The introduction of critical race theory and other anti-colonial approaches to academic discourse has obscured the fact that higher education itself remains embedded in colonial institutions and structures. Higher education is a vestige of colonial means of psychological and social control. The political implications of colonialism in higher education include the perpetuation of hegemony, the suppression and subordination of alternative epistemologies, the ongoing political dominion over what constitutes knowledge, and the use of higher education to promote structures and institutions that serve the dominant culture. Although often an unconscious process, the ways colonial mentalities and processes remain entrenched in higher education are directly harmful to individual students and to society as a whole. Colonialism in higher education promotes a monolithic worldview that inhibits critical inquiry and creative solutions to global problems. By controlling how knowledge is defined, institutes of colonialist higher learning prevent alternative views and inhibit the flourishing of a genuinely meaningful academic curriculum as well as an evidence-based pedagogical practice. Colonialism in higher education is bad for everyone; it inhibits learning, limits the scope and depth of discursive practices, and prevents the formation of genuine community partnerships that can promote social justice.
In fact, the political often becomes personal with direct impacts on individual learners. “Education systems and processes, as well as ideas about what counts as education, have been entrenched in the reproduction of colonial ways of knowing which concomitantly limit possibilities for many learners,” (Dei, 2012, p. 103). The impact on individual learners extends to physical and mental health outcomes too, exacerbating health disparities. Epistemological data that shows that aboriginal peoples suffer from lower life expectancy, elevated morbidity, elevated suicide rates, higher rates of many diseases, and higher rates of poverty, all of which are empirically linked to “the forced acculturation imposed on Aboriginal peoples,” (Bourassa, McKay-McNabb & Hampton, n.d., p. 23). Therefore, colonialism in higher education is categorically unethical.
Colonialism refers to the imposition of power and the creation of political, social, and economic hierarchies. In higher education, colonialism manifests physically through the control over the physical space of the academic institution, symbolically via the control over information, knowledge, curriculum, and pedagogy, and psychologically.
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The term “the colonial wall” refers to the “psychological barrier designed to control, confine, and contain a nation by internalized colonialist subjugation or colonizer domination,” (St. Germain, 2003, p. iii). Higher education erects psychological barriers that serve as colonial walls between individual students, between faculty and students, and also between the educational institution and the greater community it is supposed to serve. Colonialist worldviews affects research questions, research designs, and research methods. Indigenous people are systematically barred from controlling discourse, or even defining or operationalizing their own terms. Disallowing for self-definition or self-determination, colonialism in higher education therefore perpetuates power inequities beyond the walls of the institution, reverberating throughout society. Indigenous people are the subjects or objects of research and thereby objectified, as opposed to being the lead researchers who frame new paradigms, evolving theory, and participate in the creation of new knowledge with real world applications. Critical race theory and anti-colonial rhetoric is insufficient for promoting egalitarianism in higher education. Anti-colonial discursive practices can be hegemonic, too, because the indigenous perspective “cannot be addressed within the frames of ethnic or minority diversity, civil rights, or human rights,” (Champagne, 2014, p. 99). For higher education to become truly decolonized, indigenous voices, bodies of knowledge, and ways of knowing need to be woven into the fabric of academia.
Higher education wears a mask. Pretending to champion the rights of indigenous peoples, higher education as it is practiced around the world is commonly considered to be a bastion of critical inquiry. Purporting to be liberal and progressive, high education promotes heterogeneous voices and discursive practices that challenge hegemonies based on race, class, and gender. Critical race theory and intersectionality dominate the discourse in higher education, which is fine, but white guilt only perpetuates the belief that institutions of higher learning--and the entire process of academic inquiry--are inherently anti-colonial or simply apolitical. The myth that higher education bears no stamp of colonialism now clouds generations of subtle tyranny: the ways that academia has in….....