The current clamour for teaching our history in schools doesn’t surprise me. I say that as having put numerous offspring through our supposedly top private schools in Wellington, Auckland and Sydney over the past half century, it’s always alarmed me to note the absence of history in their school reports. Instead they’re riddled with ‘feel‑good’ subjects. To me, in an education pecking order, history is the first base subject after learning to read.

But here’s what puzzles me.

In my Lower Hutt state primary school we were taught New Zealand history for two consecutive years when I was respectively 9 and 10, this in the post‑war years.

Then in 1953 aged 13 at Naenae College, it being rough as guts back then, in the 3rd form we, all working class offspring, did human history, starting with primitive man and the development of civilisations in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Middle Ages, the Rise of Islam, Feudalism, the crusades, development of towns and trade and the growth of the modern state. I’m copying all of that from the chapter titles in the first three sections in our history book called, “The March of Civilisation”.

Thereafter the Renaissance, the Reformation, Philosophers, Colonialism, the French Revolution, Industrial Revolution and so on. All of this, obviously not in great depth, at 13. It was described under the umbrella title of Social Studies which included geography.

In the 5th form the year’s history was devoted to modern British history, beginning with the 1851 Great Exhibition through to the centennial 1951 exhibition. The text book, still a great read, I have before me; “A Portrait of Britain.”

Then in a final year there aged 16 we did 19th century Irish history and the quest for independence, the break‑up of the old European order after Waterloo and 19th Century Russian history up until the 1917 revolution.

We also did a month on medieval church architecture. Why? Because we had the most wonderful teacher who hammered into us that absolutely everything is interesting and we studied that to illustrate his point. It’s why I have over 20,000 books in three homes and have spent the majority of my waking hours reading ever since I left school. I’ve done a few other things as well of course, but reading has been the main one and now, 64 years later I’m still grateful to that teacher for his wisdom.

All of the above was as then prescribed for state schools by the education authorities. Why for God’s sake was it ever abandoned?

And for the record, noting the nonsense currently being talked implying the old order was teaching “dates” and “kings and queens”, that’s absolute cock, as the above list of topics illustrates.

I’d say this as a qualification. The current clamour is being driven solely by a desire to teach New Zealand history and fashionable revisionism re the Maori wars, as they were referred to in our primary school New Zealand history lessons.

Well of course kids should do New Zealand history, but, keep it in context. By that I mean New Zealand in every sense is insignificant in the scheme of things and of greater importance, children should be introduced to the entire fabric of human history back to the Stone Age, just as we all were in those post‑war years.



When I was at my old local primary school in the mid 70s, there was an almost equal mix of male and female teachers. Now, apart from the headmaster and the caretaker, the entire staff is female. Where is the diversity? Clearly this concept is a one-way street and efforts are required to increase the number of men in teaching. Given that more children are growing up in homes without a male role model, having a male teacher is even more important. If this were to happen, the squawks from the lefties would be deafening.

Excellent stuff, Bob.

In one discussion you destroyed all the “feel good, me too, deserving hands out” from the modern teaching era.This History inclusion is good, however it is as you say…….another string to the “poor me”, because of all those colonial bastards and will it be broad enough to really cover History as you say or including a non sanitised NZ narrative.
I was educated in Ireland in the seventies , the subjects were History, Geography, Maths—(Aritthmetc- Algebra-Geometry ) Irish – the language (Gaelic) , English…..all aspects of writing, composing,prose, grammar use , prose, poetry. and so much more on The English Language.—Science- which focused on Chemistry, Religion which had a C bent, however it also taught about world history religions.
What did this education do for us ? – It made us think. .we were good thinkers from this syllabus, an essential outcome, think………, always essential and never ending as you travel through life.
Then for physical education we went half day each week to the park and beat the crap out of each other at Hurling and Gaelic football matches.Tough times, tough people.

this was my experience also and I also still read daily life is a balance of learning from history living for today and preparing for tomorrow

Quite right. New Zealand history, including the Treaty and the wars, make no sense except in the context of what had been going on in the rest of the world.

My interest in history started in nz primary schools.now living in the uk I can walk into a church and date it I love following history through out history I spend so much time researching before I go,when I lived in nz I used to take my kids following Moari wars.history is what makes a country

I was a bit later at school than Sir Bob and did not do history at high school, but otherwise my memories are very similar

Teach the history on NZ by all means but teach it all…. not just the supposed injustices of the land ears… the Treaty arose out of the preceding 40 years, which not surprisingly the Post Colonial Stress mob and Marxist revisions conveniently want to ignore…..

I remember some NZ history at the Primary level back in the 60s. Later NZ history at Vic, Jamie Belich as tutor. But the thing that seared itself into my memory banks as a kid were the dioramas from ChCh museum, of things Maori, and the natural world too. I still fondly seek them out when I visit.

Bang on Bob. My favourite subject was Social Studies followed by Tech Drawing. I had great teachers for both subjects. The history we learnt is superior to that which my children have been been taught. But they have made that up by following Dads example of reading as a pastime.

Interesting article so thought thought provoking.
I was at Rata Street School eventually moving on to Naenae College as well & like you we were taught NZ and European history including British from the 1066 Norman Invasion onward.
I am utterly appalled at the ignorance out there regarding a decent history foundation
I lived 30 plus years in Auckland & I met kids who didn’t even know who our Prime Minister was plus they didn’t know Wellington was our capital.
I have no faith in this new proposal it will just be a another endorsement of a corny Liberal worldview.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: