Neither Parochial nor Cosmopolitan: Cultural Instruction in the Light of an African Communal Ethic

Keywords: African ethics; communalism; cosmopolitanism; culture; curriculum; higher education; parochialism


What should be the aim when teaching matters of culture to students in public high schools and universities in Africa? One approach, which is parochial, would focus exclusively on imparting local culture, leaving students unfamiliar with, or perhaps contemptuous of, other cultures around the world. A second, cosmopolitan approach would educate students about a wide variety of cultures in Africa and beyond it, leaving it up to them which interpretations, values, and aesthetics they will adopt. A third way, in between these two, would be to give some priority to understanding and enriching local culture, while being open to and not remaining ignorant of other cultures. In this article, a work of moral philosophy, I argue for this third alternative by rebutting arguments for the other two approaches and by showing that it uniquely follows from a plausible African ethic informed by indigenous ideals of communion.