MCIC: Decolonizing Education in the Classroom

Learning how to improve U.S. education from other once colonized countries


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

“On Decolonizing U.S. Education: Lessons from the Caribbean and South Africa” was held over Zoom on March 21. Presenters were Political Science professor Shan Sappleton and Education professor Doug Adams from UW-Platteville. They discussed the inequalities faced in the U.S. school system and how the school system can move away from eurocentrism-based ideals. 

This year’s Midwest Culturally Inclusive Conference, an online and an in-person series that has been held over the month of March, talked about progressive topics such as antiracism, the alliance and other inclusive discussions. 

The project discussion came about in the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. They wanted to come up with a solution on how to teach antiracism in schools instead of focusing on eurocentrism. Coming up with this solution meant they looked at other societies that were colonized and became independent such as South Africa and Caribbean Nations.

The “Settler Coin (Pauly-Morgan 1996; Dixon, 2019)” was introduced in the presentation; it is the diagram that highlights how colonialism affected societies. The Settler Coin shows a coin-like structure in the middle that demonstrates inequality. On the top of the coin is “privilege” and on the bottom is “oppresion.” This model presents what societies with inequality look like, and with eurocentrism still present in education, there is privilege that students recieve over the oppressed.

They then talked about “The Decolonization Project” where they defined that “Colonialism is territorialization, subjugation, that benefits the colonial society.” Decolonization can be done through antiracism, but decolonization needs to be seen as an “Intellectual Process and Global Geopolitical Process” so that everyone involved is working together to help end the prescence of colonialism in the classroom.

The presenters introduced three different influential people in history that helped the decolonization process in South Africa and the Caribbean. 

Eric Williams, Louise Bennett and Walter Rodney, amongst many others, helped their own societies move toward their own education systems to benefit their own children instead of the colonizers. 

Eric Williams was a Pan-African activist who focused on what the education system should look like now that his society has been declared independent.

Louise Bennett focused on the “Queen’s English” and why children in schools should focus on their own language and what would be a better fit for their own culture. 

Finally, Walter Rodney worked on the quantitative revolution and argued that slavery was used to give Liverpool and Amsterdam advantages in South Africa. 

Doug Adams said, “The quantitative revolution is this idea around social sciences that mathematics and economics can be used as a form of resistance and social change.”

Though it is to be understood that “Decolonization is a Process,” backlash is shown throughout both colonized and decolonized societies as they move away from eurocentrism. However, it can be shown that decolonization is possible. At the end of their presentation, they explained ways to help the decolonization process, which included challenging the school system norms and historical voices and to “teach beyond the textbook.”

Most recordings of the presentations can be found on the MCIC UW-Platteville YouTube channel. Many of the MCIC sessions on YouTube are about an hour long. Viewers can find some of the sessions on the Whova app. Most of the conference presenations are about systemic changes and how people in society can help bring change to what is perceived as normal.