Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Diversifying curriculum

I attended a teaching and learning symposium at the Uni today.  The theme was diversity and employability.  The first three talks on diversity were good: more questions than answers.  On the positive side a step further for the better.  But the actual fact: not much of a move away from a very colonial or racial mindset. 

I distinctively remember my agitated mood when I finished my interview at the Philosophy department in Madras University in 2016, where I went to explore if I could initiate my PhD there.  The panel of professors were very clear and adamant that I should do/study Indian philosophy alone.  They were so fixated on it that, at the end of the meeting, I was greatly tempted to ask, "Where is the department of Western philosophy?"  It was with a great amount of self-control that I restrained myself. 

I guess it is the same mentality here in the West.  That philosophy stemming from the Greek tradition is the only 'philosophy'.  What about the equally ancient and profound thoughts around the world, especially of the two great Indian and Chinese traditions?  Does that not count as philosophy?  I understand no university can cover all the philosophical traditions of the world, certainly not giving equal importance to all, but to go about as if thoughts of the Greek heritage are the only worthy philosophical topics and authors, is certainly impoverishing oneself. 

One of the philosophy professors who spoke, mentioned of him designing a new course for philosophy undergraduates including prominent Islamic thinkers from the middle-east.  So far so good.  But why did he choose those thinkers and what thought of theirs? That which actually stemmed from Western thought or later fed into the European thinking.  What of the remainder of their thoughts or contribution?  That did not feature at all!  Such cosmetic changes, while at least being credited as an attempt, are still not claims of diversifying curriculum to be inclusive. 

I went to this symposium with a definite purpose of getting some ideas of how to diversify curriculum in our post-novitiates back in India.  I returned home convinced that we, back in India, (at least in our Salesian circles) are way ahead (in ages) by way of inclusion and diversity and sensitivity, with regard to our philosophical curriculum than here in the West.  

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