Magoosh GRE

Schools curricula in the late imperial period (1914-1945) and the development of negative racial attitudes

| August 19, 2016


The impact of the school curricula of the late imperial period had an impact on racism. This essay assesses the overall contribution that the educational system has had on the perception of racism and inequality in the world.  The evidence presented in the study illustrates the deep impact that education has on attitudes of racism.  This analysis will be of use to any researcher assessing the late imperial period.


Racism is the belief that enhanced abilities and characteristics can be attributed to people based on their race or heritage (Fredrickson 2009). The concept of superiority rests on the notion that birth provides entitlement to privilege over others of perceived lesser birth. Others define racism as the projection of negativity on outside populations as a form of defence against encroaching culture (Jackson & Weidman 2004). This notion resurfaced during the rise of the industrial revolution in Europe that saw many nations in Europe seek for areas to colonize and obtain raw materials for their industries back home dating back to late 17th century. Racism has been present in various forms throughout international history, from the Mongols to the Romans, each have credited superior attributes to their citizens based only on birth (Fredrickson 2009).  Many Europeans viewed their culture as more civilised than the countries they were colonising and hence officially perceived their race as superior (Jackson & Weidman 2004). In nearly every case, the dominant civilization attempts to implement approaches to ensure their racial superiority remains (McKinney 2013).

Racism is clearly illustrated to have the potential to alter education, work and lifestyles of the oppressed culture (McKinney 2013).  The education system was utilized by the ruling class as one of the major promoters of racism in European powers (Bonilla-Silva 2013). The suppression of one culture in favour of another has led to a perception of unequal opportunity for those of colour (McKinney 2013).

The approach taken in school curricula is credited for much of the learned negative racial attitudes visible in the world (Fredrickson 2009). This paper analyses how the negative racism attitudes were promoted in the late imperial period through the approach to educational curriculum.

2 School Curriculum and Racism

The late imperial period was marred by world wars that were majorly based on the fight for supremacy (Jackson & Weidman 2004).  The development of nationalistic ideas and spread of propaganda of cultural superiority were hallmarks of the era. Educational school curriculum offered during the late imperial period was focussed on developing personnel to maximize the benefits of the colonial powers in order to ensure the relevance of a specific European power (Fredrickson 2009).  Others cite the educational system as teaching varied lessons to separate areas in an effort to guide their development (McKinney 2013).

During this period, schools were developed in colonies or protectorates for motives including the peaceful integration of the populations that were taken by the nation during negotiation or discovery (Jackson & Weidman 2004). Education was one of the fundamental social requirements for comfort of the settlers and was expected to be provided with quality. It is argued that the colonial powers were aware that an effective education would result complications making the unique applications of knowledge essential (Elman & Woodside 1995).  It was common for the ruling power to offer substandard education to the locals in areas under their influence (Elman & Woodside 1995). This resulted to two forms of education curricula administered at the same time in the same country. One was meant for the dominant culture, the Anglo or whites, and the other was meant for the locals or people of colour (McKinney 2013). This kind of education system was not limited to the territories, mandates, protectorates, colonies, and dominions of the European powers.  This same system was implemented as the expansion efforts of the period created huge numbers of immigrants in Europe (Fredrickson 2009). To maintain control, the ruling party influenced the educational avenues of the incoming populations, thereby cutting their available opportunities (McKinney 2013).  This perception of imbalance created negative attitudes that were exhibited by both the ‘whites’ and other ‘coloured’ races.

The education system used during the late imperial period was based on the class system, providing the elites with a better quality education (Tamanji 2011). This form of segregation was used to maintain a strict infrastructure that allowed for the ruling culture to remain dominant (McKinney 2013). This system of education was centralised and focused on industrialised societies and the capacity to spread to other parts. Nations including Britain, France, Germany, USSR, and Italy were focused on building a community that believed in their unique cultural superiority (Jackson & Weidman 2004).  During this period, the colonial powers had successfully managed to secure and develop influence across many parts of the world, making their choice of education influential on a global scale (Elman & Woodside 1995).

