DE-COLONISING EDUCATION: EMPOWERMENT PROJECT. D.E.E.P.

ISSUES & RESOURCES

Sign posting human & multi-media resources to schools & beyond to combat inequalities, racism and injustice arising from our colonial experience. 

ISSUES

Introduction

A group of teachers working through 70s, 80s and 90s, much of the time in Birmingham, are responding to requests for help and support in the present climate when the Black Lives Matter movement, together with revelations brought about by the Covid 19 Pandemic, have laid bare inequalities where there are glaring disparities between “racial” and ethnic groups and how they are affected on the face of it by the virus. On closer inspection other factors like health, housing, employment, education, the criminal justice system come into play. Issues arise where there is evidence to show effects of discrimination together with individual experience. A number of Black Members of Parliament have have spoken of their experience of the British Parliament which they described as a “White Man’s Club”. It can be expected that other key organisations mirror this together with services they should provide to all.

Carlton Duncan was the first Black Headmaster in the UK when he took charge of Wyke Manor School in Bradford. This was at the time another Head Teacher, Ray Honeyford publicly decried the “multicultural” movement. Carlton was caught up in the ensuing rows that erupted. He moved to Birmingham as Head Teacher of George Dixon School, amalgamation of two grammar schools. His coming to Birmingham was greatly welcomed by those of us teaching in Birmingham and we witnessed first hand his determination and ground breaking work with pupils, their families and the community.

Carlton had long be sought after as a speaker from the days he was a deputy Head Teacher at Sydney Stringer School in Coventry. He came to speak to teachers in the Department of Teaching English as a Second Language in Birmingham, a group of 2-300 teachers led by Bob Chapman in the 1970s. Other guest speakers included Professor Stuart Hall and Jean D’Costa, a writer of children’s books in Jamaica.

Based on his considerable pioneering experience which led to his appointment to both Rampton and Swann Committees he has prepared the following statement as we launch De-Colonising Education, Issues and Resources.

De-colonising the Curriculum – for educators in UK.

Why don’t we just talk about a Curriculum for Equality and Justice for ALL.

The school curriculum has numerous purposes.  As teachers we, and most of the rest of society, place particular emphasis on the informational purpose for reason of enabling pupils to pass tests and examinations.  There is no denying that this aspect or purpose of the curriculum is of great significance and importance largely because of the way the world beyond the classroom is structured, the demands it makes and its expectations. But while we are organizing to follow this important purpose, some of us pay scant regards to the content accuracy, motivational effects and values transmission of the curriculum diet upon which we feed (indoctrinate?) our young impressionable minds.

Colonialism did more serious harm to humanity than just plundering other people’s wealth, land and labour.  Much more harmful is what colonialism did to minds and value systems which are then replicated and perpetuated everywhere – almost globally. “None but ourselves can free our minds from mental slavery”.

What the Colonialists Left Behind

The colonialist put and left in places systems (the church, schools, and teacher-training institutions) which confound, corrupt and enslave the peoples of the territories they otherwise plundered.  What is more, the damage replicates and perpetuates its purpose automatically.  That is why, for example, Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean still display certain values which were in existence over 70 years ago when I was a boy in the Caribbean.

a. The whiter/browner skins are more valued than darker ones.  Consequently, many Jamaicans actually bleach themselves to become more acceptable and marketable.

b. Although Patois/Creole is most widely practiced than any other language, it is not readily accepted in up-market circles.

c. In spite of what esteem Bob Marley brought to Jamaica, the Rasta culture and appearance are not allowed to front-line respectability in Jamaica.

d. It is seriously distressing to see some black people cow tailing to local or visiting white people on the island. The remnants of slavery much in evidence.

“None but ourselves can free our minds from mental slavery”.

Teacher-training institutions, their personnel pregnant with colonialist values, train teachers and Sunday school teachers.  These, in turn, produce our politicians, doctors, lawyers, employers, industrialists and all the others…let us not forget peer-group influences.  The vicious circle of colonialist value perpetuation persists.

What the Colonialists did at Home

Apart from the physical spoils, wealth and gains from plunders (note Cardiff, Liverpool and Bristol), there, at home social, educational and political institutions are all about institutionalised racism from the word go.  This has become so deeply ingrained into the furniture of life that the earliest multicultural and antiracists and human rights struggles of the 1960s onward have made little impact on the surface of our society.  We see this so very clearly in our school exclusions, incarceration, employment, housing and health statistics as underlined by COVID-19 since the beginning of this year. 

