Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 53 (December 1965)
– 54 –

BOOKS
An Educational Book
With a Difference

Books to do with educational theory and practice are very often written in a style all of their own, where ordinary words are put together in quite extraordinary combinations with meanings subtly different from those usually given them. This kind of book can be a source of frustration and irritation rather than information for the interested reader, that is if he doesn't drop it like a hot potato after the first couple of pages. This ‘interested reader’ opened ‘In The Early World’ with some reluctance and gloomy expectations, in spite of the bright dust-jacket, knowing that there could be no ‘dropping’ till the end of the book and the beginning of a review. The foreword did nothing to cheer me up (I suggest this be read at the end or not read at all), but the first page proper did. Here was a maze all right, but of real live children doing, not mere words theorising—an educational book with a difference, surely. I read on.

The back of the dust-jacket reveals that Elwyn S. Richardson became a primary school teacher more by accident than by careful planning. His main interest in the 1940s was molluscology, and while he was waiting for a museum position where he could further his studies in this subject, he went teaching in a small school at Oruaiti, Northland, because he was attracted by the molluscs of that area. However children, not molluscs, kept him there twelve years, absorbed in working out new teaching methods aimed at developing the creative activities of his Maori and Pakeha pupils. ‘In the Early World’ is a written and pictorial account of the enormous amount of work done by both teacher and children during these twelve years, and it is not, as one may suppose after glancing quickly through the excellent photos and prints, an account of the art and craft and literary work only. Language Techniques, Social Studies, Nature Study, Mathematics are all dealt with, but not in the usual keep-them-separate-in-watertight-compartments manner.

In 1950 Mr Richardson introduced the children to clay, and his description of how they learned through trial and error to make pots and fire them in their home-made kiln is a joy to read.

‘Flames were roaring up through the pottery by then and the wedges of clay used to block the chimney cracks were shrinking away from the bricks. ‘What that bang, Neville?’ asked Rex anxiously, ‘or was it a stick blowing up?’ ‘Rake the fires quick, rake 'em quickly, it's pots blowing up’ yelled Neville—None of us knew what we had done.’

Pottery was followed by lino cutting, modelling in clay, screen printing using nature designs, oil painting, tile moulding, mask making, wood carving and picture poems. Mr Richardson found that ‘because of the new developments in the arts, especially with Maori children, a strong development was seen in language’.

In the far away distance
I can hear the telephone wires
Singing in churches
Like Pakehas.

Mary

Drama came later, as did story telling, movement, chants, scale modelling, map reading and a school magazine.

During the first attempts at thought writing, Mr Richardson concluded that ‘all children had in them a gift of seeing directly and a talent for expressing their vision with truth and power. This talent or gift is a large part of what I mean by creativity. It is there in all children, I feel, but it will not come to the surface unless it is recognised and encouraged’. He went on to discover that the values, attitudes, techniques and disciplines developed by a child working in one medium (clay), were carried over to work in another medium (words), simply because these were developments of the child's own potentials and remained with him whatever new forms of expression he adopted.

Furthermore he realised that a child may have to work in several different media in order to express himself fully about the same topic. This process he calls ‘integration of expression’, and the ‘deep and intense study of

– 55 –

a topic' proved to be his most effective teaching method and the most important characteristic of their school work. His co-workers (pupils) soon found that a depth study of any topic necessarily involved work in several subjects. Take clay for instance. In order to make pots one had to find the most suitable clay in the district (Nature Study), learn how to work it up (Craft), decorate it (Art), find out what happens to it when fired (Science and Mathematics), compare the finished product with other pots (Art Appreciation and Social Studies), and describe one's reactions to the whole process (written and oral expression). The amount of ‘formal’ work required in this ‘depth’ study should have satisfied any school inspector, though I suspect Mr Richardson was far too busy making his discoveries to worry about the grading mark system.

The book itself could have been improved, I feel, with some pruning, especially in the examples of written work, but the prints and photographs are so good that a certain uniformity hardly palls. However, the very attractiveness of the book may distract the specialist who is primarily concerned with a new and revolutionary theory of education, while the author's contributions towards such a theory, mixed up as they are with examples and descriptions of the children's work, may put off the ordinary reader whose attention was caught in the first place by the pretty pictures. It is extremely difficult to satisfy two quite different readers with the one book, and I'm not sure that Mr Richardson has really succeeded here.

Some of Mr Richardson's ‘discoveries’ seem rather obvious and almost commonsensical (we already know anyone works better if his interest is captured, success is a fine incentive to further effort, real problems are more stimulating than artificial ones), and his ‘method’ applied by the wrong person could create chaos in the classroom and a nervous breakdown in the teacher. However Mr Richardson has proved beyond doubt that his discoveries, integrated into a design for education, and his methods, applied with wisdom and humility, can have an almost magical effect on children. (Perhaps the best way to teach children is to learn with them.) The high quality of the work shown in this book is outstanding. It makes one wonder what undeveloped potentials one's own children may be harbouring, and even what we might have done ourselves under the same treatment.

