How sad that the “huge, stifling bubble” being described is a university. I am not quite clear who wrote the following article for student magazine The Tab. The byline says Lucy Kehoe, a co-editor of Tab Liverpool, but the introduction suggests that she is quoting someone (a male) whose name is not given. Whoever wrote it, it is good to see someone fighting back:
The way the campus majority reacted to the new ‘Pro-Life Society’ is symptomatic of a lot of what’s wrong with student politics right now. It was oppressive and deeply intolerant — ironically, exactly what opponents of the society claim they want to defeat.
Speaking as an atheist and staunch pro-choicer, the attempt to shut down the Liverpool University Pro-Life Society before they’ve even had a chance to go for an ice-breaker pint strikes me as a pretty a sinister development. Without trying to sound like a badly-damaged record, simply disagreeing with someone’s opinion does not warrant this person being banned from voicing this opinion, no matter how stark or severe the disagreement may be.
Let’s confront this together, fellow pro-choicers. The members of this society probably find your pro-choice views outrageous, too. Morally reprehensible. In some cases, your views are an insult to their deeply-held religious views.
So, if the Guild was to approve a future application from a pro-choice society, should that be kicked off campus, too? Clearly, the answer is no. Because their outrage doesn’t trump free speech — and neither does yours. When people (like myself) reflect on how wonderful university was, a word we are pretty much guaranteed to use is “diversity”. Diversity of race, religion and nationality. Of accents and hometowns. Of opinion and perspective.
Campuses are places where opinions should be held freely, exchanged in good will and perhaps even debated where necessary. This is the essence of a mature democracy. It’s the basics, really. But this is under attack. No longer is the university an open, tolerant, marketplace of ideas, but a huge, stifling bubble where any group united by a conservative point of view risks being delegitimised by the opinion police.
So far as I know the society has not been banned, but everybody took quite seriously the idea that its suppression should be discussed. The petition to ban it started by a student called Katriana Ciccotto read in part:
“As a female student, I feel completely betrayed, insulted and neglected by the Guild’s recent approval of the pro-life society.
As a female whose student days are long gone, I feel completely wearied by reading political statements that start with “As a female I feel completely [insert line of sad face emoticons here]”. Honestly, kids, feminism once meant something quite different to this. At least with mansplaining you might learn something; a headache is all you get from being in range of womemoting.
“This is a society that is founded on the sole basis that women should oblige to their beliefs. One that denies a woman the right to her own body. These are not religious ideas, they are misogynistic and hateful.
I do not know what “oblige to their beliefs” means nor why it is meant to be a bad thing. The statement “These are not religious ideas, they are misogynistic and hateful” is odd, too. Is it some sort of politically correct charm spell, recited to protect the speaker against accusations of Islamophobia? I am religious but would not claim for a microsecond that an idea being religious is logically incompatible with it being misogynistic and hateful. And while there certainly are those who oppose abortion on non-religious grounds, it is common knowledge that there are vast numbers, including many women of the sort modern feminists do not see, whose opposition to abortion is religious and they are proud to have it that way.
“Whilst I understand and the Guild’s policy towards freedom of speech, misogyny does not come under this category. Surely the Guild would undoubtedly disapprove of a society that promoted racism, homophobia or any other form of hate speech? Why is this different?
“If the Guild want to maintain the idea that they represent their students, they should have the moral obligation to ban this pro-life group.”
I, not Ms Ciccotto, put the phrase “misogyny does not come under this category” in bold type. It was unendearingly typical of the class of “I believe in free speech but” arguments that define free speech down to meaninglessness. There is a word called “whataboutery”, describing a style of argument by deflection pioneered in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in which people avoided facing up to the evil done by their own side by endlessly bringing up evil deeds (especially evil deeds of many years past) done by the other side. Whataboutery often is used dishonestly, but not always. A demand that all should be judged by the same rules is fair. But I really cannot see much to defend in the tactic of buttery.
November 23rd, 2016 | 9 comments - (Comments are closed)
I have mixed feelings about Milo Yiannopoulos, but the notion that representatives of Her Majesties Government have pressured Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury into cancelling a speech by him on grounds of ‘extremism‘ is tantamount to a declaration of war on freedom of expression.
There needs to be push-back because this is scandalous.
Push back how? Names need to be named. Exactly who at the Department for Education was behind this? Who did Headmaster Matthew Baxter speak with? Names please. And who ordered those functionaries to contact the headmaster and press him into cancelling this event? Names please, because their reasoning needs to be subject to scrutiny.
