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Decolonise Covid? University to Teach ‘Anti-Racist’ Study of Viruses

White supremacy and European colonialism are embedded in the study of viruses and other diseases according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), which has vowed to decolonise its curriculum after advising the British government on the coronavirus pandemic.

The alma mater of the Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty, who has led the government’s scientific response to the coronavirus, has vowed to reform its curriculum in order to make the study of tropical diseases “anti-racist”.

A guide issued to staff at the LSHTM told staff that they should examine how they benefitted from colonialism and racism if they are “white, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-heterosexual, European or North American, and do not have to worry about our immigration status.”

The guide, which was seen by The Telegraph, went on to warn graduates against spreading “Eurocentric” scientific knowledge discovered by “white, male” experts and staff have been told to “de-privilege white European and North American men” who can, they claim, be seen as “white saviours”.

Staff who are unaware of the Marxist concept of decolonising the curriculum have been pushed by the guide authors to read works such as Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World.

Lecturers at the top school have also been asked if they could have “someone from the Global South” teach their students instead of them.

Tests and other teaching methods will be reformed to take into account “colonial and post-colonial power dynamics” and to remove any so-called microaggressions that could make students feel “racialised”.

The leading force behind the decolonising push at the LSHTM, Professor Kara Hanson said: “We are making significant progress to ensure our learning materials are inclusive and do not include racist or colonial perspectives and language.

“Eight decolonising the curriculum facilitators have been appointed to support teaching staff, and a series of ‘decolonising the curriculum – in conversation’ events has showcased how other institutions have been tackling the challenges of decolonising their curricula.

“A new post within our Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching will shortly be advertised to support inclusive curriculum design and delivery.

“Decolonising the curriculum will take time but we are committed to fully engaging staff and students in the process.”

While the move to ‘decolonize the curriculum’ was initially confined to the liberal arts and social sciences in universities, there has been an increasing movement into the hard sciences.

In April, for example, the University of Sheffield University announced that it would “contextualise” the works of Sir Issac Newton, who was branded by the school as being a “white saviour” who benefitted from “colonial-era activity”.

The same university pronounced in May that Charles Darwin’s theory on evolution was used to “justify white male supremacy” and that so-called “white saviours” such as Darwin have overshadowed scientists from non-European countries.

The university went on to attack the very empirical nature of the scientific method itself, arguing that “it is clear that science cannot be objective and apolitical,” adding: “the curriculum we teach must acknowledge how colonialism has shaped the field of evolutionary biology and how evolutionary biologists think today”.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka



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