Using critical race theory to move beyond good intentions when ‘Indigenising' curricula

Year: 2014

Author: Jacinta, Maxwell

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Educators in all sectors are being encouraged to ‘Indigenise' their curricula by incorporating Indigenous-themed content into their courses and classes. Accepted as a positive development by many teachers, other educators and commentators have raised multiple concerns. While public debate has focussed on whether such content belongs in all subject areas or, conversely, detracts from the ‘basics', fundamental questions about who benefits from these initiatives are being ignored. Failure to interrogate the intentions behind these policies results in a well-intentioned, faith-based approach to education with the potential to do more harm than good. Despite a legacy of similar initiatives in schools and universities, racism, both explicit and implicit, continues. The racial realist school of Critical Race Theory (CRT) asserts that a reason for this is that racism is woven into the fabric of our society so the interests of the ‘racial' majority will always trump any ethical impetus to bring about social justice reform. These theories underpinning the CRT framework are often criticised as being excessively pessimistic and have been underutilised in Australian education research. This paper suggests that they have the potential to provide educators and scholars with innovative ways of understanding the continuing significance of ‘race' within contemporary schooling. The research informing this paper is drawn a project which sought to understand the intentions behind the introduction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures into the Australian Curriculum. This study offers an insight into the potential for CRT in education research, as well as some of the personal and professional challenges encountered by critical race scholars.