Do you Possess a Protected Characteristic?

In the last academic year I have supported people into,

1 CEO role

2 Executive Headteachers

4 Headteachers

5 DHT

12 AHT

Too many middle leaders

I love you all.

If you have a protected characteristic I will coach you for free. If you don’t I’ll send you my rate card.

 

A Different Way

July 11th 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the mass murder of 8000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica and January 27th 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. 2020 is a critical year for remembrance, but equally, it has to be a year of action.

We must resist hate from the global to the local level. Together with the amazing @behaviourleader, I am collecting words, your words, stories, academic literature and views. These contributions will culminate in a book, which will include proposal from all over the world. If you feel you have something to share please do fill in the form below:

Privilege Does NOT Give You An Advantage

There is a tendency to jump to images of Ku Klux Klan and burning crosses when people hear the terms white supremacy and racism.

The following may come as a surprise even individual acts of violence, discrimination or abuse are not the aim of fighting racism or white supremacy. Those acts are an aberration, but they are the symptoms of a systemic construct which underpins the foundation of our society.

White supremacy is any systemic action which upholds and promotes the structures which disproportionately impact on people of colour. 

Let us start with the most damaging act,

The Meritocracy.

The idea of a meritocracy is also a construct rooted in these structures. The data and life experience of those of us of colour are crystal clear. Those of you who believe that the inequity is because the PoC do not work hard enough or are less intelligent; Are either fooling themselves or deliberate swallowing a lie to make our lives more comfortable to live within. 

What is Privilege – I am not privileged?

Lots of people question the source of the social concept of ‘privilege’. Yes, I’ve also heard lots of conspiracy theories about lizards and serpents whose sole aim is the subjection of the mass. Sigh. What is privilege?

How do you define yourself? 

Here are some of the ascription that I have chosen, 

Male 

Cis

Global majority

Hetero

Able

Native English speaking 

All of these different labels come with *systemic* experiences. 

1. Women systemically earn less than men. 

2. People of colour systemically are more likely to receive worse health care.

3. Cis people are less likely to be attacked for their gender.

 4. Etc.

The above traits come with their disadvantages. The lack of ‘disadvantage’ is what is known as having privilege. If you don’t need to worry about any other the above, you’ve never considered the impact; you’re probably are privileged.

In this piece, I want privilege to be seen as a lack of ‘disadvantage’. 

What are these traits? 

What does your own journey through life, where are you systemically disadvantaged and where are you systemically not?

Activity: Us the the diagram below to detail your own profile.

 

img_4633-2

Where does Privilege come from?

Rationally privilege is a zero-sum game. For me to possess male privilege, women have to be oppressed as a consequence. 

Zeus Leonardo expertly describes privilege as walking down the street and finding that someone has stuffed money into your pockets. Leonardo then goes on to explain that money came straight from the pockets of the oppressed. 

Privilege comes from oppression. Someone always suffers as a result of our advantage.

Complex Not Complicated? 

We all have different systemic experiences; as a PoC and a male, my gender gives me the distinct lack of disadvantage of those who are female (etc.). Simultaneously, as a PoC I live with the systemic and institutionally disadvantages daily. 

As no one is merely black, or only male, or well anything, it starts to become more complex. 

Complex not complicated. Yes, I have a systemic disadvantage, and I have a systemic lack of disadvantage. That’s all okay. Intersectionality describes people experience through society.

Here people get caught up in describing the severity of people’s disadvantages and who’s privileges are higher. I have always questioned why this is important? All systemic oppressions are equally unfair. None of these disadvantages are deserved, and alike none of our privileges are earned.

I would suggest if you afforded a life without a disadvantage then, you owe society that ‘lack of disadvantage’ back. You should attempt to use your privilege to redress the balance.

Decolonise The Curriculum: Australian Schools

This guest piece is from David Mountford,

Valuing Aboriginal Perspectives in an Australian Primary School

The State of Victoria, Australia, is forward thinking in terms of its efforts to decolonise the education system. Below is the ‘Our Vision’ statement outlined in Marrung, the Victorian Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026.

Victoria will be a state where the rich and thriving culture, knowledge and experience of our First Nations peoples are celebrated by all Victorians; where our universal service systems are inclusive, responsive and respectful of Koorie people at every stage of their learning and development journey; and where every Koorie person achieves their potential, succeeds in life, and feels strong in their cultural identity.

Note: Koorie is the name given to Aboriginal people of South-East Australia.  Marrungwas a collaborative undertaking between Aboriginal education groups including the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated and the Victorian State Government. https://www.vaeai.org.au/marrung-10-year-education-plan-2016-2026/

At my primary school in Melbourne, prior to taking up the opportunity of meaningful change offered through Marrungfour years ago, the 900 overwhelmingly white middle-class and a cohort of Koorie students (currently nine) were taught in generic stereotypes that dismissed the varying Cultural practices and knowledge across First Nations peoples. There was next to no mention in the classroom of the damage colonisation had done and continues to do.  When Australia Day would roll around, for example, it was more Captain Cook ‘discovered’ … the First Fleet arrived in 1788 – the birth of a nation … pioneers ‘settled’ (peacefully was the implication) … and so on.

By whitewashing the history taught in the curriculum, schools transmitted the message to students and their families that Aboriginal Cultures and peoples were not valued. This also left a void in impressionable young children to absorb unchallenged mainstream media’s negative stereotypes of Aboriginal people. On that, many teachers have come through their schooling and Higher Education with little knowledge of the First Nations and the baggage of preconceived ideas that come with that lack of knowledge.

