The Educational Hybrid

Valerie Braman, Class of 2000.5, English 119, Brown University

Part 4 of "Education as a Means of (Post) Colonial Control in the Literature of Zimbabwe and Singapore: A Theoretical and Literary Analysis"

Creating an educational hybrid alienates him from his own culture at the samne time that his skin color and national origin alienate him from English society. As may seem quite obvious, the establishment of English language, educational systems, and cultural values as the norm in colonized areas means that indigenous examples of these things will be displaced. As students are prepared to further their education in Western universities, they are then necessarily educated away from their own cultures and societies. Through the claims to the universality and natural-ness of all things English, the colonized are represented to themselves as "inherently inferior beings, wild, barbarous, uncivilised" (Ashcroft, 426) . This is where George Lamming's assertion that "The West Indian's education was imported in much the same way that flour and butter are imported from Canada" (14) comes into play. For, if those among the natives who read truly believed that literature and culture of any worth came from the outside, then the myth of England with which he is educated "can only have meaning and weight by a calculated cutting down to size of all non-England. The first to be cut down in the colonial himself." (Lamming in 13-14)

If the colonial student is being taught that he himself is inferior, and that the only way to better himself is to become more like his English teaches and colonizers, then his existence and awareness becomes that of the hybrid, a mix between indigenous and colonial ideology and practice, neither fully one nor the other. Macaulay's speech addresses this phenomenon directly, as he states

It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, opinions, in morals, and in intellect. (430)

The deliberate attempt to create a class of hybrids stands as yet another example of the colonizers' attempt to create colonial citizens who are receptive to their own subjectification, in a process that Griffiths and Tiffin call "domination by consent." (425) It is the fact that the colonial powers made the source of their colonized subjects' removal from their own cultures something that the natives would fight to receive that makes this policy so insidious. For, the position of the hybrid is a tenuous one, marked by the disapproval of her peers, lest she become "too white," "too high and mighty" or lest she "forget where she came from." She also faces the reality of her identity, her color, and her background, things that will not be erased in the minds of her colonizers no matter how much facility she develops with their language and customs. Chinua Achebe posits that, the acquisition of European schooling on the part of the colonized subject allowed the colonizer to create the "man of two worlds" theory,

to prove that no matter how much the native was exposed to European influences he could never truly absorb them; like Prester John he would always discard the mask of civilization when the crucial hour came and reveal his true face. Now, did this mean that the educated native was no different at all from his brother in the bush? Oh, no! He was different; he was worse. His abortive effort at education and culture though leaving him totally unredeemed and unregenerated had none the less done something to him—it had deprived him of his links with his own people whom he no longer even understood and who certainly wanted none of his dissatisfaction or pretensions. (58-59)

Clearly, a little knowledge could indeed be a dangerous thing for the colonized subject. Without European education, he was damned to live out his life in destitution on failing family farms. With it, he might find some prosperity, but with this financial success would likely come the disdain of his peers and family, and his own dissociation from his culture and society.

The hybrid, the product of the colonizers' interference in educational and social systems in the cultural worlds that they dominated, has also been the subject of many postcolonial authors' depictions of the experiences of their people. Often, the dilemma is one of the double edged sword: the knowledge the student seeks through his education is something that might take him further away from the values and the life that he feels tied to through his ancestry. Forced to try to negotiate two generally conflicting value systems simultaneously, the hybrid faces daunting obstacles and painful realizations.


Achebe, Chinua. "Colonialist Criticism." Ed. Bill Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Post-colonial Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1995. 57-61.

Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, Eds. The Post-colonial Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Lamming, George. ""The Occasion for Speaking." Ed. Bill Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Post-colonial Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1995. 12-17.

Macaulay, Thomas. "Minute on Indian Education." Ed. Bill Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Post-colonial Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1995. 428-430.

Education as a Means of (Post) Colonial Control in the Literature of Zimbabwe and Singapore: A Theoretical and Literary Analysis

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