Resources

Our attention is drawn to the ‘fierce urgency’ of turning to the resources routes for identifying and removing injustices thus enabling the promotion of the kind of society and world where people are evaluated in terms of the ‘content of their character and not the colour of their skin’, their sex, their religion or their sexual orientation.  The vicious circle alluded to above has to be broken into and this resources junction is as good a point for this purpose as anywhere else. I have just one proviso on this resources argument, viz., resources must be broken down into human and non-human categories.

Human Resources

It is my contention that unless we get our human resources right, we cannot get the non-resources avenues right for the simple reason that humans create non-human resources and thus transmit their values this way.  Hence, if we get our educators (human resource) right everything else is more likely to fall in the right places.  This brings into play issues such as diversity among educators, role-modelling and the reduction of stereotyping.

The classroom teacher needs to be aware that it is in three areas (fact contents, motivational worth and value transmission), in particular, that colonisation has done the most debilitating harm and racial injustice to ALL our pupils.  The ALL here is very important to note.  For example, what is the motivational value of teaching about Nightingale to white pupils?  Could we have similar effects on black pupils through Mary Seacole’s history and contributions?  Guess what, both black and white pupils (for sheer convenience here, you are black if you are not white) through this one example have learnt that there are great achievers in every race in every field.  We are microscopically altering the value systems in our children, affecting positively their attitude and expectation of one another so that when these children become tomorrow’s employers, administrators, politicians and people in positions of power, influence and responsibility, it will no longer matter what colour is their colleagues. They were not taught to hate and discriminate based upon distorted curricular material.  Instead, they learnt how to appreciate the good in themselves and others because we altered the colonial messages.  We need a holistic approach to the development of young minds whose task it will be to perpetuate what is truthful, just and valued universally.

The colonialists, in particular the British, have spread their wings far and wide – whether it was India, the Caribbean, and Africa or where have you – the stories of exploitation, spoils grabbing, plunders and enslavements are now freely available, not only from the point of view of the colonialists but also from those of the sufferers with greater authenticity.

Up to the time I quitted the schoolroom in the late 1990s, The British school system was largely designed to transmit the white man’s values and view of the world. And there was glorification in everything he did or achieved even if it was enslaving his fellow men and plundering the wealth and products of other countries to take back to Cardiff, Bristol and Liverpool, to mention just a few glaring examples.  This is what the removal of statutes and other images are about at the present time.  Underneath or resulting from such glorification is racial injustice which we see manifesting itself in educational under-achievement, poor housing, unemployment and the kinds of health issues currently underlying the disproportionate attacks of COVID-19 on non-white peoples all over the globe.

The classroom teacher in preparing his or her lesson plans tonight should use the available research time (the internet makes life so much easier now a days) to deliver more truths, enhanced motivation and greater equality to all the pupils tomorrow.

So that when, as head teacher, I come to your classroom you will not be teaching Florence Nightingale in isolation from Mary Seacole.  You will not be giving your pupils a diet of lies by omissions that the horrendous wars – 1st and 2nd – were all fought by white faces.  They will be learning about the contributions made to these historical epics by black and brown faces. Your pupils will be learning that Wilberforce and Lincoln did not singlehandedly brought about the end of slavery.  Instead, they will be learning about the more vital contributions made by leading slaves themselves – perhaps starting with Nanny and the Maroons.

***Subject by subject, starting with Mathematics and the Sciences, should be rigorously purged of falsehood (decolonized) so that ALL our pupils know of black contributions in all fields  Gone must be the times when music and sports are the only areas of refuge for black pupils.  Because Angela’s mother currently earns a living from low level catering is no reason for discouraging her daughter who wants to do medicine and directing her to follow in her mother’s foot step.  My own experiences, as a black teacher/head teacher, illustrate this matter well.  In every school that I taught from I was a probationer till retirement (six in total), I was always chosen first for the cricket team.  They only realised their mistake when the first ball was bowled to me.

***For more subject by subject illustrations, see

Pastoral Care: An Antiracist/Multicultural Perspective’ Carlton Duncan, Blackwell Education, Basil Blackwell 1988 ISBN 0 631 16223 2 and 0 631 90162 0

‘Multicultural Education: Towards Good Practice’ Edited by Ranjit Arora and Carlton Duncan, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1986 ISBN 0 7102 1202 X

“Multicultural Education: Towards Good Practice Routledge Education Books, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1986 NEdited by Ranjit Arora and Carlton Duncan

Carlton Duncan 22/10/20.

