We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Why black graduates of the USC Marshall School of Business may start finding it hard to get international jobs

Back in January 2016 Victor Mair, professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, started an interesting discussion in the blog “Language Log” about a common Chinese word that sounds like a racial insult in English. Professor Mair wrote,

As soon as I read “a phrase that sounds uncannily like the N-word” in the first paragraph, I knew exactly what my colleague’s friend was talking about. The Chinese grad student was saying “nèige 那个 (that)”.

Grammatically, “nèige 那个” begins as a demonstrative, but it is frequently attenuated to become a pause particle or filler word. It is often uttered many times in succession, thus “nèige nèige nèige…”, and people who have a tendency to stutter may get stuck on it for an embarrassingly long time. Even individuals who are not actually stutterers may have an excessive addiction to such words.

That guy Mair must have a time machine. Scroll forward four years to 2020. Inside Higher Education reports,

Professor suspended for saying a Chinese word that sounds like a racial slur in English.

In a controversial decision, the University of Southern California replaced a professor of business communication with another instructor in one of his classes for saying a Chinese word that sounds like an English slur.

Late last month, Greg Patton, the professor, was teaching a lesson on “filler words” in other languages — think “err,” “um” or “like” in English — in his master’s-level course on communication for management.

“Taking a break between ideas can help bring the audience in,” Patton said, according to a recording of one of the Zoom course sections and a transcription that appeared next to him on screen. “In China,” for instance, he continued, “the common pause word is ‘that that that.’ So in China it might be ne ga, ne ga, ne ga.”

Patton, who has worked in China but is not a scholar of Chinese, did not warn students that 那个, or ne ga, (alternatively spelled nà ge and nèige) sounds something like the N-word — which it does. And some or all of the Black students across three sections of the course were offended by what they’d heard. So they wrote a letter to the dean of the Marshall School of Business, Geoffrey Garrett, among others, describing Patton as insensitive and incapable of teaching the three-week intensive communications course.

Whereupon one would expect to read that the University of Southern California told them that anyone above the age of ten should know that words which are harmless in one language but rude in another are ubiquitous, and that an intensive course on business communications that left out mention of such words would be a con. That’s the English meaning of “con”, not the French one.

“Whereupon one would expect…”, wrote I, sounding dead posh. Who was I kidding, this is 2020. What actually happened was this:

… Garrett, dean of the business school, sent students an email saying that Patton was being replaced as instructor of the course, effective immediately.

“It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,” Garrett wrote. Patton “repeated several times a Chinese word that sounds very similar to a vile racial slur in English. Understandably, this caused great pain and upset among students, and for that I am deeply sorry.”

If the students’ “psychological safety” is harmed by the knowledge that unfortunate cross-linguistic homophones exist, maybe “business communication” is not the best subject for them. Business often involves meeting foreigners, who at any moment might forget who they are talking to and speak their own language. Even in America one is not safe from people who speak other languages!

While the change was presumably applauded by those students who urged action against Patton, his effective suspension from teaching the course angered many other students and alumni.

One petition for Patton’s reinstatement with thousands of signatures says, “For him to be censored simply because a Chinese word sounds like an English pejorative term is a mistake and is not appropriate, especially given the educational setting. It also dismisses the fact that Chinese is a real language and has its own pronunciations that have no relation to English.”

Ninety-four Marshall alumni, many of whom are Chinese and now live in China, wrote their own letter to the dean and other administrators, expressing support for Patton.

“All of us have gained enormous benefit from the academic leadership of Prof. Patton. His caring, wisdom and inclusiveness were a hallmark of our educational experience and growth at USC and the foundation of our continued success in the years following,” the named alumni wrote.

Moreover, they said, “We unanimously recognize Prof. Patton’s use of ‘na ge’ as an accurate rendition of common Chinese use, and an entirely appropriate and quite effective illustration of the use of pauses. Prof. Patton used this example and hundreds of others in our classes over the years, providing richness, relevance and real world impact.”

After a gap of four years, Professor Mair wrote an update of his 2016 post in the context of Greg Patton’s dismissal: “That, that, that…”, part 2.

It is well worth a read. It quotes the full text of the grovelling letter to students written by Dean Geoff Garrett, a copy of which should be printed out and kept in your medicine cabinet should need arise for a quick-acting emetic.