I shall share an example of a misconception that teachers and parents have voiced, which needs addressing with them, in an absolutely non-judgemental way I might add, to ensure the school is adhering as best it can to Murrung’s vision.  It is around the outdated notion of ‘blood quantum’ and is often manifested in questions such as, “What part Aboriginal is he/she?”   Or, “Those children can’t be Aboriginal. They have blond hair.”, for example. It was important for the working group, consisting of fellow teachers and some parents dedicated to decolonising the curriculum, to audit the library and rid it of books filled with this and other misconceptions. For information on common misconceptions, see below https://indigenousx.com.au/10-questions-i-get-from-non-indigenous-students/

For far too long, my school’s recognition of First Nations’ peoples was a tokenistic effort during NAIDOC week, an important week on the Aboriginal calendar. Teachers, including myself, would most likely read an Aboriginal story to the students, ask children to write a Dreamtime story and maybe do a dot painting. Besides the box-ticking, the lack of knowledge teachers had was a barrier to any form of meaningful local recognition.  Dot painting, we learnt, primarily belongs to the Aboriginal Nations in the heart of Australia.  Koories, and more specifically the Wurundjeri and BoonWurrung peoples, whose Country my school is located on, use more geometric lines in their artwork, for example.

https://www.wurundjeri.com.au/

http://www.boonwurrung.org/

So in order to make meaningful change, it was evident that we needed to build teacher knowledge and confidence.  Many conversations have been had where well-intentioned teachers voiced their legitimate concerns around not wishing to be disrespectful or culturally insensitive to Aboriginal people.  This has been a significant barrier for some to even attempting lessons in the classroom along with the ever-present barrier, of course, of a crowded curriculum. Building teacher capacity then was an obvious way to support teachers to include Koorie perspectives in their programs.

 

With the expertise of Koorie Engagement Support Officers, KESOs, cultural understanding training was provided for staff, at the expense I dare say of the cultural safety of the Aboriginal people providing the training!  One man became very emotional when sharing his personal experience of the Government men coming to take his cousins away during the period known as the Stolen Generation.  I sincerely hope he was not required to repeat the story at each school he visited. It could easily have been avoided by simply encouraging staff to read such accounts for themselves without retraumatising Aboriginal facilitators.

Some Aboriginal people, of course, share their experience in the hope for change. Amidst the calls for a formal process of ‘truth telling’ in Australia, the school invited in and was privileged to host a Stolen Generation survivor as a guest speaker last year.  Over 500 grade 3 – 6 students listened extremely attentively and asked thoughtful questions of our speaker.  His talk greatly impacted the students, with many writing insightful and empathic poems in response and discussing the talk with family members at home.  Teachers also gained much from hearing this first-hand account of the impact of being removed from family. This first-hand knowledge for the teachers touched a nerve within many and sparked an interest and desire to learn more.  Follow-up discussions also revealed the power of the experience that saw some teachers shift their pre-conceived ideas.

Before going on, I must stress the importance of consulting and building relationships with Aboriginal families at school.  This was the starting point for meaningful change through Marrungand these relationships continue to be vital.  Many of the families expressed a wish for their children to connect with Aboriginal art. The school has funded, for a couple of years now, days where Koorie kids can connect and learn from a local Aboriginal artist.  The amazing artworks produced are then celebrated at the school’s annual community art show and are the source of much pride in the children.

On these days, teachers are invited to pop in and take a look, which again facilitates the development of staff knowledge and understandings in a non-threatening space. I smile as I recall how we ‘colonised’ a sports lesson last year during a break with a game of poison possum ball. Kids learnt Aboriginal dance moves as they dodged the ‘marngrook’, the forerunner to the Australian Rules football, which is made of emu feathers encased in possum fur. Awesome fun!

As Australia burns this summer, calls are again ringing out from Aboriginal people and their allies for Government agencies to consider Cultural fire practices of the First Nations.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/06/for-first-nations-people-the-bushfires-bring-a-particular-grief-burning-what-makes-us-who-we-are

The dominant culture has much to learn.  It is with this in mind that my thoughts turn to an exciting project for the upcoming school year involving the establishment of an indigenous garden. This will be a hands-on opportunity for students to gain insight into the extensive knowledge of and varied uses of plants in Aboriginal culture.  Moreover, it will be a timely opportunity to explore in the curriculum a value central to Aboriginal Cultural life, to Care for Country.  Hopefully this, and the other ways Koorie perspectives are beginning to be valued at the school, will contribute to Koorie students feeling strong in their identities.

Meaningful change, which I believe is what we have at school, is made easier when the core group of change agents on staff have the persistence, energy and desire to become more knowledgeable and to enthuse others to its importance. When they are able to build and maintain relationships to ensure the centrality of Aboriginal peoples’ involvement.  And when they possess the communication skills to prepare staff to assume their role in working together towards decolonising the curriculum.

The future of our ‘work in progress at school’ is exciting!  To play a part in Aboriginal kids receiving a quality education, which enables them to feel strong in their Cultural identity is personally important to me on many levels, not least being that for too long I actively participated in the whitewashing of the curriculum. To celebrate, and, in so doing, educate the school community about, the incredibly rich Cultures of Aboriginal peoples has greatly enriched my life living on this land that has never been ceded, for which I am grateful.  There is much ground to make up. Now is definitely the time to add the colours of the Aboriginal flag to the ‘white’ curriculum – the colours of red, yellow and black.

Thank you for reading my post and I wish you well with your endeavours in decolonising the curriculum in your setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Empowering the Young People.

What is the purpose of education? Many people would cite examples which include banking (the transference of knowledge from teacher to student) to achieve employment status. This is echoed by the world bank, “creating workers for today’s workforce’, Educators today are tasked with developing lifelong learners who can survive and thrive in a global knowledge economy – learners who have the capability to effectively and creatively apply skills and competencies to new situations in an ever-changing, complex world” (The World Bank, 2003; Kuit & Fell, 2010 in Blaschke 2012).

Employment may be a part of some teacher’s visions. However, this is not the only view for purpose. Education should empower pupils and teachers to promote or resist the political systems around them. Remember, the act of teaching is an act of politics in itself.

“Education is politicity, it is never neutral, when we try to remain neutral, like Pilate, we support the dominant ideology.”
(Freire)

“For me education is simultaneously and act of knowing, a political act, and an artistic act.”
(ibid)

If we are to fulfil all three parts of Freire’s description of teaching, democratic resistance is so important. This will no doubt turn into a longer piece in due course.

