Saturday, October 16, 2004

What makes a 'kiwi'?

I just caught the end of a discussion on the radio about a new exhibition at Te Papa ( our National museum) based the identity and image of being a New Zealander.

Worldwide the New Zealand identity been given centre stage the Lord of the Rings trilogy - which showcases both the creativity of our film makers and the majesty of the landscape. Over the years countless New Zealanders have also contributed to the growing sense of who we are. We are becoming to see ourselves as an innovative and enterprising people; a country that fuses the courage and determination and talents of the migrants from the earliest Maori migrations, the European settlers , the peoples from the Pacific, and more recently from Asia.

We are now seen as a dynamic county that 'fights above its weight' in many areas of human endeavor. We are seen as a country with an energetic spirit; a country that is realizes that its continued success lies with the development of the talents, versatility and creativity of it's citizens. Our future will depend on how well we cement and develop relationship with each other and with other nations. We must learn to value cultural diversity as a strength.

Our young people need to have both an appreciation of the wider world ( beyond the Americanised 'global' culture that originates from Los Angeles!) and equally an appreciation of the special culture of their own country. Michael King, the journalist and historian, wrote in his book 'Being Pakeha ', 'If we wish to present ourselves to the wider world as New Zealanders we must be able to listen to our own voices, and trace our own footsteps; we must have our own heroes and heroines to inspire us, our own epics to uplift us; we must persist with building our own culture with the ingredients to hand and not import those ingredients ready made from abroad.'

With this in mind all schools ought to think deeply about the themes they need to expose their students to if we are to further develop this sense of being New Zealander. And they ought to think equally deeply about how they can ensure all the talents of all their students can be realized.

In a book ' Albion:Origins of the English Imagination' the author ( Peter Ackroyd ) makes the point that the English are not a race but more people who live in place - a place of spirit; the spirit that comes from living and identifying with an environment.

Similarly we are not a 'race' in New Zealand but a mix of different people living together in a special place. All the various cultures add to developing a sense of shared identity and image of for us all.

Nothing could be more important than for schools to do their best to contribute to the development of such a positive and diverse sense of being a New Zealander.

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