Woke is a term that is derived from the African-American vernacular and refers to one’s awareness of issues that concern social justice and racial justice. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the term has come into more general usage in the United States and Britain.
To illustrate the power and radicalism behind the term, I note a recent report that the University of Oxford is considering proposals to remove sheet music from its curriculum over woke claims that teaching the Western form of musical notation has roots in “colonialism” and “complicity in white supremacy”. This move came in response to widespread Black Lives Matter protesters and riots last year in the United Kingdom. Some music educators at Oxford University have joined the wider iconoclastic movement which has been sweeping through British academia.
The music department at the prestigious and ancient university has received calls to remove music notation from the curriculum and have its professors seek to focus less on white European heritage and culture.
Woke educators at Oxford went on to claim that musical notation itself is a “colonialist representational system” that has “complicity to white supremacy”. The claim is similar to leftist pronouncements in America claiming that the study of mathematics is inherently racist.
Radical Oxford academics also pronounced that teaching the piano or conducting orchestras could cause “students of colour great distress” as the skills involved are closely tied to “white European music”. They insisted that the classical music which is taught at Oxford, which includes Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert, among others, is too focused on “white European music from the slave period”.
In response, all I can do is repeat the old proverb, “Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.”