The Paradigms

What are paradigms?

Every person’s viewpoint on the world is subjective. Subjective means that every individual develops a unique worldview as influenced by their distinct life experiences. In other words, different people have different life experiences and therefore see things differently.

Paradigms are the big ideas that frame the shared beliefs that unify a group of people. Paradigms are not grounded in evidence, but rather, they are shared agreements on the ways that we think people should behave. Examples of beliefs we gather from paradigms include: (a) men should be assertive and unemotional, (b) capitalism is the best economic model, (c) students are well behaved when they are emotionally subdued and directing unwavering focus to the command of the teacher.

Modern-day paradigms were not created overnight, but rather are the outcome of belief systems that have spanned over 500 years. These longstanding paradigms have been passed from generation to generation through cultural traditions and processes of socialization.  

Similar to the industrial revolution, 500 years ago whites took violent action to cause dramatic shifts to the global social order with the intent to institutionalize systems of power and wealth. These shifts were supported by a new set of paradigms concocted by whites to emboldened European global expansion and colonial exploitation. The result was a “violent concentration of the world’s resources under the control of a European minority, and above all, the ruling class” (Quijano, 2007, p. 168). As we will see below, once the white elite took violent action to assert control over the bulk of the world’s assets, almost all record keeping on the history of the United States has been framed within the paradigms crafted by the powerful white elite.

Below are four key paradigms that have shaped the western worldview and have informed white teacher’s shared beliefs regarding our role in society and the purpose of education. Remember, the goal of the white elite is to institutionalize systems of oppression to maintain power indefinitely. Therefore, teachers must name and challenge these overarching paradigms in order to envision new and socially-just ways of building relationships with students of color.

classroom, school, education

White social scientists produced the academic materials that served to institutionalize the western worldview as the standard in both school curriculum and research. This worldview is now the criteria employed by science to legitimize only certain types of knowledge as valid or true.

Three key oppressive beliefs embedded within this paradigm are explored below:

The knowledges of the world are divided into two categories: western and non-western. Any knowledge that is categorized as non-western is disregarded and whenever possible, demolished. This division between knowledges as belonging on the either the side of that which is valid and true or the side of that which is considered waste to be disregarded is termed: abyssal thinking.​

Taxonomies provide a table for categorizing, observing, and regularizing scientific concepts. Through taxonomies, people can be grouped and divided into hierarchies and systems of rank that are considered “truth” within the western worldview. Taxonomies provided the foundation for western concepts of racial hierarchies.

The western worldview required a concept of time that would justify the mindset of global conquer and exploitation. As a result, the knowledges of past and the present are framed as inconsequential to the desired state of manifest destiny or “progress.” Therefore, the diverse global knowledges contained in all past and present societies are disregarded and left unrecorded. 

globe, world, earth

Capitalism has been built upon the concept of discipline or the art of “correct training.” Discipline is the dominant method of practice to create a united mass of workers who can be separated, evaluated, and differentiated toward their position of most efficient productivity.

One key oppressive belief embedded within this paradigm is explored below:

Capitalism demands an unregulated free market completely beyond the reach of social regulation. In this model, workers are expected to perform at maximum efficiency at all times in order to achieve the greatest potential profits. In other words, each individual in required to commit to a total state of efficiency, always.

In the classroom, students are expected to maintain a total state of unwavering focus on the command of the teacher. These expectations include the performance of a limited range of subdued behaviors conducive to the peak production of the class. Any action by a student that disrupts classroom discipline is considered a waste of class time and threat to peak student productivity. Such actions can be as small as a gesture, a joke, or a desire to play.

class, classroom, room
White Supremacy

White supremacy is the shared belief system that empowers whites to assert and maintain exclusive control over social order and thereby reinforce, uplift, and expand their worldview and interests in every facet of life.

Three key oppressive beliefs embedded within this paradigm are explored below:

At turn of the twentieth century, industrial mass production became the framework for a new form of oppressive capitalism. Both whites and people of color were forced to conform to their new roles as docile bodies, thereby achieving optimum efficiency of production under the minut surveillance of discipline. To undergo this process of oppressive social assimilation, all people with the exception of the white elite had to surrender many qualities of a joyous life including sensuality, sexuality, and free play as unconducive to a disciplined capitalist economy. 

Whites increased the speed of assimilation by intentionally perversing the qualities of a joyous life as rather a measure of social inferiority. As a result, whites invented imaginaries assigning ideas of inferiority to people of color. In this way, the qualities of a joyful life were rather perverted to imaginaries of laziness, immorality, or a state as being “uncivilized.”

Taxonomies provided scientists with the table to rank racial groups on hierarchy of superiority and inferiority. As a result, whites were able to conjur up imaginaries regarding the sensuality, sexuality, and free play of people of color as rather lazy, immoral, or uncivilized.

The important thing to note, is that the social imaginaries regarding the inferiority of people of color were never grounded in any of the actual lived realities of people of color. Rather, each person’s relative position of power was reflective of oppressive social structures embedded in the paradigms of colonial expansion. In other words, concepts of racial inferiority are merely the imaginative stories of white men’s fantasies.

However, as the white elite held sole ownership of the production of valid science, these fantasies have historically been documented as “fact” in the institutional record of the United States both in schools and research. Such new fields of “science” emerged as eugenics and criminality, grounded in the racist imaginaries of the while elite. These scientists provided “proof” of racial inferiority that served to systemically institutionalize oppressive power structures in order to maintain capitalist exploitation, indefinitely.

Whites have worked tirelessly in acts of neighborhood terrorism as well as the production of exclusive home ownership policies to ensure to live in communities of exclusively white families. This exclusivity is a measure of privilege allowing whites to remain out of view of the violence inflicted on communities of color.

Therefore, whites generally live within the comfort and safety afforded through white privilege. As such, whites are mostly ignorant to the histories and life experiences of people of color. Willful blindness is defined as the state of whites who do not know any diverse worldviews and even further, aren’t really willing to learn.

pattern, symmetry, line
Discipline and Punish

A teacher's effectiveness is in part measured by their ability to create a space of total discipline. Any action by a student that disrupts classroom discipline is shamed via acts of punishment.

One key oppressive belief embedded within this paradigm is explored below:

Surveillance is a key role of the teacher to maintain a state of classroom discipline. Surveillance requires a total state of visibility for all acts in the classroom.

Panopticon is defined as a spacial arrangement (such as a classroom) designed to create the conditions of optimum visibility of all people under surveillance.

Within the panopticon, authority and surveillance only travel in one direction. The teachers exerts authority over the student. The behavior of the teacher is never observed, assessed, or punished.

Within the paradigm of discipline/punish, visibility is a trap.