Do you feel that your school’s curriculum is a bit “pale, male and stale?” Chances are you’re not the only one. As a person who had spent 18 years in the British school system, my school curriculum consisted of learning about white male, philosophers, presidents, prime ministers, kings, theorists, inventors and the list goes on. My school and university curriculum lacked diversity, and was not truly representative of the major contributions that black, Asian and other ethnic groups have made to the world. School curriculums instead glorify white male thinkers, which implicitly suggests that they are intellectually superior to other ethnic groups as well as white women.
“Why is My Curriculum White?” was a campaign founded in UCL by the Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Network, in response to the lack of diversity in the university’s course content and reading lists. Students created this campaign to raise concerns over the Eurocentric bias within education, and to promote a more inclusive and diverse university curriculum. This campaign was successful in shedding light on the issue of diversity in education.
During my history lessons at school, Britain and its various leaders were always portrayed as the heroes that liberated nations from dictatorships, poverty and war, whilst paying little attention to the positive contributions that other ethnic groups have made to the world. On the occasions when we did learn about African history, it was usually on topics such as slavery, which perpetuates the notion that African history begins and ends with slavery. We never learnt about African intellectuals who challenged Britain and the rest of Europe, or the atrocities committed by the British Empire and its immoral practices. We were instead indoctrinated into believing that Britain had paved the way for humanity and has done no wrong.
My university course content was all too similar to my secondary school education. In my three years at university, I never had a lecture on a non-white thinker and I was never asked to read a book by a non-white author. I only ever learnt about the theories of white men, who’s beliefs are often valued more than the views of those from other ethnic groups. The Eurocentric bias in university and school curriculums, assert this idea that “white is always right,” and that anything that attempts to disprove it, is wrong.
Some people may argue that British school and university curriculums should have a European focus, which inevitably means that any school curriculum will be Eurocentric in nature. However, Britain has played a major role in international affairs mainly due to colonialism, slavery, war and trade. Therefore, you cannot talk about British or European history, without acknowledging other continents, and the effect that Europe has had on these continents. British history extends beyond Britain, it includes Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Arab world.
It is important that we recognise the contributions of non-white men and women, and not limit ourselves to only being knowledgeable of white male contributions.
Ask yourselves, how diverse is your school’s curriculum? How many non-white authors, philosopher, theorist, inventors etc. are on your reading list? I’m going to take a wild guess and say that there are very few…
Here’s a list of just a few men and women of colour, who have made major contributions to history, political thought, literature and feminism: Noor Inayat Khan, Chinua Achebe, Ida Bell Wells, Hazel Ying Lee, W.E.B Du Bois, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti, Alain LeRoy Lock, Marcus Garvey, Aung San Suu Kyi, Shirley Anita Chisholm, Marsha P. Johnson, Ken Saro Wiwa, Katherine Johnson, Garrett Morgan, Bhikaji Cama and Sophia Duleep Singh.
Educate yourselves, don’t rely on the system to educate you.
Written by Adesuwa O.