What do South African students learn when we teach about race?

2022/01/08 13:00:00

There is a conspicuous lack of teaching resources to address the historical construction of race in the South African context.

What do South African students learn when we teach about race? - There is a conspicuous lack of teaching resources to address the historical construction of race in the South African context.

There is a conspicuous lack of teaching resources to address the historical construction of race in the South African context.

“Everyone is saying you shouldn’t base university entrance on the colour of your skin, they should base it on your marks,” says Amy. “People keep on saying that but then they don’t stand up for it, do you know what I mean?”She looks at me somewhat exasperated as we sit in her grade nine history classroom, the afternoon sun streaming through the high sash windows. We are discussing university admissions — a hot topic in this academically competitive Cape Town school — and inevitably the issue of race arises: “The whole world is basing everything on race but really it’s just a pigment.”

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0 “Everyone is saying you shouldn’t base university entrance on the colour of your skin, they should base it on your marks,” says Amy.(Getty Images) Mauritius reopened to travellers from South Africa, and eight other previously restricted countries, on Friday.Zanospark — Kwinana’s company.by.

“People keep on saying that but then they don’t stand up for it, do you know what I mean?” She looks at me somewhat exasperated as we sit in her grade nine history classroom, the afternoon sun streaming through the high sash windows. We are discussing university admissions — a hot topic in this academically competitive Cape Town school — and inevitably the issue of race arises: “The whole world is basing everything on race but really it’s just a pigment. The latest reprieve comes after similar moves by the Seychelles and Maldives.” We have heard this reasoning many times in our conversations with young South Africans. During that period nothing else of any note was happening in the Zanospark bank account, evidence leader advocate Kate Hofmeyr told the commission in August 2020. It’s one of several misunderstandings that stem from the way in which race is discussed in the history curriculum.BusinessInsider. Having spent hundreds of hours teaching history and watching history be taught in South Africa, it’s time to reflect on what students are actually learning from the way we teach them about race, and why.

How the South African history curriculum teaches the complexities of race In South Africa, history is the subject where most conversations about race occur.za . The report states that Kwinana failed to give any plausible explanation for why, as the chairperson of SAAT and a board member of SAA, it was lawful and appropriate for her to have received payments from an entity that was a supplier to SAAT. Policy statements for grade nine history stipulate that teachers spend two hours teaching about the definition of racism as an introduction to apartheid. However, surprisingly given the subject, the approach to teaching racism draws far more from natural science than it does from the humanities. Bans imposed on South African travellers immediately following the detection of the Omicron coronavirus variant in late November are easing. In particular, teachers are asked to cover two points: “Human evolution and our common ancestry” and “The myth of race”. The commission notes that, if Kwinana was legitimately trading on behalf of third parties as her clients, then she would be required to have a licence as a financial services provider.  This natural science-focused approach to teaching about race is also reflected in the presentation of race in history textbooks. Mauritius' decisions to reopen travel with South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia comes just one day after fellow island nation, the Seychelles, did the same .

The Oxford University Press textbook, for example, discusses the development of hominids over about four-million years, accompanied by a picture showing the evolution of human beings. It speaks about the Cradle of Humankind in Africa and how early modern humans spread from Africa to the rest of the world. “The high infection rates in over 50 countries means a person is as likely to catch the Omicron variant in Port Louis, Berlin, Brussels or Paris or as they are in Johannesburg or Cape Town. “The absence of a licence therefore tends to indicate that Ms Kwinana was not conducting forex trading activities for others, but for herself. The Vivlia textbook similarly describes how “hominids eventually evolved into humans,” and displays a map showing where different hominid fossils were discovered. The purpose of this crash course in evolution is to show students that there are no genetic differences between people of different races. “ASATA is profoundly frustrated and disappointed by the Mauritian Government’s decision to further extend a travel ban when it is evident there is no scientific basis to continue the ban. Race — according to the curricula — is therefore a “myth”, which the Oxford University Press textbook defines as “a belief that is not based on fact”. “Instead of knowing and applying these policies and processes, she testified that she preferred her own subjective opinion of her own independence.

