Reading into Racism: Bias in Children's Literature and Learning Materials

By Gillian Klein | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Bias in materials in other areas of the curriculum

The books considered in this chapter are largely those used in the context of the school curriculum. Collectively, they define the parameters of knowledge considered worth transmitting to children. Whatever is not contained in the stock cupboards and the library is open to an interpretation that it is not worth knowing. The hidden curriculum, plus the cumulative effect of the parameters of the overt curriculum, will be explored more fully in the following chapter. This chapter examines some specific areas of the curriculum and the resources used to teach them. There may be a variation in degree, but bias of the kind with which we are here concerned is present in books across the curriculum.


Art

Books teaching the historical development of art, tend to do so along evolutionary lines which may leave students under a misconception that Renoir is superior to Raphael, Gauguin better than Giotto or Cézanne than Cimabue. S.H.W. Janson’s History of Art for young people (2nd edn 1982) has, in a text 385 pages long, disposed of all art before that of Ancient Egypt by page 18. Not only is it described as ‘Primitive Art’, but also by an overall heading of ‘The Magic Art of Cavemen and Primitive Peoples’. Yet the illustrations of masks and sculptures by these ‘primitive peoples’ are all examples clearly captioned as from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, or in the case of the ‘Eskimo’, the early twentieth century. E.H. Gombrich’s classic study, The Story of Art, in its twelfth edition (1972) takes an identical approach, titling its first chapter: ‘Strange Beginnings; prehistoric and primitive peoples’.

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