African Centered Education
by Jacob H. Carruthers
The African centered curriculum has emerged as the leading thrust in the movement to reform education in the United States. The western civilization cultural monopoly of modern education is undergoing revision and moving toward more balanced multicultural content in the wake of the momentum caused by the African centered education project and its predecessor, the Black Studies movement.
The African centered education campaign is related to the chronic failure of the education system to provide equal educational results and opportunities for African Americans. But even if African American students were equally successful in terms of education achievements, the African centered curriculum would still be necessary. Indeed African American students who excel in school are as deprived of cultural equality as are those who fail. Thus self-esteem as conventionally understood is not a central issue because many African Americans including most high achievers have positive self-concepts. What many African Americans including high achievers suffer from is the pervading negative image of African peoples of whom they are descendants. One would expect that improving the image of one's social or ethnic group would have a positive effect on one's self image.
Indeed all students suffer from these negative images of Africa and its people. Such deprivation is criminal in view of the fact that the negative images are the product of intellectual fabrications that were designed to justify racial exploitation and injustice especially slavery, colonialism, segregation and the denial of economic, social and political equality to persons of African descent. The problem of teaching about Africa is thus deeply embedded in the curriculum philosophy which is the turn based upon modern European philosophy.
The lowest point of modern western philosophy was the inclusion of arguments for white supremacy and "Negro" inferiority in philosophical writings during the 18th and 19th centuries. The prestige of some of the thinkers compounds the evil. David Hume (On National Character), Charles Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws), and Georg Hegel (The Philosophy of History) were the forerunners for writers like Thomas Carlyle (The Nigger Question) and Joseph Gobineau (The Inequality of the Human Races) who were in turn forerunners of Adolph Hitler.
The modern fabricators of the doctrine of white supremacy firmly attached the insidious argument to the concept of western civilization. The result was the creation of the idea that the white race had performed a cultural miracle and broken with the superstitious cultures of remote antiquity. According to this, the ancient Greek pioneers had provided a mighty foundation for the development of the highest culture known to humankind. Thus civilization in is true form started among Europeans while the other continental cultures were still retarded in barbarism of savagery. The evolutionary cultural hierarchy that emerged placed African culture firmly on the bottom and European or western civilization at the top. Thus while all cultures other than the western European one were degraded, Africa occupied a unique position. Africans were removed from history through this worldview. Africa as Hegel put it "is no historical part of the world" (Hegel, p.99). Indeed the differences between the civilizations originating on the Eurasian continent and Africa are mostly depicted as qualitative and not merely attributed to a stage of development.
In view of the western philosophical project of historical and cultural genocide against African peoples, the African centered curriculum is essential. The first and most important reason is to restore the truth to the curriculum. The falsification of the role of Africa in world history and civilization results not only in a deformation of African history but the history of the world, especially since Africa has played such a decisive part in the events that comprise world history. The correction of this mutilation is surely in the interest of humanity, if the truth is at all relevant to human development.
A second reason is the necessity of developing a framework for cultural equality as we move into the 21st century. The next century which marks the beginning of a new millennium will doubtless witness the transition of world power from one center of gravity (the western one ) to another (the eastern one). Such a transition is perhaps destined to be even more dramatic than that of the 16th century which witnessed the reverse. The children now in school will live their lives in the 21st century which will be characterized by multicultural challenges not faced in previous centuries. Even today the multicultural world is exploding as long suppressed cultures are now demanding dignity and power in the world arena. The road to multicultural equality and respect cannot even begin until Africa is restored to its proper historical and cultural position.
A third reason for the necessity of the African centered curriculum is the fact that any culture (especially one which has been suppressed) needs its own apparatus for its restoration, maintenance and development. The main reason western culture has been dominant is because Europeans have controlled political, economic and social power including educational policy for the last several centuries. Even so some cultures have fared better in this regard because the west was not able to gain complete educational hegemony. Japan is a good example.
A fourth reason for the African centered curriculum is the peculiar capability of the African centered education movement to provide the leadership in educational reform. The African centered education project and its predecessor, the Black Studies movement, have developed the open ended critique of western education which is a necessary aspect of the reform of education. These movements have also spawned the organizational bases to effectively work toward the implementation of the changes. Without this critique and the organizational pressure multiculturalism would remain an abstraction capable of being used to perpetuate the Eurocentric and anti-African curriculum. Indeed many so called proponents of multiculturalism are demonstrating such contradictions today. Dianne Ravitch is a prime example of the problem.
A final reason for the African centered curriculum is the nature of the population composition in the United States. This country is composed of a variety of ethnic and racial groups. As such the country should properly be conceived of as the United States of various ethnic, national and racial groups. The Eurocentric curriculum, more or less, serves the cultural interest of most European ethnic groups. It does not serve the cultural interest of most people of African descent. Since population patterns are such that most African Americans live in predominantly African American communities and attend predominantly African American schools, it is logical that they should be taught from an African perspective if they so choose.
The African Foundations programs of the Kemetic Institute are designed to provide assistance to communities, schools, and teachers who opt to move in the direction of African centered education. Our programs will also assist those who are attempting to teach correctly about Africa. When the African foundation is firmly in place, the teaching about the African American experience will be successful.