Maybe you have seen a T-shirt that says “Decolonize everything”.

The term “decolonization” has become inevitable. There are calls for decolonization of museums and the art world, fashion, food, publishing, the Internet, and the media.

But in education, the call for decolonization is the loudest. Phrases proliferate: decolonization colleges, canons, classrooms, syllabus, and our teaching methods.

The expanding use of the concept of decolonization has aroused opposition. Two influential scholars Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang believe that we should Don’t treat decolonization as a metaphor Various methods of improving education, such as promoting social justice, adopting a critical approach, or implementing more student-centered pedagogy.

However, given the popularity of the term, we should ask: what does the call for decolonization of the college actually mean?

What it means to decolonize museums is obvious. This is a question that makes museums more inclusive: expand or dismantle art classics, get rid of or challenge European-centric aesthetic standards, and share the power to collect and interpret art with those whose voices and opinions were previously marginalized.

It’s also obvious how people might decolonize like American Historical ReviewThis requires journals to correct exclusive practices, which have effectively suppressed the voices of scholars of color, indigenous and female scholars, underestimated the historical experience of non-elite people, and neglected life outside of the privileged areas of politics, diplomacy, military and economics. aspect. Affairs.

Decolonization AHR It also means opening its pages more widely, actively soliciting opinions from people whose previous work has been neglected, evaluating submitted content from a broader perspective, reviewing a wider variety of books, and authors who are required to be revised and resubmitted. Collaborate more closely and make the journal more responsive. Change perspectives.

But it is not so obvious what it means to decolonize the college.

  • Is this just an additional process that involves expanding the coverage of the subject and incorporating previously marginalized voices and opinions? Or does it need something more radical: questioning or criticizing the concepts, knowledge structures and standards that emerged in the era of European expansion?
  • Is it just a matter of applying critical thinking skills to topics and assumptions that were previously taken for granted? Or does this involve rethinking how to evaluate evidence, how to read text, and how to generate, verify, and disseminate knowledge?
  • Decolonization certainly requires that we respect the history, life experience, voice, culture, and opinions of all students. But does this also require us to deal with power issues, including hierarchical assumptions rooted in gender, class, race, ethnicity, and other variables and the way in which inequality affects classroom dynamics?

It is easy to view the call for the decolonization of colleges as the latest in a series of outdated educational fashions. But I think we should take demand seriously. After all, historically, formal education has played a key role in colonial enterprises. Indigenous children’s boarding schools have a sordid history of genocide: the use of indigenous languages ​​or religions is prohibited to “kill Indians to save mankind.”

In addition to all the discussions about education as a gateway to opportunity and progress, schools have very consciously pursued various non-educational goals in the past. These include implanting specific versions of history and patriotism, beautifying Western cultural achievements, and instilling civic and cultural values ​​that are often inconsistent with students’ family values.

Less public but equally important is that the school also helps with reasonable socio-economic differences, “naturalizes” gender and class differences, defines intelligence in narrow academic terms, and reinforces the feeling that achievement is mainly the result of merit and failure It is mainly a product of personal defects, defects and deficiencies.

The most radical, Decolonization means “resisting and actively forgetting the dangers and harmful legacy of colonization, especially the racist ideas of blacks, indigenous and colored people (BIPOC) people inferior to European whites.” it takes Interrogation and dismantling of “the power structure that carries the legacy of racism, imperialism, and colonialism.” But more commonly, it requires teachers to solve a series of curriculum, teaching, and assessment challenges.

professor responsible As intellectuals, question established paradigms and hierarchies; combat and delete (or just ignorance) knowledge generated by non-established institutions; highlight the contributions, ideas and experiences of all people; and recognize that power relations shape the production, dissemination and application of knowledge the way.

Let’s look at the five areas where the call for change is highest.

1. Modify the course

A kind 2019 Open University Report Provides the most concise statement of the value of decolonization courses I have ever read:

“The curriculum provides a way to identify the knowledge we value. It constructs the way we are taught to think and talk about the world… Decolonization learning prompts us to think about everything we learn from a new perspective… Decolonization learning helps us understand , Understand and challenge colonialism in the way our world is shaped. This also motivates us to examine our professional practices.”

Not only is the decolonization curriculum more inclusive, it also raises questions about established paradigms; deals with issues of power, hierarchy, and equity; traces the origin of ideas; and shows how key concepts can be used for good and evil.