Here I would like to amplify the voices of these young people from south London. @ICFreeUK is where you can contact the group, last month they staged the following protest outside Brixton tube station.

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Video

With that final video, as some of you know those isolation booths are an issue close to my heart. The #losethebooth event on January 25th please do apply for a ticket here.

I know the team are negotiating extra spaces and that tickets are in high demand.

evenbritebannerLosetheboothsFinal.jpg

References

https://www.readinghalloffame.org/sites/default/files/deceased_member_files/interview_with_freire.pdf

Breathing Life into the Curriculum

Guest post from Kay Sidebottom.

When you crush hierarchy, and replace it with network, then the cultures held in the different languages generate oxygen. They cross-fertilize. Cultures are able to breathe life into each other. Every culture should be taught with a nod to other cultures. 

(Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, 2017).

Two years ago I undertook a  small-scale research project looking at the impact of a ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ campaign within a university school.  During this time I also kept a reflective diary which focused on my problematic position as a white researcher of privilege. The paradoxical nature of attempting to do ‘white work’ that enables the voices of those marginalised in academic space, whilst managing my own conflicts and ethical considerations, has been an ongoing concern (and continues to be). Barbara Applebaum’s book ‘Being White, Being Good’ has been instrumental in helping me to get over myself and focus on the dismantling of whiteness. I would highly recommend it to other white researchers in a similar position.

In my study I invited staff to participate in an anonymous on-line survey and carried out interviews with key participants (academics, support staff and students) within the School.

As a posthumanist my focus was particularly on the material nature of the campaign and the embodied nature of reactions to change and barriers to decolonisation. This ontology also encouraged me to act in a spirit of affirmation, and a belief in the power of small changes to enact bigger transformations. In the words of Maldonado-Torres, ‘…the decolonization project needs to be a collective one where subjects give themselves to each other and are receptive to each other in love, understanding, and their shared rage against modernity/coloniality.’ (Maldonado-Torres, 2016, p.279). 

This blog provides a summary of the key issues arising and my findings.

Curriculum Decolonisation – Setting the context

 

‘Decolonisation, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a programme of complete disorder…It never takes place unnoticed, for it influences individuals and modifies them fundamentally. If we wish to describe it precisely, we might find it in the well-known words: ‘The last shall be first and the first last.’ (Fanon, 1961, pp.27-28). 

It is firstly important to examine ‘colonialism’ within the academy before considering what it might mean to ‘decolonise’; as Patel states (2016, p.7) ‘…to decolonize requires the apprehension and unsettling of coloniality.’ A colonised curriculum can be seen to be one that upholds traditions of white imperialism and makes assumptions of value based on white priority and domination. Colonialism can play out through not only the materials selected that form part of a syllabus, but the wider influence of a university’s pedagogical methods, admissions criteria, commemorative statues and building names, policies and procedures, stipulations for academic writing, and so on. Whilst not colonising in the settler sense, Bhopal (2018) suggests that English universities in their nature continue to play out the values of imperialism through Eurocentric degree content, the privileging of formal English as a communication mechanism, and entrenched racism and discriminatory practices (for students and staff). In this sense, colonialism is ‘on-going colonisation by capital’ (Hall and Smyth, 2016, p.2), and very much situated within the wider political and social context; a ‘pedagogical project at the level of society’ (ibid, p.22). 

For the purposes of this evaluation, curriculum was therefore defined in its widest sense; as Kelly (1999, p.3) states: 

‘Any definition of curriculum…must offer much more than a statement about the knowledge-content or merely the subjects which schooling is to ‘teach’ or transmit. It must go far beyond this, to an explanation and indeed a justification, of the purposes of such transmission and an exploration of the effects that exposure to such knowledge and such subjects is likely to have on its recipients’. 

Further to this, it is recognised that curriculum is, in itself, always political and entangled with wider social and cultural factors. As Apple states ….’The curriculum is never simply a neutral assemblage of knowledge, somehow appearing in the texts and classrooms of a nation. It is always part of a selective tradition, someone’s selection, some group’s vision of legitimate knowledge. It is produced out of the cultural, political, and economic conflicts, tensions, and compromises that organize and disorganize a people.’ (Apple, 1993, p.222). 

Given the systemic and material nature of decolonising work I came from the standpoint that interventions such as academic support, Information and Guidance, Induction activities and ‘student experience’ comprise elements of teaching and thus form part of the centre’s wider curriculum (albeit informal, or even part of a ‘hidden’ curriculum (Kelly, 1999, p.4)). 

To decolonise the curriculum would mean firstly to problematize all aspects of a student’s university experience, inferring that issues are systemic and go wider than an individual tutor’s influence over their programme of teaching and learning. Given that the academy can be seen in itself as a perpetual colonising force (Patel, 2016) the question is raised as to whether decolonising is actually possible, or whether in fact an entirely new system needs to be created. Certainly, as Tuck and Yang (2012, p. 36) stipulate, it needs a different perspective to traditional social justice approaches: ‘Decolonisation is not an ‘and’ – it is an elsewhere.’ 

Maldonado-Torres (2016, p.243) also draws an important distinction between ‘coloniality’ and ‘colonialism’: 

‘Coloniality is different from colonialism. Colonialism denotes a political and economic relation in which the sovereignty of a nation or a people rests on the power of another nation, which makes such nation an empire. Coloniality, instead, refers to long-standing patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism, but that define culture, labor, intersubjective relations, and knowledge production well beyond the strict limits of colonial administrations. Thus, coloniality survives colonialism. It is maintained alive in books, in the criteria for academic performance, in cultural patterns, in common sense, in the self-image of peoples, in aspirations of self, and so many other aspects of our modern experience. In a way, as modern subjects we breath coloniality all the time and everyday. ‘

In doing this Maldonado-Torres encourages a shift to a ‘decolonial turn’ which is ‘pragmatic’ in nature – focused on action as well as the recognition and problematisation of colonialism. These important linguistic differences will be returned to in relation to understandings and actions concerned with this evaluation.