Carlton Duncan’s article on Rampton/Swann: RAMPTON AND SWANN ANSWERS ARE AVAILABLE AND AWAITING IMPLEMENTATION

Bernard Coard (a Grenadian academic and teacher living in the UK in the 70s) became alarmed by his experiences of how the British ESN schools (schools for those considered to be educationally sub-normal) operated and were populated.  This prompted him to publish his book HOW THE WEST INDIAN CHILD IS MADE EDUCATIONALLY SUBNORMAL IN THE BRITISH SCHOOL SYSTEM.  It is no longer accepted to use the term “West Indian”, hence, here from, the term “black is substituted.

What Coard found was that 4 out of 5 children in ESN schools were black.  Often, these children found their way to ESN schools with the support and acquiescence of their parents because their children’s teachers told them that their children would be sent to “special” schools.  “Special” is a term known to black people as something very good and beneficial.  Incidentally, in spite of the fact that political involvement in Grenada eventually landed Coard a death sentence which was later commuted to life imprisonment, Coard has maintained a strong interest in this aspect of British education from his prison cell. His current view is that what is needed to bring educational justice to all children alike is:  “quality education for all: that is one that is not dependent on the parental income/wealth or social status and connections of school children, does not have schools providing vastly different standards of education and does not have a two-tiered system, or multi-tiered system of education, providing differential education for the children of different classes, genders and ethnicities”.

Though, at the time, Coard’s disclosure was the most significant in stirring black parents into action, he was not alone in identifying the educational obstacles and educational state of affairs for black children.

Throughout the education system generally, black children were encouraged to take CSE as opposed to the then GCE examinations.  The latter, of course was for high flyers (usually white children) whilst the former was of much less worth for children’s life chances.  Studies, after studies, showed the damning effects of these practices on black children’s performance in schools.  A Brent LEA study in 1963 raised alarm about black children performance in reading , arithmetic and spelling; Vernon 1965; Little’s studies 1966 and 1968 and a Redbridge study in 1978 all, similarly reflected major concerns about black children’s performance compared with white children in British schools.  It was in this climate of concern that the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration in 1977 produced its Report on ‘The West Indian Community’.  The Report highlighted the widespread concern about the poor performance of [black] children in schools.  The Committee, therefore, recommended that the Government, as a matter of urgency, should institute “a high level independent inquiry into the causes of the underachievement of children of West Indian origin in maintained schools and the remedial action required”.  The James Callaghan Labour Government with the Honourable Shirley Williams as Secretary Of State for Education, at the time, responded to the Select Committee’s recommendation positively but widened it to include all ethnic minorities whilst giving more urgent attention to children of West Indian origin.  Hence, this was the birth of the Rampton and, subsequently,  Swann Inquiries which reported in 1981 and 1985 respectively.  Carlton Duncan, one of our members served on both Inquiries.

This was the remit given to Anthony Rampton (Chairman) and his colleagues:

“Recognising the contribution of schools in preparing all pupils for life in a society which is both multi-racial and culturally diverse, the Committee is required to:

review in relation to schools the educational needs and attainments of children from ethnic minority groups taking account, as necessary, of factors outside the formal educational system relevant to school performance, including influences in early childhood and prospects for school leavers;

consider the potential value of instituting arrangements for keeping under review the educational performance of different ethnic minority groups, what those arrangements might be;

consider the most effective use of resources for these purposes; and to make recommendations.

In carrying out its programme of work, the Committee is to give early and particular attention to the educational needs and attainments of pupils of West Indian origin and to make interim recommendations as soon as possible on action which might be taken in the interest of this group”.

There was a change of Government in 1979 which produced two other Secretaries of State (Mark Carlisle and Sir Keith Joseph) during the life time of the Rampton and Swann Inquiries.

On the Rampton Inquiry, there were 4 Afro Caribbean members; 5 Asian members and 13 Caucasians making a total of 22 members.  For the Swann Inquiry, membership changed on account of resignations and co-options. By and large, the bulk of the original membership lasted the full duration of the five year inquiry.

The Rampton Interim Report (West Indian children in our schools – Cmnd 8273, HMSO 1979) was based on considerable researched evidence, gathered information from parents, pupils teachers at all ranks, LEAs and community interested officials and others from all walks of life.  Following the ensuing deliberations of the evidential material so gathered, we were able to report our findings with recommendations in June 1981.  The evidence, findings and recommendation are far too voluminous for reproduction here.  Consequently, the reader is referred to chapters 1, 2 and 4 severally of the Interim Report for the details.  What these chapters will reveal is that the most prominent issue in our findings was racism (other issues included: the inadequacy of pre-school provision; linguistic difficulties of West Indian children; the inappropriateness of the school curriculum and the examination system, teachers’ low expectation of West Indian pupils’ a loss of trust and a lack of understanding between home and school, discrimination in employment, and by extension, poor housing and health issues, the state of race relations generally particularly with the police, the absence of black role models in high places).  These other issues are themselves pregnant with racist practices: but let the Report speak:

“In seeking to identify the factors which lead so many West Indian children to underachieve in our schools, many causes, both within the education system and outside it, were suggested by by those who gave evidence to us.  That which was most forcefully and frequently put forward by West Indians themselves was racism, both within schools and in society”. Page 11 of the Report, chap. 2, Para 1.

