The Social Studies working group recommends a school-wide transition from the terms “Western” and “Non-Western” to the terms “United States” and “Global”. In our own discipline, this would mean cessation of language referring to “Western” and “Non-Western” history/social studies and the incorporation of “Unites States” and “Global” history/social studies in course descriptions and other curriculum materials. At the very least we recommend a critical cross-divisional discussion to examine the problematic nature of these terms and their place in our institution.
The terms “Western” and “Non-Western” have come under our scrutiny because they are:
- euphemisms for “white” and “non-white”
- unrepresentative of the dichotomies presented in actual curriculum; “US” and “global” are more accurate
- an impediment to goals for diversity and inclusiveness as they create an undesirable Eurocentric concept of “the other”
- geographically incorrect i.e. placement of Latin American works/topics within the dichotomy
The committee understands that these terms are widely used in academia. However, as a cultivator of tomorrow’s thinkers Sidwell Friends School has an obligation to ensure our program is semantically representative of what we hope our students will contribute in the future. We hope in the field of social studies and history our students will be thinking beyond “Western” and “Non-Western”, and as such, should name our programs accordingly.
We'll see what happens.