The colonial powers established school curriculum that was meant to spread their cultural practices (Bale 2011). Others cite the ease of population control and influence through the advent of education (McKinney 2013).   This resulted in a perception that specific races were being underrated creating a primary contributor to the negative racism attitudes (Tamanji 2011). Further, the dominant culture has used the education system to spread the propaganda of their superiority among their people, establishing their overall dominance (Frederickson 2009).

The discriminatory education curriculum resulted in the oppressed classes being unable to match the competencies of the colonialists (Tamanji 2011). This created another form of cultural division as the best jobs were taken by the better educated (McKinney 2013).  The fact that the school curriculum of the 1914-1945 periods advocated for strategies aimed at maintaining the supremacy of the white race made it unwelcoming by and clearly illustrates the practice of discrimination (Jackson & Weidman 2004). The fundamental concept credited with the spread of Racism rests in that the dominant culture believed that good education was meant for   them alone as they were responsible for civilizing the world (McKinney 2013). Other races were to be provided with limited education so as to enable them to perform their normal duties with minimal complications.  The dominant culture not only assumed the role of civilizing the world, but also took the best education can offer (Jackson & Weidman, 2004). This made the next generation developing under that education system feel superior to other races as they were taught courses that were not similar to other races and at the same time advocated for their superiority (Tamanji 2011).  The curriculum impacted the perception of the students and allowed them to look down upon the other races, thereby developing negative racism attitudes.

With a poor educational curriculum, other races were exposed to inferior educational system that limited their levels of achievement (Jackson & Weidman 2004). In a very real sense this limitation directly impacted their capacity to get a job.  They could not rise up the ranks as the position held by people in the society was determined by the levels of education (McKinney 2013). Frustration and the perception of oppression made the oppressed populations develop hatred for the dominant culture as they perceived inequality to be behind their limited capabilities in life. This further contributed to the development of negative perception of the dominant culture due to the quality of life that they led (Elman & Woodside 1995).  Children from other races grew up knowing that the whites were being favoured by the education system during the late imperial period (Elman & Woodside 1995).  This provided the foundation for developing negative racist attitude among the other races (Jackson & Weidman 2004).

During the late imperial period the education system applied high levels of segregation where the whites were segregated from the other races (Bale 2011).  Illustrating the stark division of culture, in the United States, there were schools for whites and schools for the blacks (Bale, 2011). In nearly every way the white school was far superior to the materials provided to the African American students (McKinney 2013).  Segregation was not only was in place, but was a subject of passion and controversy (Bale 2011). There was no way a black student would be found in the same school as a white student. This promoted isolation and indifferences that cultivated negative racist attitudes among the white and the other races during those times (Elman & Woodside 1995). Another key feature of the school curricula of the late imperial period was the language of learning that was designed for both whites and the other races (Fredrickson 2009). The language of teaching was chosen to promote nationalistic attitudes towards western powers for the dominant culture while developing negative attitudes by the non-whites due to segregation (Fredrickson 2009). The fact that the education system increased levels of exposure and use of specific languages such as English and French promoted the development of pride among the students whose primary language of communication was the language used in learning (Bale 2011). This pride resulted increased the perception of superiority with the argument that their language was the most civilised (Sylvester 2005). This factor is a further link to the education system of that period to the increased development of negative racism attitudes.

Education was an avenue that provided a platform for spreading the propaganda of racism (Jackson & Weidman 2004). The school curriculum was designed to incorporate government policies that advocated racist policy.  This was evident during the Nazi years in Germany where education system was ideology based (McKinney 2013).  The Germans utilized essays that spread the propaganda of racism and superiority of their race and students during this period were focused on developing ideologies and propaganda that they were superior to the other races (Fredrickson 2009). The German education system put more emphasis on physical education and racial doctrines while ignoring the facet of intellectual pursuit (Fredrickson 2009). This provided a platform for racism as the students were limited to learning about how important they were through the lens of education. Reduced levels of acuity in the society resulted to high levels of acceptance of the propaganda that they were superior races hence developing a negative racial attitude against other races (Jackson & Weidman 2004). Europe during this period was marred with several wars fighting for superiority (McKinney 2013).  In nearly every case it was a cultural dispute centred on the need for a nation, and the inherent population, to be dominant in the region.

