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Crafting an antiracist curriculum: Reimagining

Yusuf Ibrahim

Wales first Anti Racism Curriculum – miniseries: Having explored the concept of ‘unfiltering’ histories and our curriculums, this final article introduces you to the reimagined anti-racist curriculum.

I remember listening to an interview with one of the greatest innovators of our time, Steve Jobs.  I have always been captivated by his imagination and vision.  His story is one which certainly inspires me and to this day, I still find his product launch videos fascinating.  What set him apart from the rest was his ability to make functionality simple and beautiful.  His early forays were in design.  He was intrigued by fonts, looking to refine them and make them more appealing.  Font designs in 1970s were incredibly pragmatic, a world where the typewriter was regarded as a highly advanced form of word processing. 

Whilst the world around him was built in rigid blocks, he wanted to make curves.  But not at the expense of practicality, on the contrary, could beauty provide more?  Between 1997 and 2001, the slogan for Apple was to ‘think different’. When discussing the new Apple store (which opened in 2001), he explained that he had asked his designers to forget every store they had been in, to forget how they were laid out.  He wanted a store that was purely ‘Apple’.  He said, ‘Apple stores are not just intended to move boxes, but to enrich lives.’  I am sure you can remember how different the Apple store was, indeed, it reimagined the purpose of shop on a high-street… I could go on and talk about the iPhone! 

Crafting an Antiracist Curriculum for Lasting Change

In my career I have seen so many attempts to think differently.  ‘New’ initiatives, ‘new’ ideas…  If I’m being brutally honest, most (and I do mean the vast majority) fall back into the same pragmatic blocks.  At best, you might get a block wrapped in a curved package, but it soon turns back into a block under the pressure of the load it needs to bear.  If we really want to change things, we really do need to think differently.  In designing a new antiracist curriculum, I have been privileged to work with an immensely talented pool of ideas from our Black and Minority ethnic communities.  A pool of talent that has been locked for generations.  It has led me to reflect on how many ideas have been locked and lost over the last 100 years?

Inspired by the approach of Steve Jobs (who was half Syrian by the way!), I worked with a team to  create a truly reimagined curriculum.  As a group we ‘forgot’ what previous curriculum design would suggest and begun to imagine what this new curriculum could be.  Not only did we want this to be a new antiracist curriculum, we wanted it to define how future curriculums would be constructed.  It needed to be practical, easy to use and stunningly beautiful.  A curriculum that people would want to come back to and be inspired by.  Lofty goals, however, if you are going to make something new – you should aim for it to be the very best! 

The first question was what would this curriculum look like? 

As a significant footnote, I would like to thank the Welsh Government for their support and trust in this project.  As well as providing the substantive funding, they have recognised from day one the necessity of ‘thinking differently’ and for this project being led by those who have a real lived experience of racism.  Coming back to the question, this curriculum would need to look engaging.  It would need to attract people (all people) to want to learn.  With this in mind, we operated on a simple principle, this would be a curriculum ‘for all of us’.  Whilst built to directly meet the needs of the further education sector in Wales, it aimed to provide something for everyone to connect with.

I am a great believer in things happening for a reason and at the right time.  Just over one year ago, I was working on a small project which involved using virtual world/metaverse technology.  We had to create a short immersive experience and I remember seeing the immense potential of having a curriculum set in a virtual world.  Armed with this experience, the setting of this new curriculum would be the first of its kind Anti-Racist Virtual World.  A world that could show what is possible when great thinking comes together, a world that could inspire us to learn from one another and build a more prosperous future ‘in reality’.

Within one year, we assembled a team of sixty people (forty-two with a lived experience of racism).  Project leads, university academics, skilled teachers and lecturers, sector specialists and in MX Reality a leading software company who had the capability to deliver a truly beautiful and engaging virtual world experience.

Our Virtual World Perthyn

We called the world ‘Perthyn’ which translates from Welsh as ‘belonging’.  It is the product of ideas from the undeniable talent that has been unlocked to transform our understanding of the world.  In this world you can hear the stories of six people who have a real lived experience of racism.  You can see how they have decided to decorate their virtual houses and provide a glimpse of what gives their lives meaning.  You can see their humanity.  You can walk through time, unfiltered, enlightened as you follow the histories of four Welsh fictional characters.  Histories which cover Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Northern Europe.  You can engage in a unique immersive learning experience where augmented reality brings inventions from the past into life.  You can engage and learn subject material from philosophy and mathematics to hair & beauty.  It is accessible to all.  It is here is inspire us.  It is my pleasure to welcome you to Perthyn.

This is not a ‘protest’ curriculum.  It is not something that has any political motivations.  It is simply a curriculum that aims to add more light to what we already know.  What is absolutely clear in beginning this process, is the need for much more light to shine.  To achieve this new curriculum within one year has been an incredible effort.  However, this has to the beginning of a change. 

In the first article of this series I explained that I would return to explain why I didn’t use the term ‘centre’ when discussing the political spectrum.  To give a little context (for those who haven’t read the first article), I was explaining how we naturally gravitate to the ‘right’ or ‘left’.  To finish on a provocation.  If we agree that history has been written by the victors, if we accept that there has been a conscious and subconscious filtering in our knowledge, then isn’t’ the political spectrum itself is also a modern, Western-Centric construct?  What did ‘right’ or ‘left’ wing politics look like two hundred years ago?  The provocation is to serve also as a point of unification.  We all need to learn more.  We all need to assume less.  We all need to reimagine.

By Yusuf Ibrahim, Assistant Principal at Cardiff and Vale College

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