"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Monday, May 06, 2019

‘Decolonising’ the Curriculum

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, ‘Decolonising’ the Curriculum

"As a writer and teacher of history, I find identity politics very, very useful. As a historian, you want to hear from as many voices as possible from the past in order to understand what really happened… I do, however, have two issues, which I'm just passionate about. I'm objective about, but I want to get to the heart of them. One, I want to critique this idea of replacement, the idea that you might say, well, Plato is a dead white man, let's take him out and put someone in his place. I'm troubled by that. And second, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of interpreting the past constantly through the lens of today, and today's perceived injustices...

I think the idea that education should be reshaped around an agenda of identity politics is to substitute the very idea of education by ideological propaganda, and would leave children deliberately left in a state of ignorance about the culture to which they belong...

‘The Enlightenment figures, I wouldn't take them out, and we teach them in our degree, but we criticize them, we criticize them quite heavily. Because the Enlightenment is one of these white intellectual projects, which doesn't make the world more equal, it actually makes it less equal.’...

‘Not every element of the Enlightenment can be taught through the prism of race, how would you teach, say, the development of the scientific method through the prism of race?’

‘Well, the whole development of science itself is basically the prism of race, right? The idea of, I mean, I don’t want to go into lots of detail here, but the idea of that, this Cartesian separation of mind and body, which we think as being something which is universal is actually rooted in the history of colonialism. And this is what whiteness does, it makes itself invisible, when it is always there. You can't think of the Enlightenment without thinking about Eurocentrism and whiteness.’

‘Well, I know you're coming from a black studies perspective, but one of the points of history is to be as broad as possible. And is there a risk that in trying to broaden people's perspectives, you actually end up narrowing them? Because if you see for instance, the Enlightenment through that prism, is there a risk you miss, you actually miss a lot about the Enlightenment. Because you’re just looking at it from one angle?’

‘No, because the whole point is to say, well, actually the Enlightenment was not, the problem with the Enlightenment is this idea that you know, knowledge spreads out of Europe and enlightens the rest of the world, but actually the Enlightenment was developed on Arabic thinkers and African thinkers and to teach in its proper context with to say that actually, there's nothing special and European about the Enlightenment. This is actually the history of the whole entire world...

How can you teach Greek civilization without teaching Egyptian civilization upon which most, most of it was, was built?... The Enlightenment does not exist without the Arab scholars. There's A to B. What the problem, is that the curriculum now just cuts out A and goes straight to B because it is a expression of white identity politics...

Before the Enlightenment, the only part of the world that was in the dark age was Europe and Europe had to draw on the other parts of the world in order to build its culture. So the idea that European culture does not include Africa, the Caribbean and Asia is frankly ludicrous.’...

‘I want to really press you on on what seems to be the central point here that you equate whiteness with power. Do you not think that in black culture, black societies, there have been abuses of power, black slavery, black colonialism, the treat, the ill treatment of black people, by other black people? Do you not see that as a problem as a problematic element of history that needs to be taught?’

‘Well, I think actually the programmatic element is that perhaps you see whiteness as power. That is not what I said. I said, I see whiteness as a product of colonialism, Empire and oppression of dark people of the world, which it is, right? And the fact that black people have exploited black people does not change the fact that actually what we have today, what Europe is today, what the West is today is a continuation of the oppression of dark people around the world.’

‘But you hang on, I'm a bit confused. You say that it's not correct for you, that you don't equate whiteness with power, but you’re saying that black people have been historically oppressed by whom, exactly?’

‘By white people. But that does not mean that we do not have power. And actually one of the reasons why, the main reason why white people went and colonized the world is because it needed the power and resources of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean’...

‘Isn't it also the case that black people have oppressed black people? What I'm trying to get at is you see the power relations in colonialism as being entirely white on black. I'm suggesting to you that that's a very narrow way of interpreting history. That we are all capable of oppressing others, that all cultures have oppressed it’

‘But that's not the point. That's not the point that I'm making. The point is to understand the society which we currently live in the West and understand why the curriculum is this endless parade of dead white men and to understand why our discourse on race, migration is so narrow, we have to trace the fact that the power relations that exist today are still those kind of relations of empire, which is white oppressing black, on a systemic political economy level. Not on the level of oh I might oppress my neighbor. It’s a different conversation’

‘Last question - who benefits from changing the curriculum? Who benefits from indeed black studies?’

‘Well I mean I think this is the big point. This, decolonizing the curriculum is not for minority students. The point is that when you have this narrow frame it produces a very poor understanding of where we are today and the fact that millions of people voted for Brexit on the back of this idea that Britain could be great as an island nation tells you just how deluded from reality our understanding history is. Britain was always an empire and has always needed Africa, Asia, the Caribbean'...

I think the idea that universities are last bastions of Empire with professors defending to the death, Britain's colonial legacy is quite frankly, ridiculous. I think as your previous witness illustrated quite nicely, I think students at universities today are far more likely to meet professors who are questioning rather, and challenging the Enlightenment, and, incidentally, making snide remarks about Brexit voters than they are to meet defenders of the Enlightenment...

