Universities Scotland

Race Equality Toolkit

Learning and Teaching

Setting the Context

#4Fear of getting it wrong

Well, when you suggest to some colleagues to use international case studies, some have indicated they will not go there in case they present the case studies inaccurately, offend or are seen as being racist

academic staff comment

The desire not to offend or to get it wrong often prevents open discussion or debate. Given the complexity of the issues and the myriad of perspectives that surround this area of work, such concerns are understandable. However, they should not prevent educators from seeking opportunities to discuss racism or to put in place strategies that would more effectively promote race equality.

It might be worth remembering that the discussions around political correctness originally stemmed from an attempt by students at higher education establishments in the USA to challenge the established curriculum, which focused entirely on all-white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual subject matter. However, the original reasons for these changes were sensationalised and misrepresented. For example, it was claimed by some British newspapers that “Baa Baa Black Sheep” had been banned in schools due to its use of “black”.

Political correctness became a concept associated with “what you are allowed to say and do and what you are not allowed to say and do”. This has unfortunately meant that some people have become anxious about discussing issues of equality, inclusion and anti-discrimination in case they are accused of being narrow-minded or discriminatory.