. The older children would frequently talk nostalgically of their life in the country but did not really want to return. Many had a sense of being powerless to alter their social condition. The conflict for these children lay between the freedom they would have liked and the business of having to earn a living which was soon to be thrust upon them. Remember however, that I am speaking of adolescents and that it is fairly typical of children at this stage to have contradictory wants.

On the other hand, the Maori children who were the residents of the longest standing felt superior to, or more sophisticated than, the newer immigrants. They had learned, or thought they had learned, the culture of the city. But many did so from the underside, from the importunings of old men, from what they heard and saw in the parks and streets, from what they heard from other children, and too frequently, from the disregard of their parents. If some fell into unlawful activities it was only surprising that they had not done so earlier. With restricted English, a low-literacy household, and differently geared expectations from his suburban counterpart, he may look like and be an underprivileged child. However there is so far nothing permanent about his urban status; each year a number of Maori families overflow from the reservoir areas to the suburbs, so that while some remain urban dwellers many move out, thus facing a further adjustment.

Are there Differing Needs?

Should we then draw a distinction between Maori and white children and speak of them as having differing needs? The existence of Maori schools in the country points to such a difference. The N.Z. Year Book says of the schools run by the Education Department … ‘the schools are not completely English in outlook as Maori arts, crafts, songs, legends and history are taught … methods of teaching are practical and objectives closely related to the special needs of the Maori people’. These special needs appear to be cleanliness and craftsmanship, a typically puritan pair, for the Year Book goes on … ‘In many Maori schools woodwork rooms, cookery rooms, model cottages, baths, hot and cold showers and laundries are supplied. Health education is featured in every Maori school.’

But, and here is a problem, only 26.6% of Maori pupils are educated in Departmentally run schools, while 67% attend schools run by Education Boards. These generally lack the

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special equipment provided by the Department, or else they share it with other schools. As far as curricula are concerned Maori schools use the same syllabus as Board Schools, with the exceptions noted above.

We might well ask then whether Maori children are getting a square deal educationally. Is there a case to be made out for establishing Maori schools in the city, or should it be that all primary schools should have the amenities available in Maori schools, and that methods of teaching should be ‘practical and objective’, whatever that may mean.

I think the answer is fairly clear cut. Firstly, arguments for separation for any reason, good or ill, are completely out of fashion. Secondly, it is part of the Government's policy of integration, of which I shall have something to say shortly, to transfer control of the Maori schools to the Education Boards.

The fact remains that there still appears to be a belief that Maori children have needs which white children don't have. When it speaks of the teaching of myths, games and traditions, the Education Department is probably on safe enough ground; when it speaks of health, education, manual training and the like, I suspect that there is an overtone of nineteenth century paternalism which fails to express clearly the nature of the special needs. Whatever the case it is certain that if these are amenities provided in the Department's schools but not in the Board's schools, then most Maori children don't get the benefit of them anyway.

We might ask then just what differences exist between the main ethnic groups by the time children leave primary school. When, in 1958, I was teaching at an inner city school, the most important difference was in the expectations of the children. In general the Maori children in Form II expected to make their own choice of post primary course with little assistance from their parents. Other children were receiving more parental direction. In 1956–58 most of the Maori children leaving Form II at that particular school were a year or more older than the white children. Many of them reached the age of 15 in their third form year. They mostly left school then, apparently by their own choice, so that they gained little or no advantage from their post primary schooling.

Now I don't know how widespread this situation was but I suspect that it was and still is the case in all the inner schools. How far this condition was the result of being a Maori, I don't know, nor am I prepared to guess. Clearly at that time there was a failure of communication between the school and the parents, particularly the Maori parents. Clearly there was a difference in values between the white and Maori parents, but both differed widely, in what they valued from the ‘middle-class’ teachers who had charge of their children.

The inner city schools, remember, had the children of half the Maori immigrants in Auckland and possibly many more. If there was a case for making special schools, how much greater is the case for adequate social science research into the whole field of urbanization.

