Friday, July 31, 2009

Lucia Calls for Maori to be compulsory in schools

Willie Jackson has written an opinion piece arguing for Maori to be made a compulsory subject in all New Zealand schools. Why compulsory? Well, the language is still in danger of dying despite all the millions spent on it, so the education system has to step in.
Maori language must be a core subject in the curriculum just like English and mathematics, rather than an add-on.

I’ve heard all the nutty arguments about why it’s wrong for Maori to be compulsory, but the reality is English is compulsory, as is maths, so why shouldn’t Maori be too? Maori is our indigenous language and an official language alongside English.
Not a particularly strong argument. Sign language is also an official NZ language, and no one is calling for it to be taught to every school child.

No person is seriously disadvantaged by not learning Maori - the same cannot be said of the other two compulsory subjects. Literacy and numeracy is vital for doing well in a modern country, if you can't count or read, your job prospects are limited and you may well be doomed to a life of crime or being on the dole.

All Kiwi kids should be given the opportunity to learn Maori from an early age.
Opportunity is fine. I had the opportunity to learn Maori at primary school. I hated the language and made every effort not to remember anything. It was linked to a primitive culture that had absolutely no appeal to me, especially when compared to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans that I did enjoy reading about.
Being bilingual or multi-lingual has been proven to be advantageous. Children who speak more than one language are likely to perform better at school, be more socially adjusted both in and out of school, and be more tolerant and understanding of cultural differences.

In a global society, those are the attributes our children need and learning Maori will help them acquire them.
I grew up bilingual. I also did very well at school, much to the surprise of many of my teachers. I spoke Polish at home. On Saturdays, I went to Polish school to learn to read, write and sing songs in Polish. Polish school was set up by the parents, run by the parents and funded by the parents. Polish parents cared enough about their own language and culture to invest the time in passing it on. Why couldn't Maori parents do the same thing?

When it comes down to it, the choice of a language ought to be decided by the parents, not by the State. I'm not teaching my children Polish even though they are half-Polish, I'm teaching them Latin, which I'm learning myself as we go along. I've made a ruthless decision based on what I think will be better for them, not for me.

Far more people in the world will ever understand Latin, so in a global society, the language could be argued to be a better bet for all school children to learn than Maori. At least ancient writings are recorded in Latin and much of English is built on Latin, so there is a cultural link for all of us that speak English. And I doubt there is anyone in NZ that can only speak Maori.

However, I would never call for learning any language to be made compulsory. As I initially said, no one is seriously disadvantaged by not learning Maori. The same could be said for any language. No matter how beneficial a subject is seen to be, there needs to be a higher standard applied for compulsion by the State. And the fact that the Maori language is dying just doesn't cut it as a good enough reason for me.

Related Link: Maori Should be Compulsory ~ Stuff, Willie Jackson