Put decolonisation on the National Curriculum and systematically ensure its teaching
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Over the past few days, we have once again been reminded and horrified about what black people face every day in America. The reality we are blatantly seeing is not unique. The incidents are symptomatic of wider systemic issues that plague much of the Western world- in particular the UK. And by failing to educate ourselves on our own past we are still complacent and complicit.
This petition is calling for a broadening of the primary and secondary educations, to include Britain’s colonial history. We, as a nation, must expand our knowledge beyond the single- narrative that is purported through the education system. The British Curriculum dedicates plenty of attention to the violence of others- Nazi Germany and the American Civil War- and goes into great detail on a few events in medieval and pre-Victorian English History including The Plague, the Great Fire of London and the reign of Henry VIII. But a British school will not teach you anything about the brutality of British colonisation.
The UK National Curriculum states that we aim to learn ‘how people’s lives have shaped this nation and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world.’ Yet it is not until key stage 3, that any form of colonialism is mentioned. The first colony in America, the Slave trade and development of the Empire with a focus on India are listed under what pupils ‘should’ learn, however, in 14 years of education we were personally never taught about any of the above. In December 2019 Maya Goodfellow highlighted in the Guardian that there is evidence that there is still a lack of systematic teaching about the empire. We want decolonisation and its impact in society today to be included in the KS2 and KS3 curriculum, and we want it’s teaching enforced systematically throughout the country.
In doing this, and painting the reality and the bedrock that Britain stands on, we hope to empower all member of British society, whether Black, Indian or any other ethnic minority in finally being able to level the playing field when it comes to one-sided narratives about the British Empire by telling the story of the colonised, rather than the coloniser. We aim to educate. The dominate whitewashed narrative of British colonial history seems to be deeply ingrained in the British psyche. Today 49% of Britons still think that the Empire was a force for good that improved the lives of colonised nations and only 15% think it left them worse off, according to a survey by market research company YouGov. We need a curriculum based on an honest, contextualised reading of British history which teaches about the brutality of colonialism. It should educate children about the economic, political and social advantages they enjoy today as a result of the colonial extraction and plunder their country engaged in during the colonial era. We will not lose anything by acknowledging the crimes of our past. The only way to avoid repeating our mistakes is by learning from them.
How can people dare to ask the pointed question, ‘But where do you really come from’ without knowing Britain’s involvement in bringing people across the commonwealth here. If our society was fully educated, that question would never be asked.
Now is the time to ask ourselves how to be better, to recognise the ills of our past and the hurt our nation caused. It is not the time to shy away from feelings of guilt but to accept all of our history. We may not be proud of many actions of our past, but we may be proud of how future generations can recognise, accept and learn from the wrongs. A more nuanced education curriculum that paints the picture accurately, will lead to an empowered workforce, will lead to communities that are rooted in their authenticity, which will influence family structures, earning capacity, innovation and creation from individuals and an expanded definition of human rights.
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