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Perspectives in Education

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‘Behind the doors of learning’: The transmission of racist and sexist discourses in a History classroom

M Wilmot, D Naidoo

Abstract


Now that the doors of historically white schools have officially been opened to Black learners, this paper presents a critical analysis of discourses of domination transmitted behind the doors of learning in a History classroom. While the official History curriculum (NCS, 2002) advocates multi-perspectival epistemological approaches, this paper illustrates the subordination of epistemic goals to racist and sexist ideological goals through the transmission of racist and sexist discourses. A teacher’s lessons were observed, audio-taped, transcribed and analysed according to critical discourse theory. The conventional Grade 10 topic, The conquest of the Aztecs by the Spanish, was mediated through racist and sexist formal and informal discursive strategies such as the use of teacher power to silence contestation of inaccurate statements; the use of metaphor, simile, and binary oppositions to convey prejudicial meanings, derogation, inferiorisation, ridicule, jokes, disclaimers, and stereotyping that subsumed the historical topic being taught. The analysis exposes the informal yet effective workings of power for the perpetuation of discourses of domination in the History lesson. Such discourses subjected learners to a form of symbolic violence which may lead students to ontological misrecognition of self and race.



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