November 10, 2017
My question is: why should anyone need to be reassured that works by deceased white men will continue to feature very prominently? And why does the author implicitly equate these works with "academic rigour”? I hear arguments like this all the time when it comes to inclusion and diversity in higher education. They give me pause. The point about decolonising curricula is to include voices that have previously been excluded. That doesn’t mean throwing entire literary traditions out the door. It does mean that greatness in literature isn’t very narrowly defined or linked to only one particular class. Can we not be inclusive and also rigorous? And if one day our canons don’t look the way they do today, would that really be all that bad? Perhaps students would, perish the thought, learn something new. I hope we can get to a time when arguments like these don’t need to be made. They’re tiresome, and playing into unfounded fears of "irrelevance” is also just bad politics.
Associate professor of music, University of Oxford
• I can’t speak for Cambridge, but in my English department at a Harrogate comprehensive school, over the years we taught texts by VS Naipaul, Derek Walcott, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, ER Braithwaite, Samuel Selvon, Chinua Achebe, and Wole Soyinka, all of which were on exam board syllabuses, not to mention "poems from other cultures”, which was a longstanding component of GCSE English. It seems surprising that a degree level syllabus should not reflect the diversity of texts studied at A-level and GCSE.
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire
• Sadly Linda Bellos’s analysis of the teaching in Lambeth in the 80s is seriously flawed (Opinion, 29 October). I was head of sixth form at Tulse Hill school in the 1980s, the first in the country to introduce a multicultural curriculum. Between 1977 and 1989, 161 of our students went on to university, including Oxbridge, and polytechnics and of these, 93 were from ethnic minorities and 45 from African-. Amazingly, Tulse Hill was closed by Linda’s Lambeth council in 1990. A unique piece of educational vandalism.
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