The idea that black children cannot enjoy and appreciate a fairy tale because the author, who incidentally I reckon most six year olds would not be able to name Hans Christian Andersen as the author of most fairy tales, they would not associate fairy tales as having been written by a white man... Let's have a debate about what knowledge we think is the best knowledge for students to know. I don't think those judgments should be based on the skin color or the gender of the person who has created that knowledge...

‘[In] an education system, which surely the essence of education, to take children out of their private personal family experience and inculcate them, introduce them to the wider world.’

‘But as I said earlier, Carl Rogers’ approach... unless your self concept is good, you're not going to have the motivation for education. There was a clinical psychologist in London called Jocelyn Maximae [sp?], who about in the end of the 1990s and did a piece of research taking three different groups and showing that those only those groups that have the racial identity nurturing actually retain their motivation for education’...

‘Carl Rogers was not exactly without controversy.’...

[Decolonising the curriculum] immediately situates itself not outside a Western tradition. But very much within a Western tradition. This notion that empires should be toppled, that idols should be smashed, that people should be reformed and reborn and given a new way of understanding the world is something that Tim has just been talking about. This is a deeply Christian idea. So the whole process of decolonising the curriculum is merely one aspect of what has been a lengthy Western tradition...

If we think for instance of Martin Luther King, his campaign to rid America, of racial injustice depended on him telling white Americans, you are sinning. But it's also dependent on him saying, but we are all brothers, it did not depend on him saying, we are going to decolonize the Protestant tradition. There's a clue in Martin Luther King's name, you know. He's named after Martin Luther, a dead white European male. Martin Luther King was successful precisely because he was able to bring people who previously had been his enemies with him...

[This] assumes that this, that the study of black history would teach positive moral lessons. It doesn't seem to me clear that that's the case at all, because history as Gibbon famously said is little more than the reigster of the crimes follies and misfortunes of mankind...

He slightly let the cat out of the bag at the end when he made a joke about Brexit. And to me, history as a pure thing. It’s to try to work out precisely empirically objectively what happened. And it strikes me that some of this trend towards decolonization is really rather more obsessed with what's going on in the here and the now and how it relates in the past, than simply what objectively happened in the past...

It just seemed to me that he was trying to deny what actually happened. He was saying that the Enlightenment was also to do with, you know, black and brown discoveries. Well, it wasn't. The European enlightenment was driven by white men, because that's what actually happened. He said that the linear program of history was problematic. Well, one thing does lead to another and I find it very, very confusing.

I mean, he's denying reality because he wants to reshape reality, according to his particular ideological perspective. And that perspective, although he denied it, it seemed to me he was saying that whiteness equals power. And when I pressed him to say… would he say that black people could abuse power against other black people, he just kept saying, white people have always depended on oppressing black nations...

The allegation’s always been made that things have been taking out. Generally speaking, people are about putting extra things in. But in reality, if you do put extra things in you probably do have to take things out...

‘What Giles [the priest] has just said strikes me as terribly unchristian, and we can argue about this afterwards. But let's face it, we do believe in objective truth. Now, the reason why I raised this slightly peculiar debate with the priest about Vatican II and the kind of mass we have is because we in the Catholic Church have been doing this kind of subjectivity since the 60s, we've been letting people say mass in their own language in their own way. And you know, what, doesn't work, people just stopped going. And one reason I believe why that is, is precisely because it cut, it somehow divorced people from the objective truth. The dream of Catholicism, that everyone would worship the same way and in the same language, different rites, yes, but the same core objective truth. That is something which I think is really Christian’

‘People do go to church a lot in other countries.’"


The Enlightenment is thanks to Arab - and better still, African - thinkers? He probably thinks Cleopatra was black.

Apparently before the Enlightenment Europe was in the Dark Ages but the Caribbean was very advanced - despite not having any cities.

This was the same guy who on the History Extra podcast claims that black kids aren't interested in white history (presumably meaning non-black kids aren't interested in black history and so shouldn't learn it)


Related:

Manchester University students paint over Rudyard Kipling mural

"Students at the University of Manchester have painted over a mural of a poem by Rudyard Kipling, arguing that the writer “dehumanised people of colour”.The poem If, which was written around 1895, had been painted on the wall of the university’s newly refurbished students’ union. But students painted over the verses, replacing them with the 1978 poem Still I Rise by theUS poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou... “Of course he was a racist. Of course he was an imperialist, but that’s not all he was and it seems to me a pity to say so,” she said. Montefiore argued that Kipling was “a magical storyteller” and that his perspective was part of history. “You don’t want to pretend that it all didn’t happen,” she said.“Dickens said dreadful things about black people in the Jamaica rebellion. Does that mean you don’t read Dickens?”"


Anti-racism is about vandalism

In 50 years' time Maya Angelou will be problematic so she can be painted over too
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