This comment by “Twill” resonated with me:

I suppose it is “unacceptable to use words that marginalize”, but perfectly acceptable to marginalize every other language on this planet by insisting that any words that might arbritrarily offend English speakers should be stricken from the dictionary, no matter what they actually mean or are used. I fail to see how we can “engage respectfully with one another while fostering and exemplifying the knowledge and skills needed to lead and shape our diverse and global world” if we don’t extend the courtesy of letting other languages speak for themselves.

And what’s the betting that these people, who demand their delicate ears be protected from the sounds of the most spoken language in the world, call Trump voters “hicks” and mock their supposed provincialism?

This will have a predictable effect on the value of a USC Marshall MBA. Imagine you are the CEO of an international company. You seek to fill an executive position that requires the postholder to move confidently between Western and Chinese business environments. Are you going to go for the candidate from a school where students are taught honestly about the potential pitfalls of cross-cultural communication, or the one from the USC Marshall School of Business who has only been fed the Disney version? The issue is not limited to that one word 那个, or to the Chinese language. It is about whether a potential employee can cope outside the bubble of an “elite” US academic institution.

And of course the bad effect on a candidate’s chances will be reinforced if the candidate is black, whether or not they personally had anything to do with this affair. No need to assume the potential employer is racist. They simply will prefer not to hire someone who has been primed to freak out when a Chinese colleague says the equivalent of “like, er, you know” for a word on the tip of their tongue.

I look forward to next week’s study on the superiority of male leaders in economic crises

The Guardian reports,

“Female-led countries handled coronavirus better, study suggests”

Countries led by women had “systematically and significantly better” Covid-19 outcomes, research appears to show, locking down earlier and suffering half as many deaths on average as those led by men.

The relative early success of leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen and Finland’s Sanna Marin has so far attracted many headlines but little academic attention.

The analysis of 194 countries, published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum, suggests the difference is real and “may be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses” adopted by female leaders.

[…]

“In almost all cases, they locked down earlier than male leaders in similar circumstances. While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”

[…]

She added that while female leaders “were risk averse with regard to lives”, locking their countries down significantly earlier than male leaders, that also suggested they were “more willing to take risks in the domain of the economy”.

Now that the Great and the Good (you can’t get much greater and gooder than the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the Word Economic Forum) have officially endorsed the idea that sex based differences exist and it is OK to mention them, and that stance has been warmly endorsed by the Guardian, I look forward to reading the follow-up report on the superiority of male leaders when it comes to protecting the economy. After all, 99% of the time we are not in a pandemic and the economy is the political issue that most affects people’s lives.

The choir

“For centuries, the cherubic faces of choirboys in white ruffs have been part of church culture”, said the Guardian. Whenever a news report begins by saying that a tradition has endured for centuries you know that tradition is about to die. Sure enough the story which I quote tells of the ending of that aspect of historical Anglican culture in one cathedral at least:

Decision to disband Sheffield cathedral choir strikes discordant note

But is this change progressive or not? The next line of the story lets the hard pressed Guardian reader know what attitude to take:

Choristers usually came from privileged backgrounds, were coached by expert music masters at fee-paying schools attached to cathedrals and churches, and performed exquisite choral music, often in Latin.

Some of that has changed. The first girls were admitted, at Salisbury cathedral, almost 30 years ago and choirs have become more diverse.

Now Sheffield cathedral is going a step further, disbanding its choir in order to make a “completely fresh start” with a new team of choristers that reflects and engages with a changing city.

The cathedral would pursue “a new model for Anglican choral life here, with a renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion”, said a statement on its website.

The population of Sheffield and the surrounding area was growing, getting younger and becoming more diverse. In recent years, the cathedral had welcomed refugees and supported people living on the streets, Bradley said.

“We need to be engaging with people who are part of this changing city. We believe strongly in equality and giving as many children as possible the opportunity to sing at the highest level.”

The appeal of church music was wide but was sometimes “presented in a way that can be seen as elitist”, Bradley said.

