How many non-white writers have you read at University? How many non-white lecturers have you been lectured by?
I imagine the answer to these questions is either: very few or none. This is no coincidence; instead this is emblematic of an academic institution that is unwilling to progress past its historical power and privilege.
What we learn is political. What we are taught and how we are taught it is political. By working on the new gender studies department, I have been lucky enough to see how courses are constructed. I have been lucky enough to have sat in a room where it is agreed what is taught, and more importantly, what is not taught. And I can tell you all that course organisers aren’t devoid of ideology. Course organisers usually have a specific agenda or goal that they want to be achieved by their course. Therefore, what we learn is political.
In a time of £9,000 fees and increasing graduate unemployment, it is easy to shy away from seeing education as political. ‘Let’s not make this political.’ Heads down. Get through it. Grin and bear it. I can completely sympathise with this reaction; university is becoming increasingly stressful.
But we must not allow the University to be let off the hook due to the increasing pressure and stress that it enforces on us. In fact, the ridiculous introduction of fees gives us more leverage to make demands from the University, because now we are consumers who are paying for a service. Therefore, we should demand that our education is better, more inclusive, more representative and more fit for the world we live in. I fail to see the relevance of texts that only represent a very small grouping of people within society—these people unsurprisingly are usually those with the most cultural power. The white, the male and the straight.
The University is a scared reactionary institution reliant on its reputation for survival. The more we challenge what we are taught and create a political culture of critiquing our curriculum, the more the University will start to listen. It would look backward to ignore our critiques, especially because the University of Edinburgh likes to consider itself a liberal and progressive institution. I imagine SSPS would be particularly receptive to the idea of more black/ ethnic minority postcolonial studies within its course options, but without pressure from students, it’s difficult for it to argue for more funding to run such courses.
You have the power to make change. You have the power to take control. Every year you elect well paid EUSA sabbatical officers to be your representative and voice to the University. These representatives are paid to work for you. To lobby for you and to do what you ask of them. You have a whole union built on fighting for the demands you make. Let’s make those demands. Let’s make education more representative . Let’s see more minorities on our reading lists and in our course choices. Let’s create an education we want to receive and not something we just endure.
Image credit: Anna