Curriculum must educate racists

13 April 2015

Prof Andrew Nash
Department of Political Studies

"The Rhodes Must Fall campaign has already changed UCT in ways that go far beyond the statue. To remove the statue and keep what it symbolises at UCT would be a false victory. Removing the statue should not obscure the demands for an end to institutional racism at UCT and for a curriculum (and intellectual culture) that addresses the most pressing needs of our own history.

"At UCT, the questions of racism and the curriculum are integrally connected. This is confirmed by the outpouring of crude, antiblack racism from UCT students, staff, alumni and others in response to the campaign, showing how little impression UCT's official non–racism has made on those who are formed by that curriculum.

"There are several reasons for this chasm that separates the official beliefs to which all at UCT pay lip service, and the racial hatred aroused by the campaign. First, commoditised education gives priority to learning how to succeed rather than becoming a fuller human being; you learn what you need to say and in what jargon, rather than discovering what you truly believe.

"Second, the ideology of 'excellence' in higher education – understood as bureaucratic quantification of achievement – promotes an ethic of individual self–advancement, which generally orientates towards wealth and power. Reliance on wealth and power ensures avoidance or censorship of issues that disturb the wealthy and powerful.

"UCT's elitism carries within it the germ of racism. Elites are by definition concerned to exclude others from power and privilege, and in South Africa race is one more hidden mechanism of exclusion. We should be grateful to have many students willing to stand together against our legacy of inequality. They are UCT's best hope of contributing towards a more equal world by challenging a bastion of privilege within the most unequal society in the world."

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Monday Monthly

Volume 34 Edition 03

13 Apr 2015

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