Jul 26, 2012
"Fighting for the right not to learn te reo"
“We discovered the children were spoken to in Marry… we’re not of Marry culture” says Hayley Foster. In an interview with Campbell Live Hayley Foster and her husband Phill Foster objected to their daughter learning Maori.
Why? Well, from what the interview revealed the Foster’s opposition to te reo wasn’t practical, it was ideological. Phill Foster likened Maori language learning to “communism”. Yeah, because teaching te reo has so much in common with collective ownership of the means of production (yes, that was sarcasm). Hayley Foster spoke about “choice”. Well, having a choice is fair enough, but common sense, cultural understanding and the interests of the child should inform the Foster’s “choice”.
There is a wealth of evidence to support the proposition that second language learning supports cognitive development. Why, any sensible person should ask, would you oppose teaching methods that aid brain development? When the Fosters restrict their daughter to one language, the opportunity cost is significant. Learning te reo would have helped their daughters development, refusing such an opportunity may put the parents mind at ease, but it restricts their daughters learning prospects.
Hayley also asked “why should it be forced upon them, it’s not fair” as if learning a few Maori words, phrases and songs is some sort of cultural imposition. Hayley appears blind to the fact that the New Zealand education system is modelled on western values, traditions and approaches to learning. The curriculum itself - leaving aside the other aspects of the education system - remains euro-centric in content and outlook. Although students may learn Maori words, phrases and songs, those students will never be taught nor told to learn or think from a Maori perspective.
In my opinion, the Foster's complaints were pathetic. Where is the harm in learning te reo? There is no harm. There is an opportunity cost, there always is, but the cost is minimal when compared against the benefits of learning some te reo. Maori culture is a part of this country. It's not a foreign culture and the Fosters would do well to realise that. Their attitude, which is widely held, is retrograde and if they're so unhappy with Maori culture then there are plenty of flights leaving for Australia.