“No systematic effort toward change has been possible, for, taught the same economics, history, philosophy, literature, and religion which have established the present code of morals, the Negro’s mind has been brought under the control of his oppressor. The problem of holding the Negro down, therefore, is easily solved. When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions.”-Carter G. Woodson, The Miseducation of the Negro
The biggest and most important challenge we as a people face today is to break the chains of our continued miseducation. The way we see ourselves often influences what we do about ourselves, therefore the role education plays in controlling our thoughts and actions is more important now than ever before. “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”-Steve Biko
is the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing emphasis on European (and, generally, Western) concerns, culture and values at the expense of those of other cultures. It is not to be confused with Europatriotism. Eurocentrism also involved claiming cultures that were not white or European as being such, or denying their existence at all.
Assumptions of European superiority arose during the period of European imperialism, which started slowly in the 16th century, accelerated in the 17th and 18th centuries and reached its zenith in the 19th century. The progressive character of European culture was contrasted with traditional hunting, farming and herding societies in many of the areas of the world being newly explored by Europeans, such as the Americas, most of Africa, and later the Pacific and Australasia. Even the complex civilizations of the Islamic world, India, China and Japan were considered to be underdeveloped relative to Europe.
During the colonial era, the naïve assumption of Western superiority was given authority by thinkers such as G. W. F. Hegel, who developed a “universal” theory of history, which was, in essence, a theory of European history in which the rest of the World was taken to be objects rather than subjects. For Hegel, whos view and orientation of history was very influential on both Marxist and humanist historiography, Pre-Columbian America, Asia, and Africa were considered of no relevance to world history-and were often characterized as static.
The colonising period involved the widespread settlement of parts of the Americas and Australasia with European people, and also the establishment of outposts and colonial administrations in parts of Asia and the whole of Africa. For this reason a Europe-centered history may be taught in such countries, and in parts of Africa and Asia, even though the majority of the populations are not of European decent.
Our existence has been defined by the way Europeans defined who we were and what our value was as human beings in relation to their cultural civilization. African people educated within the parameters of western civilization have measured our human worth based on the standards of European people, thus always putting African people in a position of human inferiority from a cultural and social perspective. Thus the measure of our humanity has been rooted in our ability to mimic European culture. The better we could mimic European culture, the more value our lives had to European people and to ourselves. The less we mimicked European people, the less value we had to European people and ourselves. Consequently, looking at ourselves, through European cultural standards and social values has always crippled our ability to move through the world with complete human freedom and without self-justification.
An example of this is that when African children attend public schools, they are typically taught that human civilization begins with Greece and Rome. They are further educated within the framework of Greek, Roman and European culture. The substance of what they learn is rooted in the western stories they learn to read from, the mathematical concepts they learn in school, and the science applications that are rooted in the observations of white males. After the African child has digested such a curriculum from K – 12, s/he can only assume that his/her value as a human being is measured by the way the white world defines it. S/he assumes that all important human thinking has only come from the white world, and thus being Black, s/he had no choice but to measure his/her intelligence according the standards of western civilization. S/he is always at a disadvantage in the worldeven when s/he is successfulsimply because the measure of human success is measured by the way the white public school system defines it. Thus the African child who is successful in such a system is just as culturally crippled as the one who fails in the system. This is Europe-centered education
One remedy for this is to create an educational environment where there is a shift in this orientation.
is a philosophical theory, probably best defined by Dr. Molefi K. Asante, which in very general terms, is the idea that African people must become the center of their human experience rather than the object of that human experience.
Using ancient African civilizations and standards coupled with indigenous African values, African people are able to begin to look at our history from the perspective of what we have given humanity, including western civilization, and we can begin to define our historical human experience according to the standards, values, and principles that our civilizations have given us rather than copying the standards, values and principles of western civilization that have worked against us since they were first forced upon us and our ancestors. This shift in how African people see ourselves then revolutionizes everything we do in life and empowers us to create modern cultural and social standards that empower us to achieve on our own terms without comparing ourselves to what whites or anyone else is doing.
Human civilization did not start with the Greeks and the Romans. It started in ancient Egypt (Kemet)*see notes at the bottom*, which was a Black civilization. This first human civilization lasted for 10,000 years and was the parent civilization to the Greek and Roman civilizations. The ancient Egyptians created the first human literature, mathematical concepts, observations of natural science and logic. They generated the first standards of learning, law, ethics and government with a taxation system. They were the first to develop medical systems, engineering systems and astronomy systems. They managed to do all of this to such a degree that Greek scholars were flocking to Egyptian universities for three hundred years before they could move into the category of civilization. Now if we shift the framework of learning for the African child to one of Egyptian origin, we shift self-perception in the world as the African child learns that it is natural for him/her to excel at mathematics, science, engineering, social studies, language arts, etc. S/he then understands that to be educated is no longer acting white, but acting African. In addition to this, the substance of daily education is no longer rooted in western images but African images that reinforce the academic and cultural development of the child, and the child finds that African people also have their own high standards, expectations and goals that are rooted in their long tradition of civilization building. Children learn to improve their reading skills by reading classical African stories, learning to count through African counting systems, learning to appreciate science and engineering by studying Imhotep. They learn traditional African languages that have their own alphabet such as ancient Egyptian or Amharic. They learn these things in a natural setting while using modern technologies. Such a child is able to enter the world with cultural grounding, confidence and purpose. This is African-centered education.
The African-centered process works from the indigenous African principle and worldview of human cooperation rather than human competition, which is the Eurocentric view and the basis of western education. Indigenous African principles believe that the best human characteristic is that of cooperation and sensitivity to the needs of everyone in the group. It is the concept that “I am because we are, and we are because I am.” While many schools claim to be multicultural, few actually are simply because the engine that drives the curriculum is Eurocentric in nature, and everything else given to the children is, at best, supplemental. Many teachers in such a system can only teach from the European tradition of educational theory. Others who can teach from a different educational theory are discouraged from doing so. Multiculturalism thus becomes a platitude as children are taught from textbooks that make the European the subject of all human experience while non-Europeans are made the object of the human experience.
Editors Note: I initially posted this on myspace in 2006. Since then of course, I have grown and evolve to an understanding of what is ‘civilization’. It is the art of being civil, in practice which is fostered through an attitude of mind which, in the tribal/clan days (Pre-Colonial), gave to every individual the security that comes of belonging to a widely extended family, must be preserved within the still wider society of the nation. Therefore, Civilization in it’s own merit existed much much earlier than Egypt/Khemet, to include a cluster of nation-states collectively called The Nile Valley Civilizations. Even more recent discoveries of Ancient Civilizations along the Niger River in the West and Maputo River in the South extend into antiquity thousands of years before Europe even moved into the category of ‘civility’.