The late imperial period was also characterised by changes in subject contents in most countries in Europe (Wood 2009). This was due to the fact that most nations were investing heavily in military due to fight for supremacy and did not have proper educational resources (Wood 2009).  There was only the need for a basic education that after the war left the individual unprepared.  Grammar was highly regarded with a focus on all students of a specific nation in Europe to speak one language that was considered superior (Fredrickson 2009). Further, three subjects were given more weight in school: biology, history, and language (McKinney 2013). Schools were focused on teaching students the historical importance of their race in the evolution of the world (Jackson & Weidman, 2004). As an extension of this approach biology was credited with enhancing the heredity and race.

The educational curriculum of the period was created to ensure that superior language became the preferred tool (Mina 2011). Others firmly believe this effort was made to force other cultures to conform and therefore gain social influence for the dominant culture (McKinney 2013). A combination of limited education that emphasised on physical education produced people that had limited opportunity to view humanity as equals.  The imperial period was focussed on ensuring that the superiority of the dominant culture is passed on to and utilized school curricula to accomplish this goal (Fredrickson 2009). This effort contributed to cultivation of the negative racism attitude among the population.

3 Conclusion

Educational curriculum has had a profound impact on the state of racism during the late imperial period. Others cite the attitudes and perceptions that created the curriculum as having a larger impact. Two separate methods within the school curricula promoted negative racism attitudes: educational segregation and specialised education for the dominant culture.  Both of these concepts were promoted by the ruling regime, indicating a de facto acceptance of the racist philosophy. Further, education at this time was focused on communicating to the students how special they were as compared to other races, reinforcing their base perceptions. Conversely, the lesser classes were only given the education the establishment deemed appropriate. This approach of differential levels of education reduced the level of intellect in society, thereby allowing high levels racism being accepted. The school curriculum in this case promoted the negative racism attitudes by actively separating and cultivating the perception of varied class among school going students.

The evidence presented illustrates that there were races that considered themselves superior and those that were considered inferior exhibited negative racist attitudes as a result of the approach adopted in the school curriculum that was focused on segregation and racial clustering.  Consequently, the heightened levels of racism in the world during this time were mainly as a result of it being cultivated in individuals at a very early age. This was possible as school going children were made to be clearly aware of their race and their place in the society based on what was being taught in school.

This essay has illustrated that the educational curriculum was manipulated to cultivate negative racial attitudes among the young people of the early 20th century. The primary justification for this was in order to ensure the sustainability of the dominant culture.

4 References

Bale, J., 2011a. Tongue-tied: Imperialism and Second Language Education in the United States, Critical Education, Vol. 2, No 8, 1920-4175.

Bale, J., 2011b. The campaign for Spanish language education in the “Colossus of the North,” 1914–1945, Language Policy, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp 137-157.

Bonilla-Silva, E. 2013. Racism without Racists. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Elman, B. & Woodside, A., 1995. Education and Society in Late Imperial China 1600-1900, The China Quarterly, 143, 902-904.

Fredrickson, G. M., 2009. Racism: A Short History, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jackson, J. P. Weidman, N. M., 2004. Race, Racism, and Science: Social Impact and Interaction, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO

Mckinney, K. D. 2013. Being White. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Mina, H., 2011. National and colonial language discourses in Japan and its colonies, 1868-1945, Retrieved from

Sylvester, B.P., 2005.  Perceived negativity and the malleability of Blacks’ racial attitudes. Unpublished undergraduate honours thesis. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College.

Tamanji, A.C., 2011. Three Instances of Western Colonial Governments and Christian Missions in Cameroon Education: 1884-1961, Dissertations. Paper 106. Retrieved from

Wood, A. L., 2009.  Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940. North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.

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Category: Education, Essay & Dissertation Samples, Social Science