Kenza Garmzi | Content Writer
When children enter a class, they should be obtaining information that is factual, useful, and which sets them up for later life. A curriculum that does not accurately reflect the diversity of the children in a class should have no place in today’s education. The UK is rapidly becoming a more diverse setting, with London having 40% of its population from Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic Backgrounds (2018). The Secretary of State for Education should be ready to make essential changes to the curriculum to accommodate the number of ethnic minority children entering the UK’s classrooms.
In many ways, history is written by the victors, particularly the history that Brits absorb in formal educational settings. It goes without saying that different countries retell different historical eras with their own spins. For example, the Treaty of Versailles was seen as a heroic effort to end the war by the allied powers. However, the Germans saw it as a humiliation tactic which ended in tragedy for the people and their economy. Another example is the Boston Tea Party, Americans like to retell this with great admiration, but it isn’t widely taught in British schools as ultimately the British ended up losing a very large colony.
It is a pretty straightforward concept; people gravitate to the history which puts them in a better light. You would rather talk about your accomplishments than something you are ashamed of, such as Britain’s empire and how we are taught about the achievements and discoveries rather than the murdering and slavery that ensued. This ‘written by the victors’ narrative worked very well when schools were majority white. The brave tales of Christopher Columbus, Horatio Nelson and Florence Nightingale are things to be proud of when viewed under a lens, but once you look at the whole story, you realise why people want to throw their statues into harbours.
Christopher Columbus was known as the man who discovered America, although I am not quite sure how you can discover a land which people already lived on. What our youth are not taught is how he colonised their land and subjected the Natives to European diseases which they were not immune to, causing a large number of fatalities within their communities. The surviving population were enslaved via the encomienda which was a Spanish labour system that rewarded conquerors with the labour of particular groups of conquered non-Christian people, and ‘rewarded’ the labourers with Christianity. Figures are easy to glorify when their history is half-told, and when their history is solely taught to demographics that were not targeted by the abuse these figures imposed.
Instead, why don’t we highlight historical figures such as Mary Seacole? Seacole was a Scottish Jamaican nurse who was refused entry into the nursing contingent. She went on to establish ‘the British hotel’, where she nursed injured soldiers back to health using herbal medicines and was extremely popular under service personnel. As a British figure making a difference in the Crimean War, Seacole is an extremely important part of British history and deserves to be recounted and taught in the classroom. This is just one example of many.
Schools must provide non-white role models and teach a curriculum based upon diverse representation. Our education systems have to start teaching children to be proud of their own identity and abandon curriculums guilty of whitewashing. It is time to reject the notion that their oppressors are people to be glorified. We are not rewriting history, rather we are telling it how it is.