Racist education system?

Neil Hooley is Neil Hooleya Lecturer in Education and Indigenous education at Victoria University. Neil recently wrote an article titled “The nation’s shame: A racist education system which excludes Indigenous children” in which he tells us that the Education system is racist because it hasn’t implemented a completely different method of teaching that he thinks would better serve aboriginal kids.

So what Neil Hooley is saying is that aboriginal kids, on average, aren’t as capable as non-aboriginal kids of learning via the current educational system. That, to me, sounds like a racist statement!

It amazes me that someone like Neil Hooley, who is intelligent enough to become a university professor, can make such incredibly contradictory statements. Compare the two statements:

  1. The education system should treat aboriginal students exactly the same as white students – it should expect academic results to be independent of race.
  2. Aboriginal students are incapable of learning as well as white students under the existing system.

Imagine a hypothetical situation where one of those statements was said by a racist and one was said by a non-racist, which statement would you attribute to the racist?

There is no doubt in my mind that most people would say that statement 2 is the racist statement.

Yet Neil Hooley comes to the exact opposite conclusion. He says that statement 1 is racist and that statement 2 is an acceptable position for a champion of anti-racism!

I can understand wanting to improve educational outcomes for aboriginal people, and suggesting alternative methods of teaching that might achieve better results. But I can not understand branding the current system as racist.

But wait, I lie – I think I can understand it.

I think there are some people that find it extremely difficult to think clearly and objectively around aboriginal issues because they are heavily invested in the belief that aboriginal people are good people that have always been victimised by white people and will continue to be victimised by white people and their racism. 

They believe that aboriginals are the good people and white people are the baddies – white people are racists and whatever they do has a racist undertone. If this is one of your core beliefs then of course you tend to see racism even where there is none. Such a belief attributes all problems to racism.

It requires such a core belief to be able to publicly state that treating aboriginal students the same as white students is racist.

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Comments (2)
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  1. Dino:

    I read the article but it was too broad.
    It depends on the demographic/geographic and cultural context.
    Claiming a problem is ‘racial’ doesn’t imply a slur on any party other than the one with a duty of care. In this instance the Education System.
    I think the importance of education and cultural heritage need not be exclusive.
    Your judgement from reading the article is premature and simplistic.
    It seems you are more focused on winning a point than education of minors.

  2. Lau Guerreiro:

    you’re right, My article isn’t giving any consideration to what is best for the education of minors – that wasn’t its purpose.

    I have no issue with different forms of education being provided to different socio-economic or cultural groups if that’s what’s required to produce the best educational outcome.

    My article’s purpose was simply to point out the contradiction in Neil Hooley’s charicterisation of the situation as racist. He should have called the current system ineffective rather than racist.

    If the teachers were refusing to teach aboriginal students then that would be racist. But when the aboriginal students fail to attend class, that’s definitely not a racist act on the part of the teacher or the system.

    I think it would have been fairer to say that the education department hasn’t yet figured out a way to get aboriginal kids to stay in classrooms and that they need to keep trying to figure out a way. I think its unfair to say they haven’t figured it out yet because they’re racist.

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