Update: very interesting local article reporting on this. Once you get away from the London based media, you are more likely to find journalism that does not reflexively kowtow to the BBC/Guardian orthodoxy.
November 21st, 2016 | 34 comments - (Comments are closed)
“WITH THIS SHORT film, director Paul Duane and I are hoping to accomplish the near impossible,” writes Eoin Butler in TheJournal.ie. “That is, to start a conversation about the Irish language that is rational, unswayed by emotion, dogma or any political agenda, and informed by the facts as they are, rather than how we might wish them to be.”
Here’s a link to the article, and click on the video link within to see the film, which is twelve minutes long.
The film is well worth a look to libertarians and people interested in revitalising minority languages, and practically compulsory* (OK, not literally compulsory. Libertarian purity police, stand easy!) for anyone like me who is both. It starts off in nostalgic sepia with Butler speaking in subtitled and platitudinous Irish. Thirty seconds in, the colour comes on and he switches to English and says, “Actually everything I just said there is an easily debunked lie.”
I’d like to zoom in to a section near the end of the film. Starting at the ten minute mark, Mr Butler argues that compulsory Irish is a failed policy but a network of vested interests has grown up around it. This network, he says, “does nothing to really promote the language or broaden its appeal. Switching off the life support could shock the language back into life.”
At this point I would imagine that most of those anxious about the future of Irish shrivel a little inside and think, that sounds like a strategy of last resort. To which I would respond, it is. Irish is at the point of last resort. As detailed in the first few minutes of the film, the strategy of compulsory Irish lessons in every state school has failed utterly to stem the decline of Irish as a community language, as have other state measures such as making the Irish rather than the English version into the definitive version of each of Ireland’s laws. Quite soon the legal texts and the schoolbooks may be the only places where Irish lives on. When all else fails, why not try something crazy, like acting as if the Irish language were a good thing that people might choose to have?
And as a matter of fact, Mr Butler does give an example of an aspect of Gaelic culture that turned off the pressure and thrived thereby. He says, “I mean, look at Gaelic games. For seventy years the GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] had a closed, defensive mentality. Its members were banned not just from playing but even attending rugby and soccer matches Today the ban is long gone […] the GAA, with minimal state subvention and zero compulsion on anyone to participate has never been as popular.”
It is not a perfect analogy. The GAA is a private club, not a state, and I would defend its right to impose whatever rules it wishes on its members who joined it voluntarily. But it is notable that when the GAA changed from a strategy of “push” to one of “pull” its fortunes revived.
A hat tip for the finding of Mr Butler’s film to the Irish Republican site, An Sionnach Fionn (The White Fox) although the writer of that site was not such a fan of the film as I was, describing it as “simply a modern form of “settler racism”, part of the poisonous legacy of several centuries of foreign colonial rule in this country.”
November 17th, 2016 | 34 comments - (Comments are closed)
In the video below, filmed at the University of Cape Town, members of the science faculty meet with student protestors who wish to “decolonise” the university and not pay their bills. During the meeting, one of the staff, one of the “science people,” points out that, contrary to claims being made by a student protestor, witchcraft doesn’t in fact allow Africans to throw lightning at their enemies. He is promptly scolded for “disrespecting the sacredness of the space,” which is a “progressive space,” and is told either to apologise or leave. The offended speaker, the one claiming that Africans can in fact throw lightning at each other – and who disdains “Western knowledge” as “very pathetic” – then uses the apparently scandalous reference to reality as the sole explanation for why she is “not in the science faculty.”
There follow some related links. I’m afraid I can’t remember which I read first to give proper credit. I think my brain has been frazzled by all the witchcraft flying about.
A quick science lesson for the #ScienceMustFall idiots. I sincerely hope that the unnamed staff writer who wrote this reply for what seems to be a Zimbabwean online publication is more representative of the state of scientific thought in Africa than the Social Justice Witches.
Fallism: Into the intellectual abyss – Michael Cardo, a South African MP for the opposition Democratic Alliance, wrote a good post lambasting the cowardly response of the UCT authorities.
This might be the ur-video, posted by someone called “UCTScientist”.
Oooh, here’s a good one, from the University of Cape Town Left Students Forum: “As the UCT LSF we will like to clarify our position on a recent statement by a member of the movement, captured in a viral youtube video #ScienceMustFall”. I bet you would.
It seems these people do not want to pay fees for university, and also do not want to be taught Western science. Thinking about it, that might not be so difficult to achieve. Could they not go to learn at the feet of a shaman, who obviously would not take money to pass on his wisdom, and let the silly people willing to pay to learn Western science do that?
