Friday, December 02, 2011

Outpouring of hate from a British "progressive" school

It is shameful but Leftists are hate-driven so it is no surprise. When accused of bullying, they proved the accusation true by being bullies. Amazing. Leftists just can't help themselves. The bile just pours out of them

Amanda Craig

What is it that makes people want to send vitriolic abuse, including death threats, to a total stranger? I can’t begin to imagine. But this year, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I do know what it is like to be on the receiving end of such embittered hatefulness.

Why? Because I’d dared to write a piece in this newspaper about my teenage years spent at Bedales, the progressive public school that was embroiled in a scandal earlier this year concerning shoplifting and under-age sex.

As a pupil at the school in the 1970s, I had experienced a level of bullying and abuse that I still find disturbing to think about to this day and which inspired my second novel, written 20 years ago, A Private Place.

Yet when I set down my painful memories of my formative years on paper, I never imagined I’d be setting myself up as a sitting target for a new breed of modern-day bullies, who choose not the school playground, but the internet to target their victims.

‘Cyberbullying’ isn’t confined to children — it is a contemporary menace in which people can be targeted anywhere, at any time. When my email inbox began to fill up with awful messages, my first reaction was one of exasperation, quickly followed by cold contempt.

I was totally unprepared for the slew of virulent messages that, for the next month, pinged into my inbox via both my Twitter account and my public Facebook page. Many of these messages are unpublishable in a national newspaