Buzz from the Beehive
The latest announcements on the Beehive website include news from Research, Science and innovation Minister Ayesha Verrall which – refreshingly – suggests the Government recognises our scientists and researchers might benefit from exposure to something that too often is demonised as “Western science”.
Don’t count on Verrall stepping back from the policy of incorporating mātauranga Mauri in science teaching, funding and practice.
But she has announced:
Horizon Europe opens world of opportunities for New Zealand researchers
New Zealand researchers and organisations can now apply to Pillar Two of Horizon Europe, the European Union’s (EU) largest ever research and innovation programme, on equal terms as researchers from the EU.
Other posts on the website tell us: Continue reading “Verrall – hurrah – sees merit in exposing our researchers to Western science through a European Union programme” →
Professor Elizabeth Rata, a sociologist of education and a professor in the School of Critical Studies in Education at the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, is the Corresponding Signatory of this open letter to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
She is one of four academics from three universities who have signed the letter, dated 8 February 2023.
The letter has been included in an article by Professor Jerry Coyne (which featured in a Point of Order post) headed Proposed New Zealand school curriculum and some strong pushback from four academics.
The academics wrote:
Dear Prime Minister Hipkins,
We, the undersigned, draw your attention to two major problems in the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Refresh policy and in the associated NCEA qualification reforms. These problems were created during your tenure as Minister of Education and can only be solved by calling an immediate halt to the radical initiatives causing the problems. Because the matter is of such urgency, this letter is an open one and will be made public.
The first problem is the fundamental change to the purpose of New Zealand education contained in the Curriculum Refresh document, Te Mātaiaho: The Refreshed New Zealand Curriculum: Draft for Testing, September 2022.
The second problem is an effect of the first. It is the insertion into the curriculum of traditional knowledge, or mātauranga Māori, as equivalent to science. Continue reading “Professor Elizabeth Rata et al: Open Letter to the PM” →
The Porirua City Council – it seems – has no idea of how much mauri can be found in its harbour and waterways and how much more is needed before it can announce the mauri has been restored.
But it is using Western science to measure things that might contribute to the effort it is putting into restoring the mauri (or not).
It is working with Ngāti Toa on improving the health of the harbour and its contributing streams.
This work includes developing a Matauranga Māori programme “which assists in determining overall mauri of the harbour.”
The question about measurement – to assure us the mauri has been restored when the job is done – was raised by a pamphlet circulated by the council to advise landowners of the funds available for streamside plants. Continue reading “Science shows there’s much amiss with Porirua harbour but Matauranga Māori is needed to get a measure of the mauri” →
Buzz from the Beehive
We have come – or gone – a long way, in the past two decades. In which direction is open to discussion.
Writing for The Independent Business Weekly on 22 January 2003, I noted how a localised Māori belief in a taniwha had obliged Transit New Zealand to stop work on a stretch of new expressway near Meremere for several weeks.
The Environmental Risk Management Authority was consulting people about ways to incorporate Māori spiritual values in a revised policy. The authority (according to newspaper reports at the time) might regard Māori spiritual concerns as sufficient reason for rejecting research applications for genetic research approvals, even if there was no physical biological risk.
A Biosecurity Council discussion document had set out a biosecurity strategy which called for the protection of land-based industries and the facilitation of exports and tourism as well as
… maintaining the relationship between Māori and their culture and traditions with ancestral lands, waters, sites, wahi tapu and taonga.
Responsiveness to Māori should recognise “the special nature of taonga,” the document explained, and it noted that Māori believed native plants and animals possessed spiritual qualities. Continue reading “How the Treaty of Waitangi is determining the direction in which state-funded science will be taken (or dragged back?)” →
The Government received 901 submissions in response to its green paper on the future of the country’s research, science and innovation system – and the role to be played by matauranga Maori. can play a rolebe merged with it.
But for now, the submissions are being kept confidential because several submitters have requested anonymity. Submissions and submitter information are being reviewed against privacy and confidentiality obligations.
The Minister in charge of this reshaping of our science system is Dr Megan Woods, whose CV includes work for Crop & Food Research and Plant & Food Research. But she was a business manager, rather than a researcher, it seems. Her PhD is in history, obtained at the University of Canterbury with a thesis titled Integrating the nation: Gendering Maori urbanisation and integration, 1942–1969.
Whatever happened to the commas?
According to a Cabinet paper Woods presented on October 28, the reform programme she favours for the country’s science sector aligns with outcomes sought by the Minister of Education on proposed changes to Performance-Based Research Fund funding.
The first two aims of those changes (as ranked in Woods’ Cabinet paper) are
- To support a holistic approach to recognising and rewarding research; and
- To better reflect and partnership between Māori and the Crown (sic).
Her paper says New Zealand’s research, science and innovation system
” … needs to make better, faster progress on supporting Māori and iwi aspirations We know that more work needs to be done to explore how the RSI system will seek to understand and respond to Te Tiriti obligations and opportunities. Continue reading “Megan Woods’ challenge – she has plenty of advice from champions of matauranga Maori as she considers its role in NZ science” →
Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods perhaps did not take all available advice before she committed the government to a partnership with New Zealand aerospace start-up, Pyper Vision.
Announcing the partnership, she said it could help make fog delays a thing of the past for passengers, freight, airlines and airports around the world.
Pyper Vision – she explained – is developing a technology that disperses a safe water-absorbing environmentally-friendly product via drone that soaks up moisture in the air and clears runway fog so that pilots and air traffic controllers can operate safely.
RNZ turned that into something more readily digested:
Christchurch-based company Pyper Vision is developing a spray that can absorb moisture from the air quickly, clearing fog.
It aims to ease flight disruptions such as the three day backlog in flights at Wellington Airport last week, when fog rolled in on Tuesday afternoon, and didn’t ease until Thursday afternoon, affecting more than 200 flights.
The team is being assisted by the Government’s Airspace Integration Trials Programme, which aims to support the adoption of new aviation technology safely into the existing transport system. Continue reading “How a tohunga could have enlightened Woods about fog and cycles before Pyper partnership was agreed” →
Two distinguished academics – Professors Garth Cooper and Robert Nola – have resigned both as members and as fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand (as Point of Order reported on March 18).
Cooper is a scientist; Nola is a philosopher who has studied and taught the philosophy of science.
Their resignations followed the society’s decision not to formally proceed with a complaint against them as fellows of the Society.
The complaint was laid after they and five other University of Auckland professors signed a letter – headed In defence of science – published in the 31 July 2021 issue of the NZ Listener.
The letter criticised proposals to include mātauranga Māori in the school science curriculum and to give it equal standing with Western/ Pakeha subjects such as physics, biology and chemistry.
The professors do not oppose the teaching of mātauranga Maori in anthropology, Māori studies, cultural studies, or any of the similar social studies. They do challenge its being taught in the science curriculum.
Furthermore, their letter was addressed at claims that science was a coloniser (“we find this quite wrong,” Nola told Point of Order).
Today, he explains why he resigned. Continue reading “Where was the Royal Society’s forum for debate during “science” dispute? Professor (and former fellow) explains his resignation” →
The Dominion-Post – without any hint of a blush – proclaimed in a Page 3 headline today: Mauri restored to Parliament grounds.
Really? We hope to see the photographs.
On the next page, a report is headlined ”Media Council upholds professors’ complaint”.
This tells readers “a most serious allegation” (and a baseless one) had been made against six University of Auckland professors by associate professor Siouxsie Wiles. This had struck at the heart of academic freedom by asserting the professors were trying to stifle opposing views using lawyers’ threats and required immediate public correction.
The article beneath the Page 3 headline says work to rebuild Parliament grounds is starting after the occupation by protesters.
Reporter Glenn McConnell describes a procession and a ceremony which involved poi, taiaha and karakia and the turning of soil
“… to open Papatūānuku and restore mauri to the grounds”. Continue reading “Column Stuff-up – defending science is challenging nowadays but professors were right about Wiles’ allegation” →
As ministerial announcements on the Beehive website make ominously plain, Covid is still with us. The government’s programme of fusing science with matauranga Maori is still with us, too, although that’s not something you will learn from recent announcements.
Mind you, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Science Minister Megan Woods, Associate Science Minister Ayesha Verrall and their colleagues might be quietly back-pedalling on their concept of a Treaty-based system of science and the way it should be taught. But this is highly unlikely.
And as long as the Great Science Experiment continues in the ethnocentric crucible of Kiwi biculturalism , the debate it fuels will keep burning brightly.
In this country in recent days, Newsroom has published an article by Professor Elizabeth Rata who writes:
No matter how intense or heated the discussion may be, NZ universities need to address the difference between ideology and science…
In the United States, Professor Jerry Coyne has maintained a keen interest in the way science is evolving – is that the right word? – in this country.
His examination of specific claims about matauranga Maori and how it can tell us stuff that modern science can’t, or can somehow supplement modern science, has resulted in the past week in these items being published on his Evolution is True website: Continue reading “The Treaty and ideology – the Kiwi way of thinking that is corroding our democracy and debasing our science” →