Why is My Curriculum So White?
You might have heard us talking about decolonising the curriculum at Keele. But what we do mean? The Oxford Dictionary summarises ‘decolonisation’ as “the withdrawal from its colonies of a colonial power; the acquisition of political or economic independence by such colonies”. The term refers particularly to the dismantlement, in the years after WW2, of the colonial empires established prior to WW1. However, decolonisation not only refers to the complete removal of the domination of external forces within a geographical space, but it also refers to decolonisation of the mind from the colonisers ideas – ideas that made the colonised seem inferior.
When you learn about the history of your subject how much of that is based on the West? Often white, western individuals are given a disproportionate amount of time in courses compared to the wider world. An example of this would be a course called ‘The History of Philosophy’ which only explored the views of male thinkers from the West. Decolonising the Curriculum therefore refers to the practice of liberating a discipline from the control of a single group, opening it up to contributions from a greater range of thinkers, methods and ideas. In order to do this we have to actively unlearn assumptions we make about other people and places by being critical about what we assume is ‘normal’.
This includes challenging systems and institutions that have come out of the same world which allowed for slavery, colonisation and the oppression of women to happen, and continue to co-exist with violence and oppression today. We’re all here for an education and we at the Students Union want students to get the most out of their education. In order to do that we need to move away from a value system that tells us whose knowledge is
valuable and how it should be shared.
We want to move towards one in which the complexity and diversity of knowledge is embraced and accounted for. This problem cannot be resolved simply by including more underrepresented voices on the current curriculum. This has to come along with shifts in practices and attitudes to education that actively dismantle the colonial roots and history of bias that play their way into the current system. We recognise this is a long process – but it’ll be made easier with your involvement!
How can you learn more and get involved?
1. Read our manifesto at:
2. Join our grassroots campaign and working group to challenge the white curriculum with lecturers from Keele’s University College Union and KPA postgraduates. If you’re interested please get in touch with Bulent Gokay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Set up a liberation book club: discover and suggest liberating reading material that contributes to empowerment. Some examples are bell hooks, Franz Fanon, Kimberley Crenshaw and Audre Lorde – but there are many more!
4. Challenge the rules: Consider for yourself whether all the rules you are following are needed/ ethical/ and beneficial to you and other people and if not, find a way to challenge and disrupt them. If you felt the content of your course didn’t bring in alternative perspective consult with your lecturers, fellow students, SU officers and student voice reps as to how you might improve things.
5. Politicise your education: Think about what you are learning and how it affects and contributes to the world around you. How can use your use tools to empower people at Keele and the wider community?