Can We Please Diversify Our Syllabi?

Upon entering college, I had high hopes that I would be exposed to a series of new perspectives, views, theories and so forth. I certainly believed that higher level learning would grant me the opportunity to not only expand on my own intellect but, more so, educate myself on the different aspects of life that I was not exposed to due to my upbringing and culture. Though I have the utmost respect for philosophers and writers who changed the face of their fields, the syllabi I was given almost felt repetitive. My Philosophy of Human Nature class had six different readings, and of those readings, almost every single author was a white man. Of course, reading such literature did teach the fundamentals of the course and overall philosophical morality, but it felt constrained. The entire class was being taught how to lead their own lives through the mere experience of one community of European men. I am not saying that these works were not, in fact, beautiful pieces of writing, but what I am saying is that, education must be inclusive. We can understand and appreciate these texts, but we must also comprehend that there are other communities that are either underrepresented or not even regarded; this is extremely problematic. How can we fully learn and thrive in a specific academic setting without considering authors who are non-white males? Learning from the eyes of one source is barely learning.

One of the most important texts I had read in my first semester of college was Luce Irigaray’s “Plato’s Hysteria.” It was extremely significant in that it deemed philosophy as incredibly male-dominated. She goes to say that philosophy is taught through one lens and then from that, it creates a very narrow view of life. She even gave an in-depth analysis on one of the most renown pieces of philosophy “Allegory of the Cave.” She explained that the cave symbolized a womb and that men are taught to constantly run from it. Even the language of philosophers tends to be incredibly masculine to the point of exclusion of different communities trying to participate. To even get this text on the syllabus was extremely difficult since there were other more demanding pieces that were mandated. The point is that I would not have been exposed to such a beautiful and almost feminine piece if it hadn’t been for my specific professor. Why must we fight for this specific inclusiveness? Why is it such a radical ideal to be putting women and people of color on the reading list? This further lack of variety only aids in systematic Eurocentric education that will not push students to understand other communities and cultures; it essentially isolates us from a truth we may not have been exposed to. Once again, I definitely believe we must appreciate significant work, but we cannot limit ourselves either. Education is meant to break the cycle of our systematic upbringing and guidance. We grow and learn every day in order to advance into a society that serves as a safe space for everyone. We must learn ethics and morality through a lens that is not singular. These texts tell a story from a side that has been marginalized and oppressed for so long, and it becomes necessary to read texts in order to go against the system. History is something we cannot ignore, and we must become aware of how to progress as beings. In order to fix problems in today’s society, we must open our minds and listen to the words written by many whose voices were silenced by myriad different persecutors. These stories are capable of generating strong emotions within us that spur a revolution!

Writings that allow for such an impact must be on syllabi everywhere for the sake of representation within a community as well. How can students be expected to prosper and flourish in a community focused on one group of people? Why are specific cultures erased and ignored from our history? This lack of presentation is archly degrading, and only further hinders students from reaching their fullest potential.

It is our responsibility as human beings to seek curiosity in a world that may not be able to provide us with it. We shouldn’t always be comforted by what we read, but rather enlightened to do better.

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