Did all this sound the bells of the impact of corona virus (COVID-19) upon the black communities; was Black Lives Matter clearly in the making?

This Report, then. was the first ever Government official document to identify racism as a problem for black people and their children.  This did not auger well for Anthony Rampton who was politely removed from the Chairmanship of the Committee and replaced by Lord Swann – a man who self-confessed to be ignorant of the issues upon which he is now called to give leadership.  

“The then Secretary of State’s invitation to me to take on the Chairmanship of the Committee came as a considerable surprise, i had been a scientist, the Principal of an ancient Scottish University and Chairman of the BBC, but I had little knowledge of the needs of Britain’s ethnic minority citizens…..”.

So, following on from the Interim Report, the Inquiry would now be the Swann Inquiry and ultimately, The Swann Report (Education for All) Cmnd 9453, HMSO, 1985.

DE-COLONISING EDUCATION: EMPOWERMENT PROJECT. D.E.E.P.

Right from the start, it became obvious that part of Lord Swann’s role was to remove racism as an issue, more over the main issue, from the final Report.  11 members resigned from this Committee.  Their replacements plus co-opted others ensured a viable Committee to the end.  None of the Afro-Caribbean members resigned.  They needed to see this through and they all did.  Even against the background of Lord Swann picking them off one by one to dine at his up-market home, it didn’t work.  They found their own survival methods and techniques to stay together in the light of the clear evidence of racism.  Lord Swann was definitely not able to get the final Report to ignore the evidence.  But he was not to be out done.  Unknown to the membership of the Committee, Lord Swann prepared his own summary of the Report and ensured that it would find its way gratuitously into every school in the land.  The Report, itself, carried a price tag of £24.  In Lord Swann’s summary of nearly 7,000 words, he never managed to utter the word ‘racism’ once, except where he was quoting Professor Bhikhu Parekh (a member of the Committee) who had mentioned the word three times in the passage Lord Swann was quoting.  Because the evidence which were collected from the people who mattered so clearly embodied racism, and because both the Interim and the final Reports openly dealt with the racism issue, Lord Swann had difficulties in shutting out that matter.  It will be noted that throughout his summary, he sought refuge euphemistically in the terms “prejudice and discrimination.  ‘Education For All’ is a volume of 807 pages with a price tag of £24.  Clearly, it cannot be reproduced here.  The reader is besieged to reach for this entire Report rather than rely on the more readily accessible but misleading summary produced by Lord Swann behind the backs of the members of the Committee.

The damage which was done by the release of the summary has left us still grappling with issues that could have been laid to rest had the recommendations of the two Reports been implemented.  Some members of the Committee, including our member, Carlton Duncan, foresaw this happening.  Six members of the Committee, including Carlton Duncan, dissented from the wider Committee’s decision on the then popular call for separate schools which would alleviate many of the educational ills affecting ethnic minorities. (See page 515 of the main Report – Education For All)  The main reason why the Committee took a different view from that of the six dissenters was based on the assumption that the Reports’ findings and recommendations would be implemented and thus removing the pressures for separate schools.  Well, to date, the Reports have been largely shelved in dusty places.  And although the answers to the vast array of problematic issues flagged up by COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and, more recently, Meghan and Harry are already known and documented, the arguments, void of action, still rage on indefinitely.

The following are snapshots of education at a time the Rampton an Swann reports were being deliberated giving a flavour of young Black pupils’ experiences – and determination to make life better for the following generations. The implementation of recommendations of these reports is still awaited and it has been due to the determination of such young people that things have changed. Until there is firm leadership at every level and committed Government progress will continue to be fragmentary and discretionary.

From the Playground, to Training, to the Classroom – A Teacher’s Journey

My memories of growing up in the 1970s are of the National Front and the racist attitudes which often resulted in physical and verbal abuse on a regular basis. The 1980s proved to be a time of further riots and tense race relations. Despite a difficult school experience in these times, I decided to become a teacher to give future students a more positive education.