That was in late July. Since then this apparently obscure local story about the disbandment of one cathedral choir has been widely reported. These are just a few of many examples:

  • Why is Sheffield Cathedral’s choir being disbanded for ‘inclusivity’? – the Spectator
  • Sheffield Cathedral Choir disbanded in “complete fresh start” for music and diversity – the website of the radio station Classic FM
  • Dean defends disbanding of Sheffield Cathedral ChoirChurch Times
  • Sheffield Cathedral closes choir and looks for new one to reflect urban diversity – the Times
  • Diversity is no reason to scrap Sheffield’s cathedral choir – the Telegraph

    As some of those titles indicate, the decision to close down the Sheffield cathedral choir has angered people who have not been to church for years and would not normally much care for church music. Why has it resonated so widely? I think I know why, and the knowledge depresses me. Until a few months ago I would have said that the UK had done relatively well in promoting an inclusive, non-racial sense of patriotism in which immigrants were seen as “joining the team” and adding their culture to the indigenous culture rather than displacing it. The maiden speech of Kemi Badenoch, my MP, expressed this idea well. “I chose to make the United Kingdom my home”, she says, and speaks of the British Dream: “It is a land where a girl from Nigeria can move here aged sixteen, be accepted as British, and have the great honour of representing Saffron Walden”.

    But that ideal of inclusive patriotism is being eroded by decisions like this one. It is scarcely surprising that white British people begin to see diversity as a threat to their culture when they are told that a part of their culture that has gone on for centuries is to be abolished in the name of diversity.

  • The political purity spiral as experienced by the Instagram knitting community

    I cannot knit and I am not on Instagram, but as someone who sews and is into politics, I cannot think how I came to miss this article from Gavin Haynes when it came out in January of this year. After seeing it recommended on the UK Politics subreddit, I hastened to post it here:

    How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral

    Mr Haynes discusses purity spirals throughout history, then narrows his focus to a couple of examples from 2018/19:

    Our documentary analysed just two latter-day purity spirals — Instagram knitting culture and young adult novels. Both seemed perfectly-sized to be taken over — they were spaces big enough to have their own star system, yet small enough for the writ of a dominant group to hold.

    In each, a vast tapestry of what were effectively small businesses competed for attention online by fluidly mixing personal and professional brand. On social media, opinion, diary and sales often existed within the same posts. Each individual small business was uniquely vulnerable to being un-personed, ‘cancelled’. But, simultaneously, each could benefit enormously from taking on the status of thought leader — from becoming a node that directed moral traffic.

    To take the example of Instagram knitting: the unravelling began with a man called Nathan Taylor. Gay, living with HIV, nice as pie, Taylor started a hashtag aimed at promoting diversity in knitting, Diversknitty, to get people from different backgrounds to talk. And he did: the hashtag was a runaway hit, spawning over 17,000 posts.

    But over the following months, the conversation took on a more strident tone. The list of things considered problematic grew. The definition of racism began to take on the terms mandated by intersectional social justice ideology.

    The drama played out in the time-honoured way:

    Finally, just as the guillotine had eventually come for Robespierre, Nathan Taylor, who had founded the #Diversknitty movement, found himself at its sharp end.

    When Taylor tried to inject positivity back into Diversknitty, his moral authority burnt up inside minutes. A poem he’d written asking knitters to cool it (“With genuine SOLEM-KNITTY/I beg you, stop the enmity”) was in turn interpreted as a blatant act of white supremacy. When the mob finally came for him, he had a nervous breakdown. Yet even here, he was accused of malingering, his suicidal hospitalisation described online as a ‘white centring’ event.

    Gavin Haynes also made a half hour Radio Four documentary telling the same story. (A BBC iPlayer sign-in is required to listen.) I am about to listen to it now.

    Someone made a profit from finding a cure for a deadly disease. This must never happen again.

    Citizens for Financial Justice have a new article out!

    Who are they? You mean you don’t know?

    Citizens for Financial Justice is a diverse group of European partners – from local grassroots groups to large international organisations. Together, we aim to inform and connect citizens to act together to make the global financial system work better for everyone.

    We are funded by the European Union and aim to support the implementation of the Sustainable development Goals (sDGs) by mobilising EU citizens to support effective financing for development (FfD).

    A cosy arrangement. Thank God the UK is out of it. Here is the article:

    World Hepatitis Day: How Gilead Science Profits from Hepatitis Deaths

    Alternative title #1: How Gilead Science Profits from Ending Hepatitis Deaths

    Alternative title #2: How the Profit Motive Led Gilead Science to Find a Cure for Hepatitis C

    Guys, my apologies. I have to do some work – work work, can you believe that? – so when I remembered that I had already written a post that said what I wanted to say about about this lethal idiocy, I decided simply to post it again. It is seventeen years old. It does not require updating.

