Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti admits white privilege is 'theme' of teaching resources, but not in curriculum

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti is pushing back on accusations 'white privilege' is taught in schools, insisting that while it's a "theme" of teaching resources, it isn't part of the curriculum. 

It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last month shrugged off concerns raised by National and ACT about 'white privilege' being taught in schools and Government agencies.  

"It's not part of our Government agenda. You can see that our focus from the Budget is our response to COVID, our recovery from COVID and dealing with New Zealand's long-term challenges," Ardern said.

The Opposition has disputed this, because a blueprint for the Ministry of Education initiative Te Hurihanganui, mentions the need to build "critical consciousness", which it says means "recognising white privilege". 

Staff at the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office have attended workshops called Beyond Diversity - Courageous Conversations About Race, which includes a chapter specifically on 'white privilege'.      

ACT leader David Seymour accused Ardern at the time of being in "la la land" after she told The AM Show the words 'white privilege' are not included in the education curriculum. 

Ardern acknowledged it may have been used "in a particular classroom", referring to a Whangārei primary school pupil who reportedly had to talk to their fellow students about what they had done to recognise their white privilege. 

But she said it is not a focus of the Government. 

"It's not something that we're teaching, and so my push back would be to say that because it's not core to what we are doing right now as a Government, it's not something that I've dwelt on."

National's education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith asked Tinetti in Parliament on Wednesday how Ardern could say teaching white privilege is not part of the Government's agenda when it's mentioned in Te Hurihanganui. 

"White privilege is not part of the New Zealand curriculum," Tinetti said. 

"I would like to inform the member, though, that the education system in the past hasn't worked for everyone in this country. It is inequitable. One of the biggest reasons for this is systemic racism. 

"Te Hurihanganui is one resource that works with communities to address this. 

"Te Hurihanganui is a professional resource for teachers. Let me help the member understand the difference between teaching children curriculum and building and supporting teacher competence and capacity. 

"Te Hurihanganui is about critical thinking, understanding who teachers are, the impact of their behaviour on students, and understanding others' world views."

She went on to say that while white privilege is not part of the curriculum, "injustice, inequality and privilege are themes that are explored in some teaching resources to build cultural competency amongst our teaching workforce". 

She added: "Not talking about these concepts does Pākehā a disservice and Māori children will continue to grow up thinking their position at the bottom of the heap is their fault rather than the systems that keep them there."

Seymour says it raises implications for teachers. 

"What are teachers supposed to say to a 'white' child who may have no money or food at home, be abused, face a learning challenge, or any other challenge? How is it that their colour makes them privileged regardless of their individual circumstances?"

He said Kiwi kids deserve a "positive and inclusive" education.

"The Government needs to front up and tell New Zealanders why it is instead allowing such radical and divisive ideas to be taught to our kids."

National leader Judith Collins has called for those behind Te Hurihanganui to be sacked