Having glanced briefly at the background of Maori primary education I now want to turn to the field of educational principles. Many of us tend to think of schools as being analagous to factories; they work on the children, their raw material, and send them off after so many years crated and labelled first grade, second grade and so on for further processing. This is a particularly easy kind of analogy to make. An evaluation in terms of the amount a child knows is a similarly easy and misleading way of looking at the effectiveness of schools. Let me make a primary distinction between education and schooling. The effectiveness of schooling can be measured in terms of the amount of knowledge gained by a particular child, the number of exams passed, marks gained and so on, or so the theory runs. There are educationalists who think otherwise, that these ‘quantity’ measures may not in fact be of much use.

Relevance to Maoris

This dispute would be irrelevant to our discussion if it were not for the fact that Maori children are pitchforked into an education system which, far from defining what it thinks valuable, seems to get along on a touching faith in practical solutions.

The pragmatist's attitude to the special needs of Maori children, indeed their perceptions of what are any child's needs, will be in terms of short term goals such as subject mastery, job getting and the like. I find myself strongly opposed to this view: a person has to live his whole life in society, and though the school is only one agency in education, it cannot afford to ignore the requirements of social life. The purpose of education as I see it is to free the human intellect so that the individual may imagine, enjoy, choose, protest about and criticize, and help to alter the culture and society in which he finds himself. This is the real busi-

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ness of schools and teachers and it is not achieved by blind subservience to subject mastery.

Has all this any relevance for Maoris? I think it has. Recently there has been a good deal said about the importance of education as a sort of Jacob's Ladder to the delights of an integrated society. The reasoning would seem to be that a more extended education will help to develop a Maori middle class which will have a stabilizing effect on race relations. I agree that wider use can probably be made of educational facilities but then nobody can be smug about this. The inference to be drawn from a lack of Maori use of these facilities is that the educational values expressed have not convinced people of their worth. If this is the case, then it is for all of us to ask why.

This is not to say that a great deal of thought does not go into our educational system. Certainly the bread and butter problems of administration are being taken care of, but the real problems are those of aim, philosophical direction and social significance, and these seem to be neglected. Perhaps the area in which we stand in most need of a consideration of the importance of education is that of race relations.

Victoria Values in Education

New Zealand culture is an offshoot of the culture of Victorian England. It is provincial and has developed apart from its parent stock, so that resemblances between the two are now fairly slight. None the less many Victorian values in education are still asserted. Also, in the course of our development, we have acquired some rather flattering ideas about ourselves. The first sentence of the Maori Affairs Department's booklet. ‘Integration’ runs, ‘for many years New Zealand has been recognized as one of the nations in the vanguard of those building multiracial societies …’ This must be true, we say it ourselves.

A few lines further down there is a reference to ‘some iconoclastic individuals’ who claim that ‘this apparent harmony is more the result of self-delusion and lack of contact between the two groups than it is of genuine tolerance’. The writers concede an element of truth in this.

Auckland the Testing Ground

Auckland has now become the testing ground for New Zealand's capacity to build a multiracial society; it is in this city that the actual confrontation of Maori and white is taking place. So far the signs of tension are slight but I for one am less optimistic than the Maori Affairs Department about the future.

Let me restate a point that I made earlier. The problem is made not so much by the number of Maoris involved as by the quality of the contacts between the groups. Maoris are ‘visible’ to whites, that is they are distinguishable in a mixed group even when their actions are in no way different from those of other members of the group. For most white people the terms in which they think are those of, ‘that Maori!’ For white people Maoris are too often, ‘faceless’, to use James Baldwin's word, and the same applies to the reverse situation. Understanding of Maori values by whites or indeed by Maoris for that matter, is slight, our artists and writers have not yet sought to explain them to us, so that the relationship between the two groups is rather that of a truce, a kind of live and let live based on mutual ignorance. For the moment this may be good enough. In some areas where a scatter of Maoris through a white community is taking place, evaluation of the Maoris by the whites seems to be in terms of person to person relationships without much reference to stereotypes. But will this continue, I wonder, as more Maoris and other immigrants crowd into the city, as the white community becomes more resistant to changes over which it seems to have little control. What happens when economic levels drop, employment becomes harder to get, and money, the great leveller, becomes scarcer? In the housing advertisements one frequently reads ‘No Maoris’, ‘Europeans only’. A friend of mine buying a section on the shore was assured by the agent that ‘of course there are no Maoris in the district’. (The agent was lying: the next door household was mixed.)