2. Reimagine our syllabus

The syllabus also contains a lot of content: course records, course calendar, list of course requirements and reading materials, and a legally binding (and bloated) contract between the student and the professor. In the best case, the syllabus provides more things: insight into the curriculum structure—its learning goals, expectations, pedagogy, sequence of activities, and evaluation mode.

As William Germano and Kit Nicholls In their recent book on that humble, humble document, it was clearly stated that preparing the syllabus provides an unparalleled opportunity to participate in the conscious design process. Teachers should ask themselves:

  • How can I transform my class into an inquiry community?
  • How should I organize, sort and arrange the rhythm of reading and homework?
  • What is the purpose of the reading material-to provide necessary background and reference information, supplements to lectures, models for imitation, or text for explanation?
  • What kind of activities and assignments are most likely to help students acquire the skills and knowledge I want them to master, and how can I best assess whether they have achieved the course goals?

The decolonization syllabus needs more than just include many non-Western or non-white authors. This is about how to attract and motivate students and encourage them to actively participate in their own learning. Equally important is how to expose them to different voices, perspectives and analytical frameworks; promote debate and discussion; and build their own understanding of the subject.

3. Reimagine classroom dynamics

The decolonization classroom is more than just content. This is also related to classroom dynamics.

The method of decolonization begins with the recognition that the classroom is a place of power, privilege, hierarchy, tolerance, exclusion, and implicit norms that themselves reflect certain cultural assumptions about gender, race, and other variables.

The challenges faced by teachers include how to maximize student participation, how to make every student have a sense of belonging, and how to coordinate open and civilized, lively and dynamic discussions, so that students feel able to have no problems. Express different (but well-founded) opinions. Fear of embarrassment or ridicule.

4. Rethink our pedagogy

in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire, a landmark call for critical pedagogy in 1970, author comparison Two opposing teaching styles: “Bank” content “enters” students, rather than creating a learning environment where students and their mentors can learn from each other and learn from their life experience and cultural background.

In Freire’s view, classrooms should provide a space where many students who feel (and are) marginalized can feel empowered, see themselves as knowledge holders, and free to question what is taught. , Rather than providing them with “official knowledge” as recipients and ruminants of anything.

From this perspective, pedagogy should challenge the notion that teachers are the sole holders of knowledge. In turn, the learning process should involve investigation, dialogue, and critical reflection. The content and activities should emphasize relevance and applicability. The ultimate goal is to liberate students and make themselves independent critical thinkers.

5. Make all students proficient

Equal educational opportunities are not enough. Our goal should be to give every student an equal opportunity to participate and help all students reach a feasible level of mastery.

This requires teachers to acknowledge and reject the practices and norms that lead students to break away, and acknowledge that many traditional assessment methods are biased and cannot accurately measure students’ mastery of course materials.

Not only that, teachers must assume greater responsibilities to enable students to succeed. Their main role is not to provide information, but to guide, advise, counsel, guide and proactively lend a helping hand-truly becoming partners in the learning journey of students.

Calls for classroom decolonization make many teachers feel uncomfortable, worrying that this will lead to a more toxic campus culture, and divert attention from basic content and skills. The result is excessive emphasis on systemic racism, white privilege, intersectionality, and implicitness. Sexual prejudice, micro-attacks, and language supervision have turned the classroom into a T group.

Some critics even equate decolonization with “Struggle meeting“The deployment in China during the Mao Zedong era was an understatement of rigor and the autonomy of professors.

However, the problems of prejudice, race, and gender equality in the classrooms determined by decolonization are real and should be publicly acknowledged and resolved.

In essence, our requirements for decolonization of courses, syllabus, classroom culture, pedagogy, and assessment reflect values ​​that almost all of us like.

  • We should rigorously review our courses, assignments, teaching methods, and assessment techniques to ensure that they are not biased or exclusive.
  • We should purposefully incorporate different voices, opinions and perspectives into our curriculum.
  • Promoting fairness and tolerance requires teachers to have empathy, cultural and emotional literacy and responsiveness, and their curriculum should provide students with flexible ways to demonstrate their mastery of classroom materials, and their grading policy should provide students with opportunities for growth .
  • Teachers need to cultivate a class culture so that all students feel accepted, respected, participated, empowered, recognized, and well supported.

For all of us who believe that general education should be liberating and liberate its recipients from superstition and outdated traditions, aren’t these promises just common sense?

Steven Mintz is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

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