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A look at the consequences of a largely Eurocentric curriculum at our university
Being a History student myself, I am painfully aware of the fact that my course provides minimal coverage of non-Eurocentric perspectives. The curriculum for History undergraduate degrees is about as diverse as its students. According to a recent report released by the university, the ‘whitest’ department you can find yourself in is indeed History. I can’t claim to be surprised by this fact. It’s pretty difficult to miss the dynamic that exists in a History seminar room between myself and my cohort when discussing colonialism. It is simultaneously worrying and powerful to be educating 19-year-old History students on what it means to be racist.
All of this aside, is it that much of an issue that we have such a Eurocentric curriculum?
A Eurocentric curriculum can be defined as one which focuses on European achievements and culture to the exclusion of others, thereby creating a worldview which regards European culture as pre-eminent. When applied to a university curriculum, Eurocentric ideologies can implicitly and explicitly present European History, literature, science and general culture as being superior to any other. Naturally, I am sure you can imagine the issue with this phenomenon.
But is it that problematic to prioritise European teachings, whether that be history, literature or general academia in our university? Yes, and I will attempt to explain why. If you take the History department at Lancaster (since it’s the only department I have personal experience of), there are a handful of optional modules you can choose which teach non-Eurocentric History. Out of these modules, many rest upon the phenomenon of European intervention. You can see the detrimental effects of this idea, right? If, out of all African history, the only narrative you are ever taught as a History student is of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, what picture of African civilisations does that give you? One of subjugation, terror and trauma, and not intellect and innovation.
This article is not an attempt to criticise the History department at Lancaster University. In fact, they have been very receptive to efforts by me, and other students, to bring about change. Instead, this article is an attempt to use this case as an example of what a Eurocentric curriculum can do to its students. Especially to those students who subconsciously adhere to the superiority of Western thought, the ones who have never heard of Mura Mansa, or of the Great Mali Kingdom. In our university, these ideas should be challenged, but they’re being allowed to fester within the safe space of a Eurocentric curriculum.
If a similar situation is happening across the university at varying levels, you can see how educational institutions across the UK are failing to provide a diverse curriculum to their students. The prioritisation of Western thought in our curriculum is not providing students with an accurate understanding of the world around them. Tackling this system is not about criticising European thought (although we should engage in that dialogue, too). It is about providing a comprehensive education within our lecture halls and seminar rooms across the UK.