Race, power and me: my position as a History educator in relation to the position of learners
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History, as outlined in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements for GET and FET (CAPS) is both a journey of enquiry and an evidence-based construction of the past. It enables learners and teachers alike to understand better our human condition. The role of the history teacher is to create an environment in which such an historical gaze can be fostered in the classroom. A precondition of this is, however, a relationship between teacher and learners that allows its development. In this article I explore my position as a History teacher in relation to the position of my learners, taking cognisance of the power relationship between educators and the learners they teach. I consider how this relationship may be complicated by structural inequalities in the South African context and may stand in the way of the learners accepting that they can develop an historical gaze of their own. To do this, I construct a narrative of the significant turning points in my personal journey of understanding human rights as a teacher. Themes that emerge are ‘voice’ and/silence, and the moral dilemma of responsibility (and sharing of resources) versus voluntary abdication of power in the way of redress for injustices of the past. Through the form of a personal, first-person narrative, I endeavour to make explicit the ethical dilemmas of my own conscience and to promote the language of the personal and of feeling. I begin with an assumption that teaching and learning of the CAPS curriculum is a given, and, accepting its values and aims, I reflect on how to embody them. This includes reflections on positionality and subjectivity, trying to answer, “who is the gazer, and from where is she gazing?” This is an exercise in multi-perspectivity that accounts for my own perspective, recognising that I, too, am embedded in history. Ultimately, I suggest that it is only as a reflexive history teacher that I can assist learners towards understanding history with their own gaze.