October 17th, 2016 | 37 comments - (Comments are closed)
Bouattia argues that a ‘Eurocentric’ curriculum is problematic because BME students ‘don’t see themselves in what they’re studying, and can’t relate to it’. According to her, any body of knowledge produced solely by white people is inaccessible to BME students. Presumably, this includes the plays of Shakespeare; the ancient literature of Suetonius, Tacitus and Plutarch; the political economy of Adam Smith and Karl Marx; and the science of Pythagoras, Archimedes, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.
BME students cannot relate to these classical authors, she says. But there would be no point in BME students going to university if they refused to learn anything that didn’t relate to their immediate lived experience. If it were applied, Bouattia’s approach to education would limit the potential aspirations of BME students, leaving them without access to the necessary historical, philosophical and intellectual grounding they need to develop as thinkers.
Momentum, the social movement set up to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, is launching a children’s wing called Momentum Kids.
Momentum is organising a fringe festival, The World Transformed, alongside next week’s Labour party conference in Liverpool and Momentum Kids will launch with a creche for parents attending the event.
Momentum claims it will then spread nationwide, aiming to provide cooperatively run childcare, including breakfast clubs, for parents who want to get involved in political activity but find it hard to fit around their caring responsibilities.
The new group is also aimed at “increasing children’s involvement in Momentum and the labour movement by promoting political activity that is fun, engaging and child-friendly”.
September 19th, 2016 | 27 comments - (Comments are closed)
The statistical correlation between both age and relatively low levels of education, on the one hand, and a vote to leave on the other, was much remarked upon, not only in Britain but throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Age and lack of education were usually taken by commentators as a proxy for stupidity. The majority vote to leave was therefore a triumph of stupidity: for those who vote the right way in any election or referendum have opinions, while those who vote the wrong way have only prejudices. And only the young and educated know what the right way is.
While age is certainly not a guarantee of political wisdom, the ever-increasing experience of life might be expected to conduce to it. But in the wake of the vote, there were even suggestions that the old should have no vote because they wouldn’t have to live as long with the consequences of it. The reaction to the referendum exposed the fragility and shallowness of that each person’s vote should count for same.
The relation between political wisdom and levels of education is far from straightforward. It was educated people who initiated and carried out the Terror in the French Revolution. The Russian Revolution, and all the great joy that it brought to the Russian people, was the denouement of decades of propaganda and agitation by the educated elite. There was no shortage of educated people among the Nazi leadership. And the leaders of the Khmer Rouge were also relatively highly-educated, as it happens in France. The founder of Sendero Luminoso, who might have been the Pol Pot of Peru, was a professor of philosophy who wrote his doctoral thesis on Kant.
Here is a BBC story from a couple of weeks ago: Thousands of children taught in ‘illegal schools’. Similar pieces appeared in the Times, the Guardian, and other newspapers. When this story came out I listened on the radio to an interview on the subject with some Ofsted guy, either the Sir Michael Wilshaw quoted by the BBC or one of his minions. Whoever it was, he came across as so evasive on one particular point that by comparison even the BBC interviewer was plain-spoken. From the way Ofsted Guy spoke of these illegal schools as places where only “religion” was taught you’d think clicking on the BBC Bitesize GCSE Religious Studies page makes a red light flash in GCHQ, and from the way he spoke of “radicalisation” you’d think that all roots resulted in the same flower. Oh, and from the way he spoke of these schools being “illegal” you would think that they had been convicted in a court of being illegal. The BBC interviewer pressed him and eventually got him to admit that the alleged illegality was merely his opinion, not having been tested in court, and that “some” of these schools were Islamic.
That’s progress of a sort. The Guardian article linked to above does not mention Islam at all but has a quote from a disgruntled former pupil at a Charedi school. We should all be very grateful to the Charedim and the Belzers. When one simply must have someone other than the Muslims to point to, they are there. They ought to start an agency and charge for their services: “Jews in Hats: the safe option for all your denunciation needs.”
The Times says the unauthorized schools are “predominantly Islamic”.
So far this post has almost written itself. The usual pathetic fear of naming Islam from the establishment, the usual pushback from angry commenters, the usual opportunity for bloggers like me to use up old out-of-code packets of sarcasm from the bottom of the freezer. But now things get a little odd and diffuse and unsatisfactory.
