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Document 9

Citizenship New Zealander style

Education ‘packs’ must be directed to all three sides of the triangle in providing citizenship education for young people says educational adviser Ian McKinnon.

A triangle of family, community and school surrounds each young person he said to the citizenship education networking function.

“All three sides shape the values of the final product. All three sides must assist in ensuring an understanding of the values, the richness, that come from New Zealand’s cultural diversity” he told the August 2005 function in Wellington.

Education in the broadest sense should provide citizenship education says Ian McKinnon, a former headmaster, current city councillor and university council member in Wellington. His interest is in education broadly directed to all three sides that influence the development of the values of the young person.

Ignorance and misunderstanding
Ian McKinnon said New Zealand is a pluralist society - and noted that one of the great pleasures of being a City Councillor is witnessing the citizenship ceremonies. But he was aware pluralist societies bring their stresses, “generally though through ignorance and misunderstanding”.

Education is there to overcome this, citizenship education, but it must be directed to all influences on the young person, the family, the community and the school … and the terms must be clearly defined and, in my view, reasonably factually driven he said.

He proceeded from the assumption the cultural diversity of New Zealand is a real richness to this country, from Maori as the indigenous people through to the European settlers, predominantly of British stock, to more recent migrations of peoples from a wide variety of lands … “and it is important that there be no qualification to that richness”.

“Regrettably though, as is not uncommon in pluralist societies, there is often a degree of defensiveness, possibly understandably, but such defensiveness often arises through lack of appreciation of other cultures and a consequent misunderstanding of the intent of those other cultures” he said.

Definition
There must be a clear definition of ‘citizenship – citizenship New Zealander style’ … you can’t teach something unless the terms of the subject are clearly defined to ensure the teacher, be that the parent, the adults of the community or the school teachers, clearly know what it is they are teaching.

Ian McKinnon said such definitions are more easily spoken about than actually written
He said he did not lack confidence in the strength of the 100 strong audience from Parliament, government, education and culturally diverse communities – including Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, and social studies and policy adviser Sandra Cubitt and her team from the Ministry of Education.

But he suggested the definition of “Citizenship New Zealand style” would presumably “be along the lines of the facts of our history, our current pluralist society, our institutions and our freedom to operate as individuals “.

Here is the rub he noted: “to operate with a tolerance and a respect, thus enabling all others to operate similarly, but all of us doing so within a New Zealand framework … we must first define ‘citizenship – citizenship New Zealand style’”

Factually based education
Former Scots College headmaster Ian McKinnon said educational psychologists tell us that until a young person is into their teens the thinking conceptually is not easy. Thus subjects up to that level should be fairly factually based. Again, the facts of our history, specifics of different cultures, specifics of the contribution different cultural groups make to New Zealand. He said young people must understand the principles of citizenship before they reached their teens - otherwise it is probably too late.

Find out more from Ian McKinnon



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©Copyright Asia Pacific Economic News Ltd on behalf of Center for Citizenship Education 2005