The Idea of Education and Postcolonial Discourse

Cotey Binns '00, English 27, Brown University, Autumn 1997

Historians, literary critics, and social scientists use the idea of postcolonialism to examine the ways, both subtle and obvious, in which colonization affects the colonized society. Notwithstanding different time periods, different events and different effects that they consider, all postcolonial theorists and theory admit that colonialism continues to affect the former colonies after political independence. By exposing a culture's colonial history, postcolonial theory empowers a society with the ability to value itself.

Education exemplifies the limitations and benefits of postcolonial theory. This approach, which sees education as more than simply benign and neutral, allows discussion of the positive and negative consequences of education, particularly when it is a tool used against the colonized. In contrast to the physical interactions and abuses of colonization, education dominates the colonized indirectly, appearing humble in its purpose of bettering their uneducated or so-called savage minds. In The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin explain that education

establishes the locally English or British as normative through critical claims to "universality'" of the values embodied in English literary texts, and it represents the colonised to themselves as inherently inferior beings-- "wild," "barbarous," "uncivilised." (426)

Buchi Emecheta's The Slave Girl, Wole Soyinka's Aké, and Ken Sarowiwa's A Forest of Flowers allow us to see to what extent Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin's postcolonial theories accurately describe what African authors believe occurs in colonial and newly liberated African countries.

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