I would like to offer a few scattered thoughts regarding three points. (1) Not for the first time, the efforts of the media to conceal that some minority are disproportionately involved in some disfavoured activity has resulted in the public overestimating the involvement of that minority; (2) this whole effort on the part of the so-called Office for Standards in Education has all the characteristics of a power-grab and a smear; and (3) there is no evidence that these little informal schools, including the Muslim ones, do any worse than the state schools at either education or terrorism-prevention. There is some reason to suppose they might do better in some circumstances despite worse facilities. Many children turn to these schools having suffered bullying at normal schools. The low number of people involved means that everyone, teachers and pupils, knows everyone else; no one can “slip through the cracks”. Another benefit is that the presence of an affordable alternative helps keep more traditional types of schools on their toes.
Taking point (1) first, scroll down to the end of the BBC story with which I started this post. It says, “Update: This report contains new information from Ofsted, which had previously said most of the schools involved were Islamic or Jewish.” The following line seems to have been inserted into the main text since it was first published: “Roughly a third of them [the unregistered schools] were Islamic and a sixth either Christian or Jewish.” So fully half of them are not religious! I’m guessing hippies. Daft but not scary.
Point (2). If this whole fuss were any more of a smear you could use it to test for cervical cancer. Let us look at the BBC article in particular.
He said his inspectors found schools operating in warehouses and old factory buildings, and the establishments were “often charging parents for the privilege”
Oh, the horror. They weren’t in pretty buildings and they charged a fee. Did Sir Michael Wilshaw ever stop to think what the fact that people, often rather poor people, would rather pay to have their children taught in an old warehouse than not pay to have them taught in a purpose-built school implies?
He said the children were in “very serious danger” and not just from the “filthy” premises, with open drains running through some of them.
I call bullshit. There is dirt a-plenty in modern Britain but there really aren’t that many buildings with open drains running through them any more. I looked on Zoopla and “Open sewer in middle of room” was not offered as a search term. Depend on it, “some” means “one”, and that was probably an ambiguous case.
“If the people in these institutions are not carefully vetted and they are not, then the wrong sort of people could be looking after these children,” he said.
It is undeniable that they could be. It is also undeniable that not a week goes by without a newspaper account of some carefully vetted right sort of person teaching in an official school being revealed to be a kiddy fiddler. I don’t claim that vetting is useless, but its efficacy is greatly overstated. Frequently the effect of CRB forms and other box-ticking exercises is to reduce vigilance. People think the paperwork is correct so all must be well.
“And they could be associating with people who have extremist views.”
Which takes us to point (3). Again, it is undeniable that these children, meaning Muslim children, in unregistered schools could be associating with extremists, meaning Muslim extremists. You know, like Muslim children in state schools definitely do. You want to see Islamisation in schools? This is Islamisation in schools:
Investigations by Ofsted and the Education Funding Authority in 21 schools found evidence of an “organised campaign to target certain schools” by Islamists.
Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School, Park View Academy – all run by the Park View Educational Trust – Oldknow Academy and Saltley School were placed in special measures after inspectors found systemic failings including the schools having failed to take adequate steps to safeguard pupils against extremism. Another school investigated, Alston Primary, was already in special measures. A sixth school was labelled inadequate for its poor educational standards and twelve schools were found needing of improvements. Three schools were commended.
Ofsted expressed concerns about an exclusively Muslim culture in non-faith schools and children not being taught to “develop tolerant attitudes towards other faiths”. The inspections found that head teachers have been “marginalised or forced out of their jobs”. Ofsted found that the curriculum was being narrowed to reflect the “personal views of a few governors”. Teachers reported unfair treatment because of their gender or religious beliefs. Ofsted found a breakdown of trust between governors and staff and that family members had been appointed to unadvertised senior leadership posts
Parkview Education Trust were found to be in breach of the Education Funding Agreement by failing to promote social cohesion, failing to promote the social, moral, spiritual, and cultural development of pupils, failing to promote balanced political treatment of issues, and failure to comply fully with safeguarding issues concerning criminal records checks.
Emphasis added. Note that this (“Operation Trojan Horse”) happened in state schools, and they weren’t even the dreaded “faith schools”. Also note that the much vaunted criminal records checks went by the wayside.
Birmingham is not the only place where all that vetting and inspecting that state schools get proved ineffective. Here is a story from London: School of Jihadis: Why have six former pupils of the ‘Eton of comprehensives’ been linked to terror? The July 7 bombers were also products of British comprehensive schools. One of them even mentored at one. Of course vast numbers of pupils go to state schools and do not emerge as mass murderers. But when a high official raises fears that “illegal” schools might incubate terrorists, it is legitimate to reply that we know that “legal” schools have incubated terrorists, rather a lot of them.
