George Orwell is quoted as saying “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them”. The cultural left’s campaign to radically change what is taught in schools and universities by ‘decolonising’ the curriculum and eradicating ‘whiteness’ provides a good example.
According to the academics associated with the international ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ movement teaching subjects like history, literature, physics, science and mathematics is guilty of reinforcing Western imperialism and racism.
For such academics removing statues of historical figures like Cecil Rhodes and Bristol’s Edward Colston (both condemned as racists and imperialists) is not enough. More urgent is the need to take control of the curriculum and to ensure it reflects the knowledge, belief systems and cultural heritage of black, Asian and minority ethnic students (BAME).
The academics on the ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ Facebook page argue “Only by challenging the often invisible whiteness which underpins the dominant intellectual culture can we build genuinely inclusive and progressive places of learning”.
According to activists, a liberal education is a Eurocentric concept employed to oppress non-whites by defining whites as “morally and intellectually superior”. And as universities are the “primary motor in reproducing this ideology” that must be challenged.
Jane Haggis, an academic at Flinders University specialising in colonial studies and critical race studies, argues whiteness enforces “an invisible structure of privilege and power” employed to assert the primacy of Western civilisation.
Science is not immune with two American academics arguing science education must embrace cultural diversity and multiculturalism on the basis whiteness in science “is a hegemonic racial dominance that has become so natural it is almost invisible”.
Woke students also condemn the established disciplines associated with Western civilisation. At the University College London students argue “European science, modernity and Enlightenment thinking” impose “the knowledge and moral standpoint of wealthy white, cisgendered, able-bodied men”.
In a manifesto titled ‘8 Reasons the Curriculum is White’ the students conclude “Dismantling the white curriculum thus requires the dismantling of the multiple spheres of power that reproduce dominant systems of thought”.
Ignored is that common sense suggests some systems of thought compared to others are more effective and successful in giving meaning to the world in which we live and to more closely approximate what constitutes truth and the nature of reality.
At the University of Cape Town students go as far as arguing Western science must be decolonized as it is “a product of Western modernity” and not relevant to black Africans. One student goes as far as arguing Newton’s concept of gravity is on the same level as witchcraft.
The body responsible for the Australian National Curriculum also suggests indigenous science must be included in the school science curriculum. Schools are told that “Indigenous history, culture, knowledge and understanding can be incorporated into teaching core scientific concepts”.
In his essay ‘Decolonizing the Curriculum,’ James Lindsay suggests the radical attack on the curriculum “draws heavily from the neo-Marxist ‘critical’ tradition as well as postmodernist conceptions of knowledge, power and culture”.
In particular, Lindsay refers to Michael Foucault and Jacques Derrida, as well as critical education theorists, as the leading intellectual sources for what is now a global movement to ‘decolonise the curriculum’. One can also add Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Pierre Bourdieu and Roland Barthes.
The critical tradition Lindsay refers to is based on ‘critical theory’. Originating in Germany’s the Frankfurt School during the early 1930s critical theory is an emancipatory and liberating philosophy arguing that the most effective way to bring about the revolution is to focus on the culture wars and take the long march through the institutions.
In relation to education, the argument is instead of being inherently worthwhile or beneficial subjects like history, literature, mathematics and science are simply tools employed by the privileged capitalist class to guarantee its continued domination.
As argued by Lindsay, those committed to critical theory argue “the curriculum is an ideological project devised by the powerful in society – meaning mostly straight, white, Western men with a Eurocentric bent on things like science, reason and rationality”.
The origins of the culture wars and the move to decolonise the white curriculum, as detailed by the Melbourne-based academic Tracey Rowland, can also be traced to the work of the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci who wrote The Prison Notebooks.
Gramsci argues capitalism keeps control by enforcing ‘cultural hegemony’, a situation where citizens are indoctrinated and conditioned to accept their oppression as natural, and that the left must engage in the “war of position”. A war centring on taking control of schools, universities, the Church, the media and intermediary organisations like trade unions.
The French Marxist Louis Althusser puts the same argument when writing revolutionary change can only occur in the West by taking control of what he terms the “ideological state apparatus”.
Evidence of how successful the cultural-left has been in enforcing politically correct ideology, mind control and groupthink abound. Hundreds of university academics are happy to refuse funding to establish centres to teach Western Civilisation because such centres would promote a “conservative, culturally essentialist and Eurocentric vision”.
Proven by the example of Peter Ridd sacked from James Cook University for daring to question the impact of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef academic freedom no longer exists as universities impose doctrinaire group think.
The neo-Marxist inspired Safe Schools program taught in primary and secondary schools teaches students gender and sexuality are fluid and limitless and they have control over whether they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex or anything in between.
Literary texts like Shakespeare’s Othello, the novels of Austen, Conrad and Malouf plus children’s fables like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are now critiqued and deconstructed in terms of power relationships and the new trinity of gender, race and class.
Evidenced by the Black Lives Matter movement destroying statues and marching illegally we now live in a time when mob hysteria and politically correct groupthink prevail instead of rationality and reason. A time described by W. B. Yeats when “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of A Politically Correct Dictionary and Guide (available at kevindonnelly.com.au)
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