Decolonising my course
13th May 2021
For many years schools and universities in the UK have taught curriculums with a bias towards white, western knowledge frameworks with their legacy in empire, power, and hierarchy. It is everywhere and some people will not even notice. Without change though, generations of students will continue to graduate with white western biases that marginalise diverse viewpoints and limit the equal, global co-operation needed to build a sustainable future.
In a recent blog by Lianna Williams we looked at what decolonising learning means, and why it’s important for sustainability. In this blog, we’re building on that story by hearing how Psychology student Thomas is putting this into practice….
Given psychology’s history of perpetuating oppressive narratives with a scientific veneer, such as myths about race and IQ, I’d say psychology has a particular responsibility to be more self-aware of the social consequences of the knowledge it produces.
By in large Psychology needs a lot of work
Our course has modules that are more self-aware than others, such as those geared towards understanding political and historical context, those demonstrating the role of psychology in injustices, or those highlighting how white and Eurocentric the Psychology discipline has been and continues to be.
For the most part though, I don’t think my curriculum (like many across all universities) goes that extra step. It doesn’t yet thoroughly ground individuals and theories in particular time periods or highlight their problematic past where it exists. I’d say there is a lot it can do in terms of providing alternatives to Eurocentric perspectives and instead providing perspectives or work by marginalized groups within our own societies. Diverse voices and different cultural viewpoints have been overlooked in history and excluded from practice so even talking about undone science would be a valuable part of the conversation in itself.
UoG is taking some positive steps on equality and inclusion
The University has offered a three-part Embedding Inclusion in Teaching and Learning workshop to lecturers which I also attended. A notable portion of those attending these workshops were psychology lecturers, which I personally see as a promising sign!
These workshops covered a range of important issues from how to accommodate hidden disabilities, to micro-aggressions, utilizing non-European material, avoiding perpetuating harmful stereotypes, empowering minority voices, and reflecting on privilege and its impact on people’s lives.
My current placement involves working with a couple of psychology lecturers in the creation of an action plan to take steps towards decolonizing the curriculum. Although it’s in its early stages, it’s currently looking at coming up with a criterion for a decolonized curriculum – ways of assessing goals, ways of engaging with students for feedback, and resources to help lectures decolonize the curriculums they design.
While I’d say there’s a lot more that needs to be done, it’s good to see at least there is a level of awareness of issues of decolonizing curriculums and steps being taken towards it. But it is worrying to see a culture war waged by the government on universities and education, banning the teaching of critical and reflective topics such as critical race theory in secondary schools and below. I’m hoping this doesn’t escalate into something that undoes the progress that universities are beginning to make.
Find out more about this topic and how to help decolonise your curriculum
- Read about decolonising learning at UoG
- Find out about national decolonisation campaigns by the NUS
- Browse UoG’s resource lists on Decolonising the curriculum and Black Lives Matter
- Follow the UoG Equality Team on Twitter or Instagram
Written by Thomas Matthews, 3rd Year BSc (Hons) Psychology student