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Is this situation any concern of the schools? Children seem to be fairly free of prejudice; is there any way in which they can be prevented from developing racial prejudice? There have been a number of ideas followed up in other countries; study of the background of the group, inter-group camps, increased contacts, adoption of another school, propaganda, adult education and so on. All have some worth and applied together they probably have value. Increased contact is certainly important but it is by no means the whole answer. Once more, it is the quality of the contact that counts. Consider for a moment the situation in two schools in which I have taught in the last five years. In one, a city school, all the children came from homes of lower socio-economic status, many with a very limited educational background. In this school friendships across ethnic boundaries became fewer as the children grew older, and occurred mainly in two groups: the most intelligent, and those most actively in rebellion, the outcasts.

Contact can Create Prejudice

The other school is in a middle-upper income area, where there are probably not more than four or five Maori children out of the five hundred in the school. Here these children were absorbed without comment. In one school prejudice frequently showed itself, in the other the question barely arises. Contact can create prejudice. I should like to quote to you what Norman Podhoretz, Editor of the American journal ‘Commentary’, has to say of this. Podhoretz describes his boyhood in a lower class immigrant section of New York. He tells of how he was bullied by Negro children and of how it became impossible to bridge the gap by direct communication and goes on to describe the conflict between his own feelings and his present convictions. He says ‘I have told the story of my own twisted feelings about Negroes … in order to assert that such feelings must be acknowledged as honestly as possible so that they can be controlled and ultimately disregarded in favour of the convictions.’

I would go so far as to say that most white New Zealanders do not acknowlede their negative feelings about Maoris or other nonwhites not because they do not have them, but because they do not have to do so.

Would increased contact between Maori and white children help? All I can say is that I don't know, but as a practising teacher I am ready to try it and to this end am attempting to arrange a series of exchanges between my own class and one in the inner city involving each class spending one day a week for some weeks in the other's school. I am not sure that the value of this will be lasting but it is worth a try.

A Mutual Ignorance

At least part of the problem of race relations in the school is the teachers themselves. The child does not know what the teacher wants or doesn't much value it, and the teacher is ignorant of what the child has been taught to value. Teachers are recruited from the middle class on the whole, and their models of good behaviour and the good society are middle class ones. Their pupils, however, may have quite different models. Maori teachers are recruited from almost the equivalent stratum of Maori society. Each may be faced with a similar dilemma in understanding Maori pupils, with the Maori teacher perhaps a little worse off since he or she will be expected by some magic to be hip to what Maori children think, want, and do.

Although I have no programme in race relations I think that at this point at least something can be done by the simple expedient of ensuring that teaching trainees have a really tough course in race relations with special reference to New Zealand. This approach could be extended, I think, to secondary school students as part of their social studies work.

There are other reasons for suggesting this. Consider, for a moment, the ways in which ethnocentricity can express itself in New Zealand thinking. In an infant classroom I have heard children singing ‘Ten Little Nigger Boys’, there is a popular book called ‘Little Black Sambo’ and another reader on sale in Auckland called ‘Nigger My Dog’, or some such title. A child hears phrases like to work like a nigger, the nigger in the woodpile, to Jew someone out of something, to be as black as a nigger. Or hears a parking meter called a Jewish juke box, a certain kind of beetle called a Maori-bug, and he may even go to see such a thing as the ‘Black and White Minstrel Show’.