    Life is still tough for the owners of lazy slaves

    An extract:

    Now, just possibly you the reader aren’t very sympathetic. Just possibly you opine that the slaveowners had only themselves to blame – “Well, of course,” you are saying, “it’s no surprise that if people are forced to work for nothing then they don’t bust a gut.”

    So why do so many people expect these familiar laws of human behaviour to suddenly change when the time is now and the work to be done is AIDS research?

    In this link Stephen Pollard quotes Roger Bate, writing in the Wall Street Journal, as saying that AIDS drug development is trending downwards.

    Why the decline?

    Because the drugs companies no longer believe that they are going to get rich out of AIDS research. In fact they begin to doubt they will get any compensation at all. They read the newspapers, they study the speeches of politicians, and they sense that the popular wind is blowing against them. They think, probably rightly, that governments will either force them to sell at a loss drugs that were developed at huge expense or will bypass them and the law entirely by buying generic copies of patent drugs. Governments, after all, are the ones who can change the law when it is inconvenient. One minute the authorities will come down like a ton of bricks on pirate music or pirate videos. The next minute they will say that it is ‘unacceptable greed’ for companies to actually want to profit from patents on medical discoveries. I accept that there are subtleties and genuine conflicts of principle in the field of intellectual property – but the bottom line is that if pharma companies get nothing but abuse for the work they put in they bloody well won’t put in much more of it. Just as for the slaves, it’s no surprise that if people are forced to work for nothing then they don’t bust a gut.

    The leader of Plaid Cymru must attend a struggle session

    Adam Price, the Leader of Plaid Cymru, writes in Nation Cymru:

    Wales, colonised and coloniser: a reflection

    The murder of George Floyd and the desperately unequal burden faced by people of colour in the grip of the global pandemic have placed the question of racial injustice, at the forefront of our politics, in Wales just as in the wider world.

    Accepting that to be silent at this time is to be complicit, I have committed to use the platform that I have to call for action: for the Welsh Government to instigate a wide-ranging review into the realities of structural racism, to decolonise the curriculum and to build a National Museum to celebrate the history of people of colour.

    In the middle of this global moment of truth some criticism – some of it fair and some it not – has been levelled at me for some comments that I made about the Welsh colonial experience. I have spoken publicly about this before and I planned to do so again, having discussed it in depth with Plaid’s BME Section and others. While continuing to reflect on the criticism I have been more interested in listening than defending or explaining myself, not wanting to distract from the bigger issues at hand. But in response to claims that my actions mean Black Lives do not matter in Wales, I feel it’s now right that I respond.

    Gwan, give us the dirt.

    In October last year in an article headlined Westminster owes Wales reparations, I wrote:

    “The Wales Office – that colonial outpost of a Westminster Government – stands in Whitehall in the building that once housed the Slavery Compensation Commission which infamously paid out to the slave owners after abolition rather than the newly liberated slaves. The argument that the British Empire owes reparations to the people of its former colonies is powerfully well-made by the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor. But England’s first colony should be added to that long list of creditors.”

    You may have noticed that Mr Price mentions that when the British government abolished slavery in British colonies it “infamously” paid compensation to the slaveowners. He is right, it did pay an enormous sum to free the slaves. I am not sure what other path to liberating them Mr Price thinks the British government of 1833 ought to have followed. Perhaps that of France? The French revolutionary government declared all slaves in the French colonies free as early as 1794. Unfortunately words are not deeds, and in most places the declaration was ignored. Then in 1802 Napoleon restored slavery, and that was that for another forty six years. The other way of defeating a well-entrenched pro-slavery interest is this. While sometimes that sort of thing has to be done, I cannot help thinking that the British method was better for everyone, including the slaves.

    I digress. Mr Price continues,

    Much of the criticism has focused on the use of the word ‘reparations’. Historically this has been used to denote payment by way of compensation by a State to make amends to those it has wronged e.g. the reparation payments imposed on Germany after the 1914-1918 War.

    In recent discourse, however, the word has been more closely associated with the campaign to recognise the financial debt owed to the descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade and to the former colonies of Western countries, including Britain, in Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia and elsewhere (a campaign I fully support). In many conversations I have had since I spoke in October I’ve come to understand that many people of colour strongly believe that the word reparations should now be reserved exclusively for the context of slavery and western colonialism in acknowledgement of the unique scale of human suffering involved.

    Now that we know that small self-appointed groups can take words out of common ownership, let’s buy up some Welsh words for our exclusive use. I am sure progressive Welsh speakers won’t mind the loss of them. They can always use English words instead.

