My guest this week is Onyeka Nubia, author, historian and TV presenter. Onyeka works in the area of diversifying and developing a more inclusive university curriculum and teaching history in a way that means we can reframe British identity. In this very erudite and illuminating interview, Onyeka expresses his concern about how university programmes don’t always teach properly and are insufficiently inclusive and are inaccessible to those who don’t fit a certain demographic. We find out about some of the alternative ways in which he would deliver the curriculum.
We talk about the problem with social media peer groups and how it affects our attention spans, as our reference points are being taken away. Onyeka paints a picture of how these days students want to know the answer without understanding the journey that produces the result. An aggressive conservatism is making them conform and their world revolves around their telephones – to the point that it’s the ‘thing’ they worship. Many students fear accessing hardback versions of books and we discuss how we are thereby losing the pursuit of adventure.
We discuss the impact of the legacy of our past on today. The 1970s were a very different country to today with their prescriptive education system. Onyeka talks about reading the books that his teachers weren’t reading and he tells us what he would be reading as a child until the early hours of the morning and about his relations with his fellow pupils. We learn also about the teacher who had the most influence on him with her right wing sensibilities.
Onyeka speaks about growing up in an age when it was rare to see any black faces on TV and we learn why he was influenced by Richard Burton (even in The Medusa Touch), Paul Robeson and the activist George Jackson. We discuss whether we tend to look for people who have been through immense difficulties to inspire us to the best of our humanity and why love is stronger than anger and hate.
We move on to talk about the ways in which we can express things that are objectionable in ways that don’t harm others e.g. through art as well as about being influenced by people with political/ideological sensibilities different from our own and why those politicians who don’t punctuate our expression tend to fade away.
Then, at the end of the interview we learn why Onyeka’s memories are not really positive and how we can draw energy from the negative – they’re the reason he’s here, and we discuss how our emotions and concerns are relative as well as the relationship between the micro and the macro. Finally, Onyeka tells us what his 15 year old self wanted to achieve and how one in six of the people he grew up with are now dead.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Onyeka Nubia and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.