As an afterthought, where would Mr Richardson lead our children if he had the chance, to a good pass in School Certificate, a safe job, a big pay packet? He says, ‘this is the direction of educational growth, towards better and more abundant life’. I think he is referring to the individual only here, but a generation or two of individuals developed by a creative education might have the strength to shake the foundations of our cut-throat cliche-ridden society. And this would be no tragedy.

Beyond School

This book, written as a guide for young people who are about to leave school, examines the world in which we live and work. It discusses the economic, social and political factors which will influence the school leaver in the adult world, and it also deals with some of the problems and challenges of the future.

– 56 –

The material is easy to digest, for it is presented in a practical, down-to-earth-manner, and full use is made of diagrams. Much of the information has been condensed from dozens of pamphlets and books.

It is indeed a pity that the authors were not born earlier, so that people like myself would have received some knowledge of the outside world.

Subjects are presented in a way which will encourage discussion and the formation of readers' own ideas. Some people may consider that certain of the subjects are in the controversial field; such topics as citizenship, race relations, the function of government and the responsibilities of developed countries to emerging countries, will undoubtedly provoke thoughtful discussion. Chapter 11 on population is well done, and is a ‘must’ so far as Maori parents and children are concerned.

This book is aimed at the school leaver. May I suggest that it is also a ‘must’ for members of Maori Women's Welfare Leagues, Maori Committees, and last but not least, social workers in the Maori field.

‘Beyond School’ costs 16s 6d, and is cheap at the price.

New Zealand and the World's Books

This small book tells the story of the translation of the Bible into Maori, and also deals more briefly with the work of New Zealanders who have translated the Bible into other languages.

The section dealing with the Maori Bible is written by the late Very Rev. J. G. Laughton, who eloquently describes the labours of the first scholars in the field, and the later work of the Maori Bible Revision Committee responsible for the revised edition of 1950.

Maori Paintings

In the last issue of Te Ao Hou there was an article on the work of Gottfried Lindauer, the artist who painted portraits of so many of the great Maori men and women of the past.

Most of Lindauer's paintings were acquired by his patron H. E. Partridge, who 50 years ago presented them to the people of Auckland. Painted with meticulous accuracy, they are a unique and irreplaceable collection.

This book contains 48 of the 70 paintings in the Patridge collection, all of them reproduced in colour. It is well designed and printed. Though most of the paintings chosen are portraits, several depict traditional Maori activities and customs.

The royalties from the sale of the book are to be paid to the Maori Education Foundation.

The Springing Fern

A novel for young people. ‘The Springing Fern’ covers the period of Maori history from the first arrival of the Pakeha to the 1940s. The episodes in the story first appeared a number of years ago as a series of Primary School Bulletins.

Mr Finlayson's understanding of his subject, and his feeling for it, makes this story a moving as well as an exciting one. Any reader over the age of 10 should enjoy it, and will at the same time learn a considerable amount of unobtrusively presented history.

Stand In the Rain

This short novel, a love story written with deceptive simplicity, is one of the best New Zealand stories I have read.

The characters live most of the time in the country, leading a nomadic sort of existence pig-hunting, rabbit shooting, scrub-cutting and so on. The relationship between the lovers, the people they meet, and the countryside and townships through which they travel, are described with a total lack of sentimentality, a remarkable naturalness and candour, and poetic sensibility.

I am sure that ‘Stand In The Rain” will be widely read. It certainly deserves to be.

Favourite Maori Legends

Another title in A. W. Reed's series of modestly priced books on Maori culture, this collection of legends is a simplified re-telling of some of the stories previously published in the same author's comprehensive work. ‘Trea-

– 57 –

sury of Maori Folklore.'

There are excellent illustrations by Roger Hart.

The New Zealanders in Colour

This handsome book of colour photographs is a lively, realistic portrait of New Zealanders at work and at play, in the country and in the towns.

J. D. McDonald's highly readable text matches the virtues of the photographs.

M.O.

Very few volumes of poetry published in New Zealand have sold as many copies as Hone Tuwhare's book. ‘No Ordinary Sun’, which was recently re-printed for the second time.

The artist Selwyn Muru has painted two murals depicting Maori rock drawings for Wellington's Overseas Passenger Terminal.

The artist Ralph Hotere, of Hokianga, recently returned to New Zealand after four years in Europe. Born in 1931 and educated at St Peter's College and Auckland University, Hotere was awarded a New Zealand Art Fellowship in 1961.

While in London he had several successful exhibitions of his paintings, including one-man shows at well known galleries.

A one-man show held in Auckland since his return has attracted much interest.

Early this year an Auckland Maori Groups Association was formed with delegates from many of the numerous Maori clubs in the Auckland area. It aims at sponsoring goodwill and unity between clubs and pooling their mutual knowledge on matters of Maori culture.

A reunion of the descendants of Patuone, the famous Ngapuhi chief who lived at Hokianga in the last century will be held early next year. More than 1000 descendants are expected to attend a gathering at Waitangi on February 26 and to assemble in Auckland later to make a pilgrimage to Patuone's grave at Devonport.