Decolonizing the Curriculum in the Light of the Incarnation

Authored by Fr. Stephen Reilly in Issue #7.4 of The Catechetical Review

On March 9, 2015, protests erupted among students of the University of Cape Town, South Africa under the slogan #RhodesMustFall. They demanded that the statue of British colonial-era politician and diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes be removed from a prominent place on their campus. The protest was given further impetus internationally by movements such as Black Lives Matter as well as reactions to widespread accusations of institutional racism. In addition to inspiring demands for other statues to be torn down or relocated—from Edward Colson in Bristol, England, to Hannah Duston in New Hampshire—the broader demands of the protest gave birth to an academic movement known as “Decolonizing the Curriculum.”

This term itself is contested and therefore difficult to define. For its supporters, Decolonizing the Curriculum (DtC) entails the balancing and broadening of the academic curriculum in schools and universities from an exclusively Western-centered canon of ideas and texts to include the philosophy, worldviews, and history of other cultures. For its skeptics, it is another front in a seemingly endless culture war, which may threaten to undermine the foundations of Western Christian civilization itself. As one of the most discussed issues in education today, it is timely for us who work in Catholic schools and universities to consider the issue in the light of our faith, despite the risk of controversy. In seeking a balanced way forward, reflection on the wonder of the Incarnation may provide a way out the impasse.

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This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting editor@catechetics.com

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