Why Is My Curriculum White?

The first event in the Warwick Open Education Series, ‘After Talk Must Come Action: Racial Resistance and Remaking’ was “Why Is My Curriculum White?”, which explored the limited syllabuses in UK institutions…

“Why is my Curriculum White?” examines and unravels the ideologies behind the existence of syllabuses that fail to reflect global experience and thought, and poses the important question of asking what historical mythologies lie behind the entrenchment of a curriculum reflective only of Western perspectives even at “global” universities like Warwick.

“Why Is My Curriculum White?” is part of the Dismantling The Master’s House programme at UCL, which is dedicated to examining Whiteness and Anglocentrism in universities, workplaces and such communities and securing equalities in these areas.

Our first speaker was Adam Elliott-Cooper. Adam received his undergraduate degree in Politics from the University of Nottingham and his MSc in Globalisation and Development from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has worked as a research assistant to Prof. Andreas Bieler in the field of political economy, as well as a researcher in the Sociology Department at Goldsmith’s University. He is doing his PhD on policing and the black community in Britain at the University of Oxford.

He currently sits on the editorial board of CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, a peer-reviewed journal based in London. He is also a visiting fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Adam is also part of a team working on ‘Dismantling the Master’s House’ at UCL: http://www.dtmh.ucl.ac.uk/

Our second speaker, Malia Bouattia, is NUS Black Students’ Officer. In her role as Black Students representative at the NUS National Executive she was part of a campaign which successfully overturned the ban on Muslim niqab at Birmingham Metropolitan College. Along with this she has lent her voice to a movement aiming to stop the deportation of International Students at London Metropolitan University and pushing for the NUS to support justice for Palestine after years of silence.

Malia has founded, established and worked to promote a number of organisations including the Black Women’s Forum UK, the West Midlands Pan-African Students’ Union and the West Midlands Palestine societies Forum.

Aside from the above Malia has led and supported a number of campaigns and causes including Palestinian Prisoners Day, United Families and Friends Campaign International Day of Action Against Police Brutality and Million Women Rise.

Listen to the panel here:


Attended by over 100 people, this event had a interesting Q&A. Questions/issues raised included:

  • A lot of Africa’s history is oral; is this limiting?
  • What is the solution? What should academics do?
  • The role of communities
  • Who can change things? collective, self-led communities or the state?
  • Oxford as a case study? Are there examples of  successful movements/campaigns?
  • How to build constructive conversations through an exchange of knowledge and experiences
  • Is it hard to maintain your integrity while working in academia?
  • Examining effective direct action
  • Why not bring in your perspectives as ethnic minority students to your essays?
  • Maintaining identity despite the white curriculum
  • Challenging your institution and academics
  • How do you sustain a movement?
  • Capitalism and Empire
  • The importance of understanding origins before moving forward
  • Strong holds within specific subjects?
  • The relationship between knowledge and power
  • Introducing positive discrimination into universities
  • Race, gender and capitalism as intrinsically linked

 Here at the Modern Records Centre, we hold many sources relevant to this theme. Here are some samples of sources that may be of interest.

The Minority Arts Archive (1974-1995) includes reports and publications relating to examining a white curriculum and case studies of minority art projects in education:

  • CRER/MAA/PUB/1/4: Inner London Education Authority. This includes detailed accounts of the process of examining the curriculum at a quite fundamental level and then of restructuring it to reflect an anti-racist perspective. It also looks at a range of publications: children’s stories, adult and young people’s fiction, books on South Africa, anti-racist education and religion.
  • CRER/MAA/REP/1/4: A survey of the arts of the minority ethnic groups which have settled in Scotland. Sponsored by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Scottish Arts Council. Includes: arts of ethnic minorities, response from government, art, educational and other organisations.
  • CRER/MAA/REP/1/7: By Walter V. Baker, published by the Commission for Racial Equality. This report was undertaken as a follow-up and extension of the ‘The Arts Britain Ignores’ by Naseem Khan. In this follow-up the arts of the ethnic minorities have been treated as a community resource serving a range of purposes associated with education, recreation, entertainment, employment and cultural identity.

S. E. Taylor Collection of material re National Front (1972-1981)

  • MSS.21/1571/20 West Midlands Campaign Against Racism and Fascism in EDucation (WMCARFE)

National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE)

  • MSS.639/N/3/1 Papers re ‘How the West Indian Child is made Educationally Subnormal in the British Education System’, by Bernard Coard
  • MSS.639/N/3/3-4, 5 & 11 Commission for Black Staff in Further Education
  • MSS.639/N/3/6 British National Party (BNP)
  • MSS.639/11/43/22 ‘Race, Education, Intelligence: A teacher’s guide to the facts and the issues’

923/2 Steve Cohen, ‘Why it is important to understand racism in education’

If you would like to view these sources, please come into the centre with the source reference number. We recommend that you book a slot in advance.

Continue reading on  the WIMCW website:

“In the past, this fantasy fuelled European, and ultimately, British imperial invasions across the globe. It justified those invasions, by ordering human beings into a hierarchy, with the National Eugenicist ideal at the top. In the present, this fantasy focuses our teaching and learning on the biased perspectives of those who have stood, or who now stand, at the top of that hierarchy. Yet there are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in the philosophies of ‘wealthy white men’…”

One thought on “Why Is My Curriculum White?”

  1. Reblogged this on Reading Race, Collecting Cultures and commented:
    An interesting series of events is taking place at the moment in Warwick, the Warwick Open Education Series: ‘After Talk Must Come Action: Racial Resistance and Remaking’.

    In this blog post the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University Library talk about their recent event ‘Why is my Curriculum White?’, which ‘examines and unravels the ideologies behind the existence of syllabuses that fail to reflect global experience and thought’.

    Take a look – there’s a video of the panel session and a list of related resources in their collection.

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