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Author John Willinsky discusses how the discovery of the New World inspired European culture with "the desire to take hold of the world . . . to enumerate, order, identify, and differentiate". LEARNING TO DIVIDE THE WORLD raises urgent questions about how colonialism gave rise to powerful ideas of race, culture, and nation that continue to influence us--and the children we are educating. 11 photos.
Willinsky (education, Univ. of British Columbia; Empire of Words, LJ 12/94) describes how colonialism and imperialism shaped the Western way of thinking and how Westerners were educated. He discusses "how five centuries of studying, classifying, and ordering humanity within an imperial context gave rise to peculiar and powerful ideas of race, culture, and nation," and he explores what happens when our comprehension of the world is tied to our conquest of it. How has education today been influenced by "the global forces of imperialism" in the past? How have centuries of European expansion influenced how we see the world? And how have migrations of peoples around the globe in recent decades changed our assumptions of it? These are some of the ideas that intrigue Willinsky. This scholarly work is well researched, with numerous footnotes, and may be more suitable for academic libraries than for leisure reading.Terry Christner, Hutchinson P.L., Kan.
The transfer, in July 1997, of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule marked the conclusion of a turbulent era of European imperialism. However, as Willinsky (Education/ Univ. of British Columbia) eloquently argues, the colonial legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of those educated, all over the world, in geographic, racial, and cultural categories crafted by European colonialists. As a result of the discoveries of Columbus and other explorers, Europeans' medieval worldview collapsed and a new one rose in its place. This modern perspective is with us still, Willinsky asserts. Reviewing the vigorous, often violent centuries of European imperialism, the author focuses on the European emphasis on examining, classifying, and categorizing the diverse peoples, geography, and plant and animal life of the conquered continents. "It is not hard to argue," the author observes, "that the whole venture had about it something of a great public education project intent on bringing the world together under the roof of European learning." Willinsky goes on to make this argument, showing that imperialist attitudes pervasively influenced the teaching of history and gave rise to such disciplines as geography (National Geographic and geography textbooks tended to treat the non-Western world as a barbaric place gradually coming under civilization's sway, the author argues) and anthropology (which often produced scientifically credible apologia for racism and eugenics). In his survey of racist bias in language and literature, the author identifies the evident links between the emergence of English as a world language and British and American imperialism: Less evident, the author points out, arepotential racist, sexist, and chauvinist perspectives embedded in English that may dominate world culture, and the often smug assumption that English's universality is evidence of its intrinsic superiority to other languages rather than, as the author contends, an artifact of British imperialism. A thoughtful examination of the changing mission of education in a multicultural world. (11 photos, not seen)