    Mr Price concludes:

    I didn’t fully appreciate the force of this argument nor the strength of this feeling. I recognise now that this was a mistake. It was wrong to blur this distinction, and I would express myself differently today. If my poor choice of words caused anyone pain then I am profoundly, deeply, genuinely sorry.

    Not a dry eye in the house.

    Similarities between today and Ulster in 1969

    • Riots
    • Claims of discrimination
    • Calls for the police to be abolished
    • Involvement of communists
    • The media taking the side of the rioters
    • The creation of no-go zones for the police
    • Calls for the army to be used
    • Attempts to appease the rioters

    I need hardly remind readers that over the following 30 years some 3,000 people were killed and that even though now the killing has stopped the enmity remains.

    The similarity is intentional.

    Peak Guardian in the Independent, and independent thought in the Guardian

    Amrou Al-Kadhi writing in the Independent:

    What the white supremacist roots of biological sex reveal about today’s transphobic feminism

    Thomas Chatterton Williams writing in the Guardian:

    We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight

    Edit 11 June: The Independent, perhaps stung by mockery in the readers’ comments, has changed the headline of the article by Amrou Al-Kadhi to “How Britain’s colonial past can be traced through to the transphobic feminism of today”.

    That leads me to muse on what the Guardian has lost by the decision of its editor, Katharine Viner, to guard its writers from abuse by not permitting its readers to debate those of its articles they are most likely to want to debate. The Independent was able to see that the original headline to the Amrou Al-Kadhi article was not going down well even among its notably “progressive” readers. The Guardian can see from the number of clicks and shares that the Thomas Chatterton Williams article is getting a reaction – but what? I think it is favourable. I see comments from left wingers who are relieved to hear someone finally articulate their sense of unease and embarrassment at the speed with which the “party line” on social distancing was reversed. But that’s going by the comments of the writers I read and the websites I visit. The Guardian is no less hampered than I am.

    The State’s lament: ‘A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened;’

    Thus went the UK government’s discussion paper on increasing social distancing on 22nd March 2020.

    The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat.

    There were other considerations:

    Hong Kong’s experience:

    Having a good understanding of the risk has been found to be positively associated with adoption of COVID-19 social distancing measures in Hong Kong

    And carrots:

    Incentivisation
    6. Social approval: Social approval can be a powerful source of reward. Not only can this be provided directly by highlighting examples of good practice and providing strong social encouragement and approval in communications; members of the community can be encouraged to provide it to each other. This can have a beneficial spill-over effect of promoting social cohesion. Communication strategies should provide social approval for desired behaviours and promote social approval within the community.

    And of course, coercion, along with ‘social disapproval’:

    Coercion
    7. Compulsion: Experience with UK enforcement legislation such as compulsory seat belt use suggests that, with adequate preparation, rapid change can be achieved (16). Some other countries have introduced mandatory self-isolation on a wide scale without evidence of major public unrest and a large majority of the UK’s population appear to be supportive of more coercive measures. For example, 64% adults in Great Britain said they would support putting London under a ‘lock down’ (17). However, data from Italy and South Korea suggest that for aggressive protective measures to be effective, special attention should be devoted to those population groups that are more at risk (18). In addition, communities need to be engaged to minimise risk of negative effects. Consideration should be given to enacting legislation, with community involvement, to compel key social distancing measures.

    8. Social disapproval: Social disapproval from one’s community can play an important role in preventing anti-social behaviour or discouraging failure to enact pro-social behaviour (15). However, this needs to be carefully managed to avoid victimisation, scapegoating and misdirected criticism. It needs to be accompanied by clear messaging and promotion of strong collective identity. Consideration should be given to use of social disapproval but with a strong caveat around unwanted negative consequences.

    So, for us rats in the lab, we can see the experimental parameters. I can’t find the words ‘rights‘, ‘freedom‘, ‘free‘ or ‘liberty‘ anywhere in this document. I can see this, my emphasis in bold, with the lie about people being ‘asked’:

    9. Community resourcing: People are being asked to give up valued activities and access to resources for an extended period. These need to be compensated for by ensuring that people have access to opportunities for social contact and rewarding activities that can be undertaken in the home, and to resources such as food. Adequately resourced community infrastructure and mobilisation needs to be developed rapidly and with coverage across all communities (6, 15).