More Subtle Attitudes

These are crude examples of white superiority attitudes. But there are more subtle kinds of ethnocentricity, attitudes of tolerance and patronage, of the some-of-my-best-friends kind. Most subtle of all is the kind of attitude held

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often enough by white liberals. Here the supposition is that Maoris become acceptable as they become less Maori and more like middle-class whites, as they show the favoured forms of diligence, temperance, and the like. There is also a counter attitude in which Maoris are admired for their simplicity and vitality.

Do not think that these attitudes are held only by whites. Maori children quite often carry the same or similar attitudes, and one is as likely to hear an anti-Negro or anti-Semitic remark from them as anyone else, although of course one encounters a reverse version of the white forms of prejudice where these are directed specially at Maoris.

Teachers are no less likely to be prejudiced than anyone else in the community and though in the only case that I know of where a teacher acted in a discriminatory fashion toward Maori pupils this was very strongly disapproved by his colleagues, nonetheless these same people often enough displayed innocently prejudiced thinking. Because I have seen a good deal of this kind of thing and have run all too frequently into the most astounding over-simplifications of race-relations problems I think that the time is overdue for this to become a compulsory part of teacher education.

The Problem Areas

In talking to you about Maori children in Auckland schools I have tried to indicate to you the problem areas which I consider to be important. I have not discussed the curriculum area, not because it is unimportant but because there are many better minds than mine at work on the problems of what and how to teach children. I would say that at the moment there is a fair amount of goodwill in the schools towards the Maori parent and the Maori pupil. Most of my colleagues assure me that they are only too willing to discuss their children's progress with parents but they find few who are willing to come along. I think that you should take advantage of this goodwill.

If my discussion has centred on the school and the problems of race relations then it is because I think this is a matter of the greatest importance. You may have wondered why I have used the word white instead of the usual euphemism Pakeha or European. The reason for this is because the difference between the two main groups is first one of skin colour and only secondarily one of culture. The gap of culture will narrow far more quickly than the gap of colour.

I have tried to show also the way in which the colour-gap, if I may use the term, is a theme in New Zealand culture. There is much more to say on this point. Earlier I said that I was not optimistic about the future and remarked elsewhere that I have no programme for improved race relations. I suppose you will want me to account for these statements so I had better do so now.

Total Integration Unlikely

If you are an optimist you will look forward to a time when New Zealand is a fully integrated society. I, on the one hand, think total integration highly unlikely; nor do I think it so terribly desirable. The key to an interesting life is surely variety, and cultural variety is the stimulus for much that helps to make life more interesting. However there is another barrier to integration and this is the history and traditions of the white society. This society is sick in its feelings toward other peoples and has even succeeded in communicating this sickness to them; remember the Maori children who are prejudiced against Negroes and examine your own attitudes. If we wanted other proof then we need only say two words, Warsaw and Hiroshima. The ghetto and the fire bomb are not the products of healthy societies, yet their philosophy still continues. The most that can be hoped for is that there will be fewer sick people, or that a social climate can be created in which it is unprofitable to work this sickness out in prejudice and discrimination. Children in schools at the moment are not, for the reasons I have outlined, receiving the stimulus to think out the problems of the relations of Maori and white, and this is a subject to which you might give thought.

The Conscience of our Society

What can be done. I am suspicious of recipes whatever name is attached to them and I think that official moves in the race relations and educational fields can only be slow and related to specific cases. You cannot legislate people into knowledge nor can you expect much from the man in the street. It remains then for us to become the conscience of our society in all matters of race relations. White New Zealand needs the services of the needle that punctures the pompous phrase, the piece of pious humbug. Social problems are not a product of numbers alone; they exist as the product of ideas in the minds of individuals. It

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is you the Maori people who must goad us, the whites, into looking within ourselves for the source of our actions, and you must do likewise. The role of the education system in this is important.

To conclude I should like to quote to you a passage from the American Negro writer James Baldwin whose eloquent essay, ‘Letter from a Region in my Mind’, I recommend to you. Although he is speaking of the American situation there is much here of importance to Aucklanders also.

He says …

‘If we … and I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on or create the consciousness of the others—do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.’