I found that a change of attitude emerged in the late 80s, during my teacher training, when lecturers were much better at identifying issues and dealing with them accordingly. We briefly studied the Rampton (1981) and Swann (1985) reports. The change in attitude was also reflected in the literature we studied, including Tagore and Agard as well as Shakespeare and the Brontës. Maths highlighted the Arabic numerals as well as the Roman, and even the PE curriculum took religious and cultural needs into account, for instance more covering kit. By the 90s, the new national curriculum emerged, as did I, into primary schools. I was determined to make the curriculum truly representative of the diverse global community that I felt education had a duty to cover, empowering all pupils. A supportive environment enabled me to explore the possibilities, with other, like-minded members of staff and an empathetic mentor.

And we certainly did.

Examples included Elizabethan trade links with Mughal India, the artwork of the Benin civilisation in West Africa, workshops in Creole poetry and the stories of Anansi from the West Indian oral tradition, as well as the achievements of African and Asian scientists and mathematicians, from al-Khwarizmi (now widely acknowledged as the father of algebra, al jabr) and Sir Magdi Yacoub, the pioneering heart surgeon. Through RE we celebrated the major world religions with an emphasis on those relevant to the student community including Rastafarianism. Beyond the curriculum we celebrated international events unifying our diverse communities, celebrating Eid, Guy Fawkes’ Night, Divali and Halle Selassi’s birthday.

I looked ahead eagerly to the 21st century, optimistic about how education would continue to build on equal opportunities for all.  

Issues include evidence of the current situation both globally and nationally revealing serious inequalities. 

  1. Covid 19: differential effects of the Covid 19 pandemic both in its observed differential outcomes for different groups and those charged with caring for victims of the virus.
  1. “Black Lives Matter” response to differential treatment of people based on “race”, ethnicity, gender etc. 

3.    Denial of Institutional Racism. Failure to implement Rampton, 1979/Swann 1985. The Sewell Report 2021.

4.    Resistance to colonialism.

5.     Reparations. Banks have paid out to former slave owners to compensate them after their slaves were freed, but those who had endured slavery were left to fend for themselves in an alien world that saw many lynchings and discriminatory treatment. 

Black people continue to experience discriminatory practices daily e.g, Government described by Black MPs to be a “white male club”. Police use of procedures like stop and search in a discriminatory manner. Channel 4 news report includes Black MP being stopped and well-known athlete, and manner in which an individual is treated without being told why they were being stopped and searched including the use of force. Police had procedures in place which were ignored and senior officers in denial that the acted in a discriminatory manner, an enduring legacy of colonial power.

RESOURCES

Signposts for Educators

Aim: to provide sign posts for educators concerned with ensuring equality and justice in eduction and key organisations providing services to the community. Includes issues and resources

Two fold strategic approach includes human and non-human resources 

Signposts pointing to:

1. Human resources

    organisations/individuals: information; advice on rights;  correct procedures;   support

2. Non-human resources: websites; multi-media publications 

Inclusion of and portrayal of Black people in writing and images selected. 

C.L.R James explain the rationale he had in mind when writing “The Black Jacobins”.

“The Black Jacobins was first published in England in 1938, but I had written on the subject before I left Trinidad in 1932. I had the idea for some time. I was tired of reading and hearing about Africans being persecuted and oppressed in Africa, in the Middle Passage and all over the Caribbean. I would write a book in which Africans or people of African descent instead of constantly being the object of other peoples’ exploitation and ferocity would themselves be taking action on a grand scale and shaping other people to their own needs” C.L.R. James foreword to 1980 edition.

Signposts point to facts which have been overlooked, linking an individual with better known individuals and events in commonly taught not just in history but in other subjects across the curriculum, including science and mathematics. The story of zero is one starting point. https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/the-story-of-zero-getting-something-from-nothing

Signposts point to links with little or unknown people to people and events already familiar in all subjects across the curriculum

Joseph Bologne (Chevalier de St George) with composers Gossec, Haydn & Mozart, Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, Robespierre, Toussaint’ L’Ouverture

Signpost achievements they made and influences they had on others. eg Bologne Invented Sinfonia Concertante form used by Haydn & Mozart etc., He has a key role in commissioning Haydn’s 6 “Paris” symphonies leading their 1st performances in Paris.

Issues faced/addressed by individual including contributions made.

Link to actions taken to advance equality and combat racism and discrimination. eg involvement with groups in Paris & London

Links to dates and places when individuals lived or events happened. 

Positive images showing individuals in action. 

Other examples with similarities.

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