Should we ‘decolonise’ the curriculum?

Campaigns such the NUS backed ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ and #DecoloniseEducation promise to overturn ‘the “Whiteness”, Eurocentric domination and lack of diversity in the curricula…which frames the West as sole producers of universal knowledge’. There is growing support for making courses, faculties, reading lists and ‘core’ subjects more culturally diverse to take account of the diverse backgrounds of an expanded student population. It is argued that ‘White’ curricula are responsible for feelings of ‘isolation, marginalisation, alienation and exclusion’ among non-white students.

Critics note that while the decolonising ‘young Turks’ see themselves as more enlightened and progressive than their out-of-touch lecturers, they seem to be kicking an open door. Many academics have long been defensive about the politically incorrect history of their institutions and even their disciplines, and are quick to apologise and ditch classic texts. But at what cost? Black radical CLR James wrote that ‘the origins of my work and thought are to be found in Western European literature, Western European history and Western European thought’ and argued that black people could liberate themselves by embracing the universal legacy of Shakespeare and Hegel, Mozart and Melville. Might limiting students to knowledge deemed appropriate to their cultural background leave them without any grounding in major intellectual developments? Isn’t the point of learning to transcend one’s particular cultural background? Or does a curriculum dominated by the ‘pale, male and stale’ explain the attainment gap, whereby non-white students are 20% less likely to achieve a first or 2:1 degree, despite arriving at university with the same grades?

Should education, at school or university, be about reflecting students’ cultural identities? Or should education be about creating, even imposing, a different type of identity – not given by biological fact or social background – but that of the educated individual? Is the identity of the educated person really open to all, as supporters of liberal education have claimed in the past? Or is such an identity a mask that hides oppressive power relations as many of today’s student campaigns allege?

Speaker:  Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert (University of Cambridge) 

Date, Time and Venue:  

Thursday 23 March 2017 at 7 PM in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby

Entry £3 waged/£2 unwaged

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The autumn programme 2016

ArgumentThe East Midlands Salon is taking a summer break but will be back in the autumn with a whole new programme. We begin with a special event in September:

Wednesday 28 September – What is the role of a Salon in the 21st Century?

Speakers will include Simon Belt (convenor of the Manchester Salon) on salon organisation and Dennis Hayes on the origins of the Salon – from his talk on ‘Sex and the Salon’. This is an informal discussion for supporter of the Salons and is by invitation only. If you would like to attend please email the Salon.

And in October we have our Battle of Ideas Satellite event:

Tuesday 18 October 2016 at 6.30 PM in the Hallmark Midland Hotel, Derby – Knowledge versus Skills: the great education debate 2016

Speakers at this ‘round table’ include the distinguished sociologist of education, Professor Michael Young and Katie Ivens, Director of the education charity Real Action.

Tuesday 8 November at 7 PM will be a post-Battle of Ideas satellite, sponsored by Academics For Academic Freedom- The future for free speech – will tackling ‘radicalisation’ mean the death of debate?

Speakers include, Abdullah Muhammed (Chaplain, University of Derby), Dr Roba Al-Ghabra (Solicitor with civil liberties lawyers Birnberg Peirce).

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What do teachers need to know?

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Initial teacher training underwent significant, perhaps fundamental, reform under the previous Coalition administration. A practical experience-based approach was favoured. Former Education Secretary, Michael Gove, argued that teaching should be understood as a ‘craft’ that was ‘best learnt as an apprentice observing a master’. Following this, funding shifted decisively to school-led programmes, in the belief that these would provide a common-sense alternative to the overly theoretical or ideological approach of many university-based programmes.

So what knowledge, skills and experiences do new teachers need? Does it help be understand teaching as a craft, a science, perhaps even an art? What balance should be struck between theory and practice? Do we need a new College of Teaching to act as a professional gatekeeper? And with increasing numbers of Academies now employing unqualified teachers, do teachers really need formal certification beyond their first degree? Continue reading

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Reclaiming freedom in education and society

On Tuesday 17 March at 7:00PM in Hallmark Hotel Derby, Midland Road, DE1 2SQ Derby, the East Midlands Salon is hosting a discussion entitled ‘Reclaiming freedom in education and society’

Liberal education and the progress of knowledge depend on tolerance of the widest possible diversity of ideas and expressions of those ideas. As Mill described in On Liberty, revolutions in ideas depend on tolerating even the most countercultural arguments, and personal growth depends on confronting even the most seemingly false ideas. Continue reading

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What is a university for?

In October 2014, the East Midlands Salon hosted a discussion entitled ‘What is a university for?’

Universities are distinct institutions that engage in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding without fear or favour. Historically universities have been seen as custodians and conduits for the best of intellectual thinking within and on behalf of society. This consensus view of what universities are for has been challenged by government and funding bodies concerned with the ‘impact’ of research and its benefits to wider society and the economy.

At the same time we have seen a complementary emphasis on the student as ‘consumer’ and a growing concern with ‘student experience’ and ‘student satisfaction’. Are we seeing the end of the university as a public good and its replacement by commercial forces or a shift in focus for the greater benefit of everyone in society?

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‘Pob’ v ‘Blob’: Who is winning the hearts and minds of teachers?

The May 2014 Salon was a discussion of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s war against ‘The Blob’ –  his name for  left wing teachers and teacher trainers.

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