Why is My Curriculum White? 

This project began in the UK in 2015, with the NUS Black Students work at University College London (UCL). Drawing on international campaigns, such as ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ in South Africa, students challenged the lack of diverse voices within university curricula and argued that ‘…education at universities is shaped by acts of colonialism and imperialism in which the experiences and contributions of non-white groups are ignored.’ (Bhopal, 2018, p.98). 

Locally, the NUS of the university in question took up the campaign, identifying it as a movement that ‘…aims to decolonise and critically challenge course content and perspectives offered through the accepted Western white canon of knowledge.’ The transcript from the launch event highlights a fear the ‘dismantling the structures’ is not being done (University Union, 2016) suggesting that the institution is paying lip service through piecemeal interventions such as mentoring schemes. Student campaigners called for a focus on dismantling barriers; on confronting the systemic challenges rather than diversifying individual programmes per se. The campaign ran from October 2015 to January 2017, and was led by the then NUS Education Officer. It comprised panel debates, library book campaigns, surveys and the dissemination of publicity materials such as mugs, posters and badges.  A number of recommendations arising from the project were later presented to a university committee.

However, since the conclusion of the campaign in January 2017, and as key campaign leaders have moved on, it is unclear what the longer-term impact has been.

Analysis of Findings

 

Twenty-five percent of staff within the Centre completed a questionnaire; of the respondents, two-thirds were teaching staff and one-third non-teaching. Although participants were asked to identify their ethnicity, no pre-selection criteria were established. As stated previously, this meant that analysis of responses could be problematic – however, 23 respondents chose to self-identify as white, and either English or British; of the remaining three, one identified as Asian, another as Pakistani, and the final respondent responded ‘N/A’. 

Four interviews were undertaken; two of the participants were members of staff and two were Student Representatives. 

Data was analysed manually through subsequent examination of both interview transcriptions and questionnaires. It was then tagged for keywords with the aim of constructing a thematic framework. The ensuing themes were: 

– Understandings of curriculum decolonisation 

 

– Impact of the Why is My Curriculum White? campaign 

 

– Material nature of the campaign 

 

– Barriers to decolonisation. 

 

Understandings of Curriculum Decolonisation 

 

The question ‘What do you understand by the term ‘decolonising the curriculum’?’ elicited a variety of responses and definitions. Diversity was a key theme, recurring in phrases such as ‘diversifying content and pedagogy’, ‘bringing in diverse perspectives’, ‘including diverse voices’ and so on. ‘Decolonising’ was also identified most commonly as a positive action; participants used words such as, ‘changing’, ‘acting’ ‘reflecting’, ‘enriching’ ‘appreciating’ and ‘rebalancing’. 

Two of the respondents stated that they didn’t understand the term; one stating that they wished ‘these terms were rendered in plain English’. 

In interviews, participants stated that:

‘There needs firstly to be an understanding of how the curriculum is colonised – and what is meant by that term’. 

‘Not everyone understands what it means to be colonised…how can you begin to decolonise without this basic understanding?’

Impact of the Campaign 

 

Despite evidence of a good understanding of decolonisation, awareness of the local WIMCW campaign was not as high as anticipated. Seven respondents were not aware of it all – of those who were familiar with it, most (24%) had learnt about it through the debate held on campus for Black History Month. A larger number (38%) were aware of the national campaign by NUS Black Students and accompanying film. 

In terms of change to the curriculum, 26% of respondents said that their curriculum had changed as a result of the local WIMCW action. The most significant changes made were amendments to reading lists and other resources (23% of participants reporting change had altered these). Other key changes involved instigating discussions with students (18%) and adding new topics to the syllabus (18%). Interestingly, no participant reported making any changes to teaching methods. 

The two students who were interviewed were not present at the instigation of the campaign. However one noted that:

‘ My tutor mentioned Why is My Curriculum White? when we talked in class about the current curriculum in schools. Some of us watched the film… but it was a bit awkward to discuss in depth in class, as some of us were a bit defensive. I’m not sure we all understood what it was saying, if I’m honest.’ 

The desktop analysis of the ‘Learning and Teaching’ degree programme curriculum revealed that books and other recommended materials were drawn almost entirely from white, European, North American and Australian theorists. Figures for the three modules analysed for this evaluation showed an alarmingly low percentage of writers of colour across over fifty sources (even allowing for the eventuality that authors were writers of colour (where their ethnicity could not be identified), the figure for white theorists held at a minimum of 97%). Although some new texts had been added between 2015 and 2018, and others removed, there was also no indication that WIMCW had influenced change in terms of the diversification of reading lists on the programme. 

 

Material Nature of the Campaign 

 

Interestingly a key factor in awareness-raising came through the material objects used to promote the local campaign – ironically, tea as one decolonising force – as one tutor stated in the survey comments: 

 

‘…it was the Why is My Curriculum White mug which I discovered 6 months ago in the staff room which captured my imagination. My induction certainly did not flag up the campaign and there is nothing on the notice board in the staff room to flag it. Thank goodness for cups of tea!’ 

 

In an interview two participants mentioned the posters that were displayed around campus as being key to their awareness of the campaign. The centre’s Equality Lead stated that: 

 

I remember seeing the [WIMCW] posters…that’s the first thing I saw about it, and I thought ‘this is brilliant’ and it connects to the other campaigns, I think at Oxford…and then the other way I connected with it was when they [NUS] came into the office with the mugs and the badges…’ 

 

Barriers to decolonisation 

 

Where changes hadn’t been made, in a number of cases respondents felt that this was because change was either out of their control or not relevant due to their role. A number of support staff stated that they do not have influence over course content. Certain curriculum areas also were identified as problematic; one respondent stated that: 

‘ Science definitely has issues with barriers to who can contribute to the body of knowledge and as such a fraction of the material I teach had definitely been discovered and refined by over-represented people… I can’t present science that has not been peer reviewed. The peer-review process is supposedly blind, and so has made steps to ensure meritocracy, however if you do not write in English then the scientific community in Britain/US and parts of Europe will probably not hear what you have to say… I can see that there is a real issue here. I would really welcome further discussion about this because I have no idea what it means for us and I haven’t immediately put my hands on resources which are trying to apply this to scientific disciplines… ‘

The interviews provided further context to the notion of barriers to organisational and curriculum change. One interviewee felt strongly that it was connected to individual responsibility: 

‘If you’re teaching at university level you have a responsibility to understand it [decolonisation] and also to understand the ways in which you have internalised bias – it’s not just about what your teaching them [students].’