A determined and cunning would-be child abuser or would-be terrorist recruiter would not direct his attentions at some wretched hedge school with half a dozen pupils. He would go for richer pickings.
And are the bureaucrats saying ‘Oh well, the law is the law, we must respect it’? If they are, I can’t hear them.
This is, of course, great news for parents in England and Wales who may now take their children on holiday in term-time without a realistic prospect of a prosecution. It also means that the old and absurd complaint about prices and supply-and-demand, ‘Oh look, holiday prices go up at half-term, how exploitative blah, blah, blah, regulate the holiday industry…‘ will be less easy for buffoons and villains to make out, and there will be a more economic use of resources in the holiday industry, taking use one more step away from the Stone Age.
What’s not to like when the light of freedom flickers more brightly?
With all the furore about students “no platforming” those whom they dislike, for whatever reasons, it is worth recalling that a core problem for libertarians is that while making universities fully private, and thereby removing this behaviour as a public policy issue requiring political interference or comment, would be an answer to a degree, it is unlikely to happen any time soon. Also, even if universities were all private, such as the UK’s University of Buckingham, there is still a good case for the owners of said to make the case that universities aren’t, if they deserve the title of universities, meant to be “safe places”. I thought about the point when reading a recent Facebook comment and I wrote this:
Universities are funded, on the whole in countries such as the UK, by taxpayers, and via loans, the students. Now, if we had a purely free market in higher ed, then the institutions could, conceivably, set their own rules about debates and whatnot. (Vive la difference, etc.) But even if they did, the people running a university worthy of that term realise that one of the key reasons for attending a uni in the first place, however it is owned, is to broaden the mind and come into contact with debate, to learn how to debate, how to identify errors and problems, and so on. And these “no platform” people, even if they think they are liberal, have no conception of what a liberal education really means. Of course, if a private debating society wants to make it clear up front that it will not invite persons for various reasons, it can of course do what it likes, in the same way that an editor of a newspaper can choose to run letters or not, to moderate blog comments, or not. A journalist is not obliged to print letters from people that might be libellous, for instance. In the current state-run context of academies, however, taxpayers are entitled to expect that universities and other places respect free expression as a default position, subject only to the avoidance of speech deemed threatening to public order as defined under English Common Law and where specific threats are issued against people. (Hopefully those caveats are pretty tight for the purposes of argument.)
I like this quote, expressed with usual diamond-hard clarity, by Ayn Rand, on free speech and what it does and does not involve:
While people are clamoring about “economic rights,” the concept of political rights is vanishing. It is forgotten that the right of free speech means the freedom to advocate one’s views and to bear the possible consequences, including disagreement with others, opposition, unpopularity and lack of support. The political function of “the right of free speech” is to protect dissenters and unpopular minorities from forcible suppression—not to guarantee them the support, advantages and rewards of a popularity they have not gained.
The Bill of Rights reads: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . .” It does not demand that private citizens provide a microphone for the man who advocates their destruction, or a passkey for the burglar who seeks to rob them, or a knife for the murderer who wants to cut their throats.
With tax-funded universities, though, there is the case of whether such an organisation should ban, say, a free market radical like the late Miss Rand from speaking, on the grounds that she “advocates their destruction”. Or should a current UK university, funded as they are, host speakers who are, for example, preachers of hate against Jews, Americans, white males, entrepreneurs, scientists, logicians, or indeed any other of the sort of persons who are probably on the receiving end of the current “safe spaces” stuff. Should we wait for such places to be privatized while this situation persists? My brief answer is that the default setting must be let people of any kind speak on a taxpayer-funded academy unless the persons so speaking are clearly and identifiably at war with a country (such as a figure who is, or has, served in ISIS, or some other hostile force). I am not sure this is a very clear answer, though, because defining “at war” clearly varies.
Meanwhile, the madness continues, such as against the difficulty of STEM subjects.
Finally, for some light relief, as a pisstake on university life that is timeless, Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim is a great read.
The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property. Amongst our many crimes is a sense of humour and the intermittent use of British spelling.
We are also a varied group made up of social individualists, classical liberals, whigs, libertarians, extropians, futurists, ‘Porcupines’, Karl Popper fetishists, recovering neo-conservatives, crazed Ayn Rand worshipers, over-caffeinated Virginia Postrel devotees, witty Frédéric Bastiat wannabes, cypherpunks, minarchists, kritarchists and wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists from Britain, North America, Australia and Europe.