X Close

Institute of Education Blog

Home

Expert opinion from academics at the UCL Institute of Education

Menu

Whose history will my mixed-race daughter be taught?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 July 2020

Meena Khatwa.

‘We are here because you were there’ (A. Sivanandan).

Windrush protest

Whenever I deliver a lecture on slavery, the British Empire or migration, I always begin with this simple yet powerful quote. It immediately grabs the students’ attention, and they begin to understand centuries of brutal colonial history, laid bare in those words.

I’m a British Asian, born in Slough, in 1973. Like other Asian families at that time, I lived with my extended migrant family. Our house of ten resembled Piccadilly Circus. Every morning each family member bustled to their low-paid manual jobs.

The events that led them to the UK were shaped by the history of British colonialism. My grandparents fled Karachi during the Partition in 1947 and, for a few years, were refugees in a newly-formed India. They then moved to Kenya, but had to flee again after it gained independence in 1963, which brought them to the UK and to Slough. My PhD research captured similar stories. These families were identified as ‘twice migrants’ and – perhaps surprisingly – this upheaval resulted in slightly better assimilation because they had already experienced resettlement from India to Africa.

Slough was an interesting place to grow up, a social experiment in collisions of culture and traditions. I attended St Mary’s CE primary school, singing (more…)

There should be no doubt by now that we are not living in a ‘post-racial’ world. How can school history help bring understanding and hope?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital5 June 2020

Robin Whitburn and Abdul Mohamud.

The COVID pandemic has taught all of us in 2020 about the need to think very carefully about the routine act of walking out of our home onto the streets to go about our business.

For most of us, this is, hopefully, temporary. But such vigilance has been required of Black people in this country constantly for centuries. Streets are not automatically safe spaces for Black people, especially Black men. The repellent and enraging scenes of George Floyd’s public killing by police officers in Minneapolis at the end of May should impel every one of us to self-examination and action.

Racial profiling by law enforcement officers regularly makes Black people open to brusque and brutal treatment without any further just cause on both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed, they are not necessarily safe in the confines of their own homes; the case of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, in March this year brings to mind those of Cherry Groce and Joy Gardiner in London in the 1980s and 1990s . What do we know of that history, and does the school curriculum ensure that we are prepared to make sense of the realities of race and racism in this century?

COVID has smashed gaping holes in notions of British exceptionalism.  But history should have already taught us to be sceptical of false national pride and to searchingly examine the impact that British expansion has had on global peoples.  The school history curriculum has too often laid the foundations for the premise that brutal racism and (more…)