Stop the decolonisation of education

Letters to the Editor

Stop the decolonisation of education

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

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Dear Editor,

Propagandists often exhibit ignorance to promote their insidious objectives. However, their manufactured ignorance is a strategy to garner support for political causes. This is best demonstrated in the case of academic activism. For example, media houses are frequently swamped with complaints by academic activists that the history curriculum is too Eurocentric. But modern-day textbooks are written by Caribbean historians and cover a wide range of West Indian history. Yet the myth persists that historical education is Eurocentric. Students are even exposed to pan-Africanism, Garveyism, and tidbits on pre-colonial Africa. Hence, it is evident that those clamouring for the decolonisation of the curriculum have a nefarious agenda.

Arguing that the local curriculum is Eurocentric advances their victim narrative. If Jamaicans are misinformed to believe that education is still colonial, then they will think that it perpetuates mental slavery. Therefore, activists will be positioned to impose their notion of what constitutes mental liberation. To such propagandists, our Afro-Jamaican heritage has been marginalised, so as arbiters of Jamaican culture, they must elevate this heritage in the public space. However, we cannot discuss the minimisation of Afro-Jamaican heritage without assessing the degree of marginalisation and the parties involved.

The planter class, through legislation, outlawed elements of Afro-Jamaica heritage. Notwithstanding their opposition to aspects of Afro-Jamaican heritage, some whites were quite fond of slave culture (Altink, 2000). Further, Jamaican slaves retained several chunks of their African heritage (Burton, 1997). Throughout slavery and colonialism black Jamaicans successfully embraced their culture. Without a doubt, there was not a wholesale acceptance of Afro-Jamaican culture by all blacks, but this indicates no form of insecurity. Individuals have their own peculiarities and choose what to accept based on their self-interest. Even in contemporary Jamaica, African folk culture is widely celebrated and studied. But, due to their own insecurities, some Jamaican intellectuals have developed an oppositional culture resisting Western influences. As a result, such people even venerate unsavoury aspects of Jamaican culture on the basis that it is counter to Western influences. Hence, dancehall is lauded because, as a subversive art form, it repudiates Western notions of civility. Apparently, a small group of popular intellectuals is so traumatised by slavery and colonialism that they are willing to construct a Jamaican identity seeking to subvert even prudent norms of the West.

In addition, asserting that Jamaicans reject their African heritage is a diplomatic ploy to secure support for their project of subversion. Under normal circumstances most people will shun such a project, but when promoted under the aegis of African heritage the likelihood of backlash decreases. As expected, this philosophy has legitimised widespread hooliganism. It may not be acknowledged, but Jamaica's intellectual counter-culture is only succeeding in validating crassness. Therefore, the Jamaican people ought to liberate their minds from the mental slavery imposed by intellectuals.

Lipton Matthews

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