However, the term “‘historical construct” is never used. Commercial passenger flights from South Africa, and its neighbouring countries, to Mauritius were given approval to resume on Friday. Race as a concept is simply described as non-factual, and people who evoke race or are racist are therefore irrational. Students are left without a framework for how ideas like race developed over time, and why such ideas may still have meaning in the present. “Covid-19 has placed significant pressure on all nations to do the right thing and we thank South Africans and the South African travel industry for their patience in this regard.” Saica’s chief executive, Freeman Nomvalo, said the chartered accountancy profession “is undergoing a period of profound reflection encompassing debates on how to maintain professional independence as evidenced by Saica’s recent revisions to the institute’s by-laws which include enhancements to the disciplinary process”. What are students learning? This approach to focusing on race through a scientific evolutionary lens in a history textbook, and concluding that it’s a myth without explaining how such a myth was constructed, presents several challenges in the classroom.  The first challenge, commonly observed in predominantly “white” schools and exemplified by Amy’s comment, is the idea that since race “doesn’t exist”, all mention of race must be at best irrational and at worst racist. The first phase restricted travellers to designated resorts.

The idea that race was a myth therefore served a colour-blind agenda that proved very comfortable for white students, and which largely absolved them from looking for the deeper structural causes of racial inequality in South Africa. All members who are found to have contravened Saica’s code of professional conduct … will be held accountable without fear or favour including all members mentioned in the comprehensive Zondo commission report when all three parts have been released. The second challenge is when theories of evolution come head-to-head with the religious beliefs of students. Fully vaccinated South African visitors were allowed to arrive and explore the island, without restrictions on their movements, until the Omicron-scare suspended travel. Meaningful conversations about race during history lessons are easily waylaid as students attempt to reject evolutionary theories in favour of creationism. This becomes particularly challenging given that the widely used Vivlia textbook cites Jared Diamond’s “The Third Chimpanzee”, which students take as evidence of the claim that people used to be monkeys. Fully vaccinated travellers to Mauritius still need to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before departure and arrange Covid-19 health insurance cover. From a religious perspective this is hugely inflammatory and the classroom discussions can quickly devolve into a discussion about the merits of evolutionary theory.

When coupled with the absolute terms in which human evolution is described, the section on race begins to feel both unhelpful and unnecessary. FlySafair and South African Airways (SAA) operate flights directly to Mauritius but have not yet confirmed when these services will resume. Evolution — a controversial theory to many — is used to justify anti-racism — which is a very uncontroversial idea among grade nine students. A third misunderstanding, which students of all backgrounds articulated, was confusion over the ubiquity of racial terminology within South African society. Since race is a myth, students believed that all mention of race (including affirmative action) must be racist and anti-scientific. Students became upset when someone identified as black or white, or at the idea that universities might be “racist” in granting easier access to black students.

  The last misunderstanding is perhaps the most disturbing, as students conclude that black people are less evolutionarily advanced than white people. Our sense is that this is not something which teachers are communicating, but which students are interpreting from the textbooks. For example, the textbooks say that hominids originated in Africa — and were therefore “African” — and the pictures show darker-skinned hominids evolving into lighter-skinned “modern humans”. There is a conflation between white, modern, and human, in contrast to black, pre-modern, and hominid. Towards an historical understanding of race It is clear why the history curricula have chosen to discuss race in this way.

In a country with such a damaging legacy of racism there is a legitimate need and desire to communicate in the clearest possible terms that racism is irrational and wrong. The framework of natural science is often used to communicate something as “fact”. However, as the examples above show, this scientific explanation isn’t always clear to students.  Evolutionary theory may help students understand that race isn’t “real” in any biological sense, but it doesn’t help them to make sense of the highly racialised society that they live in. Crucially, it doesn’t answer the questions that students themselves pose, such as “Why, of all the races, did white people end up on top?” or even more heart-wrenching, “Why do white people hate us?” In order to answer these questions an historical understanding of race is required, rather than simply a scientific understanding.

Similarly we need to move away from describing race as a “myth” — as though it was a story without clear origins — and start describing race as a construct, which is and has been constructed in different ways throughout time by people with agency. While a scientific explanation can be helpful for explaining that race is a construct, we need an historical explanation to teach students how and why race has been constructed.  The good news is that there are many resources for teaching an historical approach to how the concept of race was constructed. Such an approach draws on a .