The importance of our stories
New Zealand primary schools are full of beautiful picture books and journal stories depicting the myths and legends of the Maori. Children hear the Maori creation story, they hear about Maui and other Maori heroes, they lean how the Maori explained the stars, the sun and the moon and they learn about the trees, birds and insects of New Zealand. They re-enact these stories through plays, dance and song and recreate them in their artworks.
Maori are unique to New Zealand. It is right that we learn and understand as much as we can of their tikanga, or things Maori.
Now I know for a fact, that at our local school there are no overt representations of anything Christian around Christmas time. No carols are sung at the end of year concert although there are Christmas songs and no-one could certainly dress up as an angel or someone from the Christmas story as we know it.
So there is a dilemma here. Whether you believe in God or not, Christianity underlies Western civilisation and its institutions, thought and culture.
I think itis important to ask, therefore, why are schools so wary of the inclusion of stories from the Christian tradition? What is it about the Maori creation story that makes it acceptable but not that from the Bible?
One answer might be a lingering cultural superiority – we can recognise other cultures’ stories as the myths they are but cannot see out own in that way.
Another might be the many thousands of New Zealanders who believe that the Genesis myth, or indeed the myth of Mary being impregnated by a supernatural being, is literally true. That means that any exploration of these stories in our schools becomes religious instruction, rather than cultural exploration.
I would like to think that there will be a time when our schools and institutions have the same confidence in the importance of our own stories so that we can explore these in the same grown up way that Maori appear to be able.
A Magic New Year
From the New Zealand Herald – 2 January 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a short televised address, said: “Each of us may become something of a magician on the night of the New Year. To do this we simply need to treat our parents with love and gratitude, take care of our children and families, respect our colleagues at work, nurture our friendships, defend truth and justice, be merciful and help those who are in need of support. This is the whole secret.”