For one student, the variation between approaches in different academic schools and inconsistencies across the organisation were significant barriers: 

‘I’d got used to bringing in different voices and perspectives on the [Interdisciplinary degree] here. But when I studied a module in another School I felt like… I had to go back to the old theorists. Kant and people like that…I wasn’t confident enough to bring the writers who had spoken to me back into what I was writing.’ 

The findings here suggest uneven practice across disciplines and School, alongside practical gaps in both time and knowledge required to elicit meaningful change.

Discussion

 

The evidence provided in this evaluation suggests that, whilst the initial impact of the local Why is My Curriculum White? project was limited, there is a good understanding of decolonisation issues within the centre. However, despite respondents generally feeling they have a good understanding, this has not been translated into significant action. As four of the original NUS recommendations (NUS, 2016) relate to curriculum design and content, and only one quarter of respondents reported curriculum change, it could be argued the campaign’s success was limited in terms of effect on the curriculum within the Centre. It is therefore worth examining more closely the way in which decolonisation is generally framed in the language used by respondents. The term ‘diversity’ recurs frequently and this term is, in itself problematic. Ahmed (2017) suggests that it reflects a process of ‘institutionalised polishing’; whereby it ‘replaces other more unacceptable terms that make people feel threatened.’ (2017, p.101). The positivity of the term is ‘shiny’ and prevents the necessity for actual work to be done. Further to this, Patel (2016) suggests that diversity as a ‘binaristic statement or goal’ is ‘woefully inadequate for a project of decolonization (p.93). Decolonisation must instead attend to the dismantling of material structures and practices; and action must be meaningful. The centre’s Equality Lead drew a distinction between ‘decolonialising’ and ‘decolonising’ which is helpful here:

‘…to be decolonial or post-colonial, is to problematize… but decolonialise is the new term. Being able to actively [my emphasis] find new forms of knowledge.’

It could be suggested that future activity is centred around action as well as reflection and examination of the colonised nature of our work. Taking this further, I want to introduce Applebaum’s (2016) concept of ‘response-ability.’ This idea takes us forward as agents for change who are able to enact transformation within their own embodied and embedded entities. A significant proportion of respondents in support (rather than direct teaching) roles felt that they unable to instigate change due to their lack of influence over the curriculum. A wider understanding of curriculum being more than just the syllabus may help staff to recognise the impact of their practice in terms of other activities such as induction, advice and guidance, admissions and academic support.

Participants also mentioned the significance of material influences, such as posters, mugs and badges in terms of awareness raising and sustainability. Where campaigns are student-led, it is difficult to have one figurehead as campaign leaders will necessarily move on (through graduation); the nature of the NUS as a campaigning organisation also suggests that different issues will be prioritised according to the nature of its leadership and student voice at a particular point in time. 

What is heartening is the desire for more knowledge and understanding of the decolonisation agenda; there is a sense of a conversation beginning and an appetite to continue the work through further discussion and action. However, in discussing the findings of this evaluation it is important to note the absence of a number of voices; what were the thoughts and experiences of those who did not respond?

Conclusion 

 

Despite the limitations in scope of this evaluation, the ‘reterratorialising’ nature of colonialism within the academy, and my own complex position as a researcher, this study has revealed a number of interesting findings in relation to the success and sustainability of Why is my Curriculum White? as a campaign. It is clear that, despite good understandings of decolonialisation issues, curriculum change in relation to WIMCW has been inconsistent within the university school at the centre of this study. Where change did occur, it was largely framed around the diversification of reading lists and materials. However, there is will and enthusiasm to learn and reflect across the Centre. I have been asked to make recommendations to the Centre in the spirit of affirmatory praxis, and these will focus on the following issues: 

– How to make a shift from ‘decolonising’ to ‘decolonialising’; and thus build emphasis on action in addition to doing the important work of problematizing curriculum issues 

 

– The importance of investing in sustainable, material reminders of the campaign messages 

 

– Allocation of meaningful time for reflection and discussion, particularly of areas in which colonisation is present but less debated, such as the science disciplines 

 

– A wider understanding of ‘curriculum’ and who is able to influence its development. 

In doing this work we need to also be wary of conflating this project with other social justice interventions. As Tuck and Yang (2012) suggest, we should not ‘domesticate’ decolonisation, nor use it as a metaphor. The term itself and the associating work can be subsumed into the system (‘reterratorialised’ in Deleuzian terms) so problematization of the concept should be an ongoing project. 

This study has also called into question the sustainability of campaigns led by students who are not permanently represented in the workings of an organisation. It is therefore heartening to see the university in question establishing a working group comprised of academic leads, tutors and student representatives. As the group held its first meeting mid-way through this evaluation project it is too early to tell whether its work will relate in any way to the recommendations in this study but its progress will be followed closely. 

Patel (2016, p.95) states that ‘While we cannot map the future, we can map possible futurities and do so with a reckoning of the past trajectories that give shape to the present realities.’ We must continue to ‘breath life’ into the curriculum for fairness, parity and the joy of re-imagining what it means to be human in the world today; and this is our responsibility of academics in positions of privilege. To close with the words of the centre’s Equality Lead: 

 

‘We need to keep talking about it, so it doesn’t go away. From the students’ point of view, we need to consider…what’s the impact on them, of not continuing to ask these questions?’

