Decolonising the curriculum

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Calvin Robinson
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Calvin Robinson is a school leader in the state sector. You can find him on Twitter @calvinrobinson

Black Lives Matter, whether addressed as an organic movement or an organised political campaign, offers nothing new to the education debate. So-called ‘progressive’ activists have been arguing to ‘de-colonise’ the curriculum for as long as I can remember.

What do they mean by ‘de-colonising’, though? Well, if we take a look at the individual campaigns that have gained ground over the past few years, Manchester University was attempting to erase Rudyard Kipling and replace him with Maya Angelou in 2018. Then more recently, in 2019, there was Birmingham City University and their argument to swap Mozart on the music curriculum. The pattern is self-evident; replace the ‘dead white men’, as they’re always labelled, with a Person of Colour. 

The argument is that the curriculum needs to be more ‘representative’, but the logic is completely flawed. According to the most recent Census data, only 3.3% of the population is made up of Black ethnic minorities. Of that number, 1.8% are Black African, the rest being either Black Caribbean or Black British. Therefore, removing all the ‘dead white men’ from our curriculum and replacing them with POCs would be entirely unrepresentative.  It’d be an over-correction of enormous proportions. 

On the other hand, the number of Eastern European immigrants enrolling in English schools has increased tenfold over the last decade. I’m yet to see an argument from the progressives in Education that we should be teaching more Lithuanian or Polish heritage. Why not? Because the recently re-elected President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, hardly falls in line with their politically correct ‘woke’ agenda. Government figures estimate just under a million extra pupils will be in English schools by 2023. Surely the needs of these young people from our close allies matter just as much as others?

The problem is that our Eastern European friends fall too far down on the pyramid or preference. Intersectionality dictates that the more minority groups one belongs to, the higher the prioritisation of their needs. White people (no matter their origin) are unfortunately at the bottom of this ladder. People of Colour are near the top, only to be outranked by minorities of sexual preference and gender, with trans people being right at the top.

Black Lives Matter activists are providing reading lists and yelling at people to ‘educate yourself’, with a very narrow selection. The same authors pop up time and again, including Robin DiAngelo, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Afua Hirsch. Still, there’s a very overt pattern developing here, but while the focus is entirely on superficial diversity, there is next to zero diversity of thought or opinion. The books suggested all push a divisive anti-white agenda, with potentially harmful titles such as “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” and “White fragility”.

That’s why Don’t Divide Us are working on our own reading list, to offer an alternative voice. We intend to provide people with a wider variety of reading material to address the issue of race relations and the curriculum, and to hopefully get people thinking critically, rather than dependently.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CCS or its employees.

More information on the Don’t Divide Us campaign can be found here.

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Calvin Robinson

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