Monday, 22 October 2012

What's Wrong With Colour Blindness?

Colour blindness in the classroom is an exercise in taking standardisation and homogenisation to extremes that will never work, primarily because socio-cultural constructs and prejudices will always exist, everybody needs an identity, which their culture and race is a part of, and extremism does not work in practice, and is unhealthy.

One of the primary flaws in the idea of colour blindness in the current school environment is that, when deployed as a policy, whether it be institutional or casual or anything in between, it plays out, in practice, as a kind of polite and shallow appreciation of minority cultures, alongside a blanket ignorance of the dominant. Policies of colour blindness fail because they try to ‘level the playing field’ by truly levelling – that is, razing, it.

On this flattened field, students will play in the rubble, explore their identities, and new constructs will develop. The attitudes, human compulsions and social habits that created the constructs that colour blindness demolished are still present, and will exert themselves over the razed landscape. But these will be rudimentarily expressed in the image of the socio-cultural paradigms that stood, perhaps on the same spot, crafted from the debris strewn about, before the policy of colour blindness knocked it down.

Australia is a very 'multicultural' place. There are children and families from many hundreds of different racial and cultural backgrounds. The constructs that have developed have been stunted by the institutional red-tape-noose of colour blindness, and taken the form of a politically correct and shallow ‘appreciation’ of different foods and festivals. This does much to undermine appreciation and integration, for these reasons and because it is a primitive expression of othering. Children recognise different minority cultures but gain no knowledge or skills in integrating with them. They gain a measure of comfort with their own cultural/racial identity, because these ‘appreciation days’ construct rudimentary symbols to which they can attach. Pre-colour blindness, alongside the racial and cultural apartheids, there existed comparably well-developed opportunities for development of empathy and selfhood. These have now been lost.

The main group to suffer out there on the homogenously razed playing field are the ‘dominant’ culture. That is to say, the Anglo-European males; ‘white boys.’ Post-colour blindness, they are all too often assumed to not only have a well-established, healthy and mature culture, but also a similarly spiffy identity within, and understanding of, that culture. Which culture, by the way, does not need to be recognised because it is so dominant at the expense of all the others. White guilt, anyone? This is an assumption that is creating major developmental problems for these children, as nobody has thought to champion or craft a symbol for them to rally to, and neither actualises nor permits them to build one themselves. The Indigenous do, the Indians do, the Muslims, the Polynesians, the Christians, the Vietnamese, women, the GLBTQI and the rest, they at least have been given chance to build their symbols to identify with. However primitive such symbols may be - thanks to colour-blindness - they are better than nothing. All that the white children - boys in particular - have to identify with is ‘white trash.'

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