 

References

 

Ahmed, S. (2017). Living a Feminist Life. London: Duke University Press.

 

Apple, M. (1993). The Politics of Knowledge: Does a National Curriculum Make Sense? Teachers College Record. 95(2), pp.222-241.

 

Applebaum, B. (2010). Being White, Being Good. New York: Lexington Books.

 

Braidotti, R. (2013). The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press.

 

Fanon, F. (1986) Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto.

 

Fanon, F. (2001 [1961]) The Wretched of the Earth. London: Penguin, with an introduction by Sartre, J.P. and translated by Farrington, C.

 

Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin.

 

Gordon, L.R., Sharpley-Whiting, T.D. & White, R.T. (eds). (1996). Fanon: A Critical Reader. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd

 

Hall, R. and Smyth, K. 2016 Dismantling the Curriculum in Higher Education. Open Library of Humanities, 2(1), pp. 1–28.

 

Kelly, A. (1999). The Curriculum: Theory and Practice. 4th Edition. London: Sage Publications.

 

Maldonado-Torres, N. (2007). On Coloniality of Being. Cultural Studies. 21 (2) 240-279.

 

Maldonado-Torres, N. (2016). Ten Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality. [Online]. Available at: http://frantzfanonfoundation-fondationfrantzfanon.com/IMG/pdf/maldonado-torres_outline_of_ten_theses-10.23.16_.pdf [Accessed 2 June 2018].

 

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. (2017). Interview with Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. [Online]. Available at https://projectmyopia.com/interview-with-professor-ngugi-wa-thiongo/ [Accessed 20 February 2018].

 

Owusu, M. (2017). Decolonising the Curriculum. TED Talk . [Online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeKHOTDwZxU [Accessed 3 June 2018].

 

Patel, L. (2016). Decolonising Educational Research: From Ownership to Answerability. New York: Taylor and Francis.

 

Tuck, E. and Yang, K. (2012). Decolonization is not a Metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society. 1(1), pp.1-40.

 

Rethinking Diversity In Our Curriculum

This Guest post is written by Asish Kundi. Middle leader and Changemaker.

“Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The above quote is always an excellent component for a starter for many RS or PSHE lessons. A key area of concern is that in many schools, it regularly is limited to only particular subjects where students are given a relatively accurate and sufficient amount of representation of diversity and equality. In subject areas where lessons are sometimes limited to an hour a fortnight or the odd assembly, the occasional 15 minute form time or a drop-down day; Many students are starved of diversity within the curriculum. If a student is absent for one of the strategies previously mentioned it could be weeks or even a year until they have another opportunity to receive a strand of their education that prepares them for our modern-day world.

Why We Must Rise

It is becoming more evident that our delivery of the curriculum needs to be global. When pondering the concept, it needs to be genuinely global where both east and west are married together to provide a balanced delivery of our curriculum. I am not saying it’s not already happening. However, I am saying that we need to further embed diversity and equality in all areas of our curriculum.

I sincerely believe that embedding a global ethos within our curriculum needs to be perceived as our duty of care and a crucial part of our safeguarding in schools. We may be able to give the odd ‘flash in the pan’ moments of SMSC and FBV. Unless it is thoroughly embedded into all areas of our curriculum; Students will have their ‘flash in the pan’ moments of global education and then in some cases outside of school receive a heavy diet of hate and extreme values. As schools, we need to step up and compete with that menu.

“The bad people trying to make the world worse never take a day off, so why should I?”

Bob Marley.

Mr. Marley is right with this quote, and the critical question is, how do we compete?

Some of the strategies come from Mr. Pranav Patel, who has pioneered the concept of decolonising the curriculum, which is the future of having a more diverse, equal and representative education for all.

How do we serve?

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The slide above is from some training I presented; it focuses on the specialisms of the trainees I was presenting to; however, the sentiment still stands. As an RS specialist who also teaches A-level Psychology many of the Philosophers or Psychologists that I refer from the exam specifications tend to be white males. There is a distinct lack of diversity in the credit given to religious and psychological thought. It needs to be made clear that the aim is not to shame or blame communities but to empower all communities.

In each of the subjects, it outlines topics and individuals who would provide more a global perspective on critical areas of some of our themes. It is about boosting the representation and giving credit to contributions to knowledge from different cultures. It is not about using diverse backgrounds as a gimmick to promote diversity. However, we must focus on the participation and achievements of individuals rather than just the environment.

In terms of speaking about the key issues, we must look at history and society without a rose-tinted lens. We must tackle it head-on, as that is the foundation to build on when creating an equal and fair culture for all. The German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in September publicly apologised for Nazi Tyranny in Poland. In Germany, every child during their education must visit and learn about the concentration camps. Daryl Davis speaks of how the Ku Klux Klan is as American as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet. He makes clear that the KKK is also a part of American history. We must take into account and reflect the light and the dark sides of our history, and this will be a catalyst in not only engaging more students within the curriculum but also leading towards a society that has genuine equality at its core. This blog is not just a call to history teachers but all of us who work in education.

How does it empower?

Pranav Patel speaks of how when he was at university in his early twenties; he was challenged on the contributions of Indians to the world of knowledge; he felt that there were no answers to this challenge. This position is not an isolated anomaly, for many individuals growing up in our education system, this would be the case.mWhen I was growing up, I remember during the two minutes of silence in remembrance services, while having the due respect for those who fell in the great wars. For some reason, I did not feel part of it. Again, like Pranav, it was when I became an adult it dawned on me that whenever there was the talk of the great wars, there was no mention of people that looked, spoke or behaved like my family or me. So if I did come across an experience of overt racism where somebody would say something along the lines of “go back to your own country.” In many cases, I tended to believe them, that this wasn’t my country because I was under the illusion that people like me gave no value to this country.

