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Education policy as an act of white supremacy: whiteness, critical race theory and education reform

Gillborn, David; (2005) Education policy as an act of white supremacy: whiteness, critical race theory and education reform. Journal of Education Policy , 20 (4) pp. 485-505. Green open access

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Abstract

The paper presents an empirical analysis of education policy in England that is informed by recent developments in US critical theory. In particular, I draw on ‘whiteness studies’ and the application of Critical Race Theory (CRT). These perspectives offer a new and radical way of conceptualising the role of racism in education. Although the US literature has paid little or no regard to issues outside North America, I argue that a similar understanding of racism (as a multifaceted, deeply embedded, often taken-for-granted aspect of power relations) lies at the heart of recent attempts to understand institutional racism in the UK. Having set out the conceptual terrain in the first half of the paper, I then apply this approach to recent changes in the English education system to reveal the central role accorded the defence (and extension) of race inequity. Finally, the paper touches on the question of racism and intentionality: although race inequity may not be a planned and deliberate goal of education policy neither is it accidental. The patterning of racial advantage and inequity is structured in domination and its continuation represents a form of tacit intentionality on the part of white powerholders and policy makers. It is in this sense that education policy is an act of white supremacy. Following others in the CRT tradition, therefore, the paper’s analysis concludes that the most dangerous form of ‘white supremacy’ is not the obvious and extreme fascistic posturing of small neonazi groups, but rather the taken-for-granted routine privileging of white interests that goes unremarked in the political mainstream.

Type: Article
Title: Education policy as an act of white supremacy: whiteness, critical race theory and education reform
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Educational reform, Public policy analysis, Sociology, Ethnicity, Race, Multiculturalism, Achievement, Equal opportunities
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10001654
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