ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Changing Colonial Mindsets

My talk at the Penang conference on “Decolonising Our Universities” was misreported by Srinivasan Ramani in his article “Decolonising Knowledge Systems” (EPW, 23 July 2011). The hard sciences are critical for the project of decolonisation: Macaulay pointed to them and, today, it is the desire for science and technology (not western social science) which is still used to promote western education. Decolonisation, therefore, will not work if it is restricted to the social sciences.

My point about the mathematics curriculum is reduced by Ramani to a simplistic agenda to restore Indian tradition, though I pointed to Indian traditions and Islam only to show the non-universality of western metaphysics. A pro-Christian religious bias in present-day formal mathematics means its teaching is “unconstitutional” both in secular countries like India, and in Muslim countries. So, the mathematics curriculum ought to be immediately changed in schools and universities across those countries. Concrete curriculum changes, backed by teaching experiments, were detailed in my paper. I even explained the religious bias in the 2+2=4 of formal math, since pleading ignorance of math to refer these changes to western-endorsed “experts” is a colonial trap, and also involves a conflict of interests. So the matter must be decided by public debate.

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