By not representing these key contributions of different cultures to our world in all curricula, we run the risk of isolating a large proportion of students. Who unless we change, will continue to be disengaged, which will contribute to the metaphysical two-tier system that our curriculum can, in many ways embed into young people’s minds. A consequence is that one strand of society will have a superiority complex and the other an inferiority complex. The sooner we embed and prioritise representation, diversity and equality into all our curriculum areas, the sooner all students are empowered to achieve their most ambitious goals.

 

The Employee’s New Clothes

This weeks guest blog is from Darnell Fine.

It is your first week of school. A colleague saw a cobra behind the middle school cafeteria. He says, matter-of-factly, that your school is within a “jungle.” Another colleague says there is a “jungle” within your school. A path to tropical rainforest just outside the backdoors where kids eat during lunchtime. You can’t tell what’s inside or out when walking through the school. What you can tell: it’s hot as hell. 88 degrees (Fahrenheit – 32 Celsius) year-round.

Your body is saying that you need to decolonize your clothes. Dress shirts with pit stains lose their formality. Khakis become wrinkled after hours of shifting uncomfortably in your desk chair. Wool jackets boxed away. But still, you dress “properly” for the cultural climate of your school but not the seasonal one of this new land.

Etiquette becomes a nervous condition.

“Hi, you must be…”

Another colleague extends their hand to greet you. You extend your own and feel the pool of sweat trapped in your armpit trickle down your ribcage.

You wish more colleagues would confuse you for the other Black person who was hired this year. At least then, you wouldn’t feel obliged to shake hands while correcting them.

***

Your previous head of school in the UK said you would have to cut off your hair when moving here. It will get “frizzy” she said, fixing her gaze on your already “frizzy” locs.

You did not cut your hair, but perhaps there is a black top hat for you to wear or the Emperor’s clothes for you to don. Something to distract your new colleagues from the fact that your body is trying to decolonize your clothes.

Your edges and new growth running from the pursuing standards of Victorian respectability. But aren’t these nice trousers? They were tailored somewhere in Asia to have a European look so that it appears you have dressed appropriately for gainful employment.

And you ask, “How can we teach who we are dressed in someone else’s clothes?” What parts of your identity do you cover? And in turn, when you are not even comfortable in your skin, what curriculum do you cover? Cover not in the sense of scope and sequence, but cover in the sense of whose stories and whose histories do you cloak with invisibility?

How long before your body rejects its uniform? How long before a uniformed curriculum begins to see the richness of difference? Will it be one afternoon when the heat becomes so unbearable, and your colleagues can discern one Black person from another? Shaking hands at the lunch table in a dress shirt that makes you seem more refined and approachable, will you feel yourself bursting at the seams? Will the stitching of textbooks begin to unravel under a blazing sun?

Will you flee to the back of the cafeteria and run out to the “jungle” like Paul Robeson or Brutus Jones? Strip off the Emperor’s clothes and disintegrate back into yourself…? Will the canon implode into itself? And out of the ashes, create itself a new story that isn’t new at all, but spoken with decolonized tongues that have been silent for too long and written hands that are finally free.

What is Victim Blaming?

It’s society’s issue, not any single individual.

The Simplicity of (Societal) Oppression :

Oppression is solely due to the bias of those in power; it is because, in the utopia of a ‘more equal’ society, people with segments of power will have to relinquish that very same privilege.

Privilege may be described as notes being stuffed into your pockets as you walk down the street; The analogy misses the source of those resources, that money comes from the pockets of the oppressed. (Zeus Leonardo)

Where there is a power imbalance between two sets of people, the lines of power can only flow from oppressor to oppressed. From white to black, from men to women, from able-bodied to disabled, from hetero to LGBQ+. from cis to trans, etc.

Essential the roads equality, egalitarianism and equity are simple:

People in power need to relinquish that power to people who deserve it.

With the case of white supremacy, the lines flow from white people to people of colour. To solve white supremacy, white people need only to relinquish their unearned power to people of colour — further equity for the intersections of men to women, cis to trans, straight to LGBQ+, etc.

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None of this above is the fault of the oppressed. No matter how a person of protected characteristics behaves, they are NOT responsible for their experiences of societal oppression; anything converse to this is pure and merely victim-blaming.

TW Below: Suspected Attack

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victimblamingin2

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/police-accused-victim-blaming-after-20978270

Bring this back to race; I am often told to adjust (my speech or actions) or act differently concerning my activism by white people. Before I go on to make my point, I am being dictated to by people who benefit from the oppression that I face and fight, how I should go about dealing with that day to day experience. If you don’t see the issue with that, please stop reading and go back to earlier blogs on oppression in the equity section.

However, I am aware that it often falls on the shoulders of PoC to enlighten educators about these issues. The burden of education, questioning, nudging and straight out calling out is emotionally exhausting it’s akin to constant swimming against the current. Please do not take my willingness (when I am up to it) as a responsibility.

[33:48] And when you really want to take away, to oppress, and to prevent, you have to have a reason for despising your victim. Where racism exists as an idea, it was always a confidence game that sucked all the strength of the victim. It really is the red flag that the toreador dances before the head of a bull. Its purpose is only to distract, to keep the bull’s mind away from his power and his energy, to keep his mind focused on anything but his own business. Its hoped-for consequence was to define Black people as reactions to White presence.

[35:46] It’s important, therefore, to know who the real enemy is, and to know the function, the very serious function of racism, which is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up.

Toni Morrison #citeblackwomen

Hence, part of ‘white supremacy’ function is to distract (Toni Morrison) and so are all form of this blatant abuse of power. Victim blaming is a form of distraction. It’s time we start tackle the issues around oppression and *supporting* the victims.

References

https://www.mackenzian.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Transcript_PortlandState_TMorrison.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/29/english-universities-show-gaps-in-black-students-attainment-data-reveals

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/aug/20/i-dont-blame-any-teacher-for-not-coming-out-as-gay

Ok Men, What Now?

This guest piece comes from Tom Rademacher.

This piece is in progress. So am I.

I am in progress, trying to figure out how to best be a guy right now. I understand some obvious don’ts, some obvious do’s, but there’s a whole lot of mess in between. I’m trying to figure those things out. Trying to figure out how to stumble through these things without doing more damage.