    10. Reducing inequity: Adherence to these measures is likely to be undermined by perceived inequity in their impact on different sections of the population, especially those who are already disadvantaged, e.g. those in rented accommodation and those working in precarious employment. Reducing costs of phone calls, data downloads etc. by ‘responsibility deals’ or government subsidies should be considered.

    Just in case you don’t think that this is an experiment, there is a reference to methodology including this, but read the whole thing:

    The criteria go under the acronym, APEASE (Acceptability, Practicability, Effectiveness, Affordability, Spill-over effects, Equity)

    Edit: Just after Paul’s comment, a bit more has just come out, from 25th February 2020, about the risk of disorder, foreseeing a risk of PPE shortage on 25th February 2020, so they knew that they could be short long before they did anything about it:
    The last paragraph says it all:

    Promote a sense of collectivism: All messaging should reinforce a sense of community, that “we are all in this together.” This will avoid increasing tensions between different groups (including between responding agencies and the public); promote social norms around behaviours; and lead to self-policing within communities around important behaviours.

    The Scottish National Party is at it again

    I can think of little to add to what Andrew Tettenborn of Spiked has written about The SNP’s war on free speech:

    In 2017, the SNP government decided this had to change. It appointed Lord Bracadale, a far from libertarian Scottish appeal judge, to review the matter. His spectacularly hardline report was published a year later. Based on this report, Holyrood now proposes leaving racial-hatred law largely alone while introducing, in effect, three new offences.

    First: a general crime of doing anything, or communicating any material, which is threatening or abusive and is intended or likely to engender hatred based on age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender or intersex identity. Second: a crime of merely possessing any such material, if you hold it with a view to communicating it – that is, in any way to anyone either in public or in private (such as showing a computer file to a friend over a dram). Third: criminal sanctions on anyone involved in the management of any organisation who fails to take steps to prevent any of the above. The penalty in all the above cases is up to seven years inside. And in addition to all this, the government proposes stiffer sentencing for hate crimes based on age.

    There is so much wrong with these proposals. For one thing, the whole idea that hostility should aggravate an offence in relation to certain characteristics but not others needs reining in, not extending. To say that assaulting someone because he is old (and within the charmed circle of victim categories) deserves a heavier sentence than assaulting a teenager because he is the teacher’s pet (and therefore outside it) is discriminatory, grotesque and insulting. It is the hostility that matters, not whether the target falls within a group which has managed to persuade a government that it deserves victimhood status.

    Read the whole thing.

    “Possible equity issues”

    “Coronavirus in Scotland: Parents and children left to struggle after councils ban online teaching”, Helen Puttick of the Times reports.

    It seems many private schools in Scotland are using video conferencing and other internet tools to continue to educate pupils while they are in quarantine. Some state schools are doing likewise. But fear not, Scotland’s ever-vigilant local councils have been alerted:

    However, a number of councils in Scotland have banned state education via live video interaction. East Dunbartonshire council said: “Streaming live lessons is not recommended at this time due to safeguarding and possible equity issues.” East Renfrewshire said they were “not advocating” the approach. East Lothian and Stirling also cited safeguarding issues. Midlothian council told headteachers: “No platform is considered suitable for interactions involving young people at this time.”

    You may send any enquiries as to what “Possible equity issues” might mean by letter or postcard* to:

    East Dunbartonshire Council
    12 Strathkelvin Place
    Kirkintilloch
    G66 1TJ

    *Enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope if you wish to receive a reply. Please note that the council does not accept owl post as not everyone has owls.

    East Dunbartonshire council thanks you for your ongoing understanding and co-operation as we put measures in place to support our children and their families during this difficult time.

    Everybody gets to be racist eventually

    The latest newly discovered racist is Trevor Phillips.

    Trevor Phillips, the former head of the equalities watchdog, has condemned Labour’s decision to suspend him from the party over alleged Islamophobia, while defending his view that the UK Muslim population is “different”.

    Phillips, a pioneering anti-racism campaigner who previously chaired the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has been suspended from Labour pending an investigation and could be expelled.

    To me, the remarks in question seem to have an honest attempt to engage with the fact that the attitudes of the Muslim population do differ sharply from the UK average – surely a matter of public interest. Some here, remembering Mr Phillips’ previous role as head of the Commission for Racial Equality and his lifetime of commitment to the ideal of enforced equality, will speak of karma and say “what goes around comes around”. I disagree. As a matter of policy and humanity, when someone starts to move in the right direction we should not rebuff them.