Admittedly, I am behind. I’ve done a lot of work on what it means to be white, to understand how race and racism work in our country. I’m no expert there either, but I’ve been putting in the work. I have a lot more to learn about gender, a lot more to do to see, really, the ways that sexism shape our experiences. I, like many, I imagine, have found this moment to be one I cannot look away from, cannot stop thinking about, but I’m not sure exactly what it means yet for men, for me.

I see men struggling with this everywhere. They want to supportive, yes, but also that’s hard when it seems so many men everywhere, most likely all of us, have been some part of the problem.  Men are hearing phrases like ‘toxic masculinity’ and worrying that all of masculinity is being labeled toxic. I see men acting like an awful lot is being asked of them.

We need to be better. This much should be glaringly obvious. This moment in history is not about us, it is from us. So, men, we have work to do. We do. Me too.

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It is ok to be a man.

Seriously.

No one is telling you that it’s not.  When someone says, “men have hurt me,” or “men can be dangerous and damaging,” or, even, “men are trash,” we feel it. We feel like they are saying it’s not ok to be a man, but that’s because brains are dumb, and any time we feel a little uncomfortable we go into full on oh-my-god-i’m-being-attacked mode. We run away from what’s been said at moments that we should be listening hardest.

But no one is telling you it’s not ok to be a man.

It is ok to find women attractive. Have you seen them? They’re very good looking, and it is ok to think so. No one is saying that you can’t think or hope for or share sexy things sometimes, but the purpose of women is not to be attractive and have boobs around you.

But we shouldn’t comment on the bodies of the women around us, shouldn’t reduce them to being objects of attraction, shouldn’t stare or grab or send that text that says, “hey, we just met, let me tell you the things I think about your body,” or “what an interesting spreadsheet of cost analysis you shared in the meeting today, also, here’s that picture of my penis you didn’t request.”

No one is saying that you shouldn’t find women attractive, but your attraction to women does not excuse actions that make women around you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or undervalued.This is not a high bar for us to climb over. Like, this should be the easy stuff.

Part of the work ahead of us is to figure out how much we’ve internalized some concept that women are less-than, that their value as a colleague or friend or person has anything to do with how attractive we may or may not find them. This is harder stuff. We grew up in this, we swim in it all day. This is part of the process of this piece, that I had it out there and was checked on how much my “don’t objectify women” stuff still objectified women. Yes. Yep.

So it needs to be ok to be sexual, right? But also we cannot do it at the expense of respecting the whole real humanity of the women around us. Yes. This shouldn’t be the hard stuff, but it is kinda the hard stuff.

Look, sometimes work crushes and work flirting is the only thing that gets us back in the door the next day. But also, look, we need to know when it’s ok and welcome. We need to understand where lines are, need to understand that silence isn’t consent, that silence is often the loudest “no” that can be made without all the “just joking just relax just complimenting just guys being guys.” It’s not that hard, really, to know if someone is interested in that kind of attention from you and in that moment, not hard to ask or be clear or know people well enough to   but if you do think it’s hard, if you do believe that every interaction you have with a woman is a potential trap to you being branded a pervert and predator, then trust your instincts and leave women alone.

So I think that’s what people mean, that’s what I understand that they mean, when they talk about toxic masculinity. The phrase is not an attack on all of masculinity. The phrase is meant to highlight that there are pieces of masculinity that have been perverted in a way that encourage and excuse causing harm to others and yourself. Icky masculinity.

We may feel like the options in front of us right now are to behave as we’ve always behaved and blame the outrage machine or over-reactions or political correctness for all these stories being such a big deal, or we can chop our genitals and sit at home alone for the rest of our lives.  But, actually, there’s a whole bunch of area between those two things, a whole magical space called “being a decent human to other humans.” Again, this should be the easy stuff.

Men. Think about the times you’ve been the most angry in the last few weeks, the last year, the last time you called someone “Bitch.” How much of your anger, or even discomfort, was caused by someone saying you didn’t get to have or do something that you really wanted? And why does that make us so damn mad? Why does it scare us so much?

A lot of guys are scared. I get that. I’m kinda freaked out. I’m sure I’ve been the guy who made someone uncomfortable, and probably unsafe, and probably unvalued. I know that I never intended to. I know that when I’ve been called on it, I have gotten this spikey pit in my stomach that made me want to give up on talking to women forever, but I also know I didn’t mean to, which only kinda makes it a little better.

And though it may feel like every interaction with women we have or have ever had is this minefield we are all certain to stumble in, the reality is that the women in our lives are giving us thousands of chances to get this right. They want so badly for us to be one of the good ones. They want us to try. A witch hunt doesn’t typically have a thousand second chances for the hunted.

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I’d like to be one of the good ones. I’d like to be an ally, you know? But that’s not a word I think should be self-applied, and I have most certainly not earned it yet. I’ve been that other guy. I’ve never meant to, never had the intent to make someone uncomfortable or use my body or my voice or my position to make any woman feel uncomfortable, and certainly not in any way that she would feel there is no option but act like it’s fine. I’ve never tried to be the guy on the other end of #metoo, I would never want to have done that, but it’s also impossible to imagine I haven’t. Fuck. I didn’t know.

Still, though, it was my responsibility to know, right? Before the flirty comment or the joke, or whatever I did that was creepy. It was my job to know it was ok before I did those things, to know the impact those jokes and comments, that where my body is and the danger it could represent, to understand how my interactions with women are impacted by the history of interactions between all men and all women.

Maybe we don’t start at “he’s probably a good guy” and we don’t start at neutral. We start, very often, at “This man may do, say, or try something that may harm me.” Listen to the women of the world right now. We’ve earned it. Now, it’s our job to do better. It’s our job as men to do whatever is necessary to prioritize the safety and comfort of the women around us.

And you know what?

That’s really not asking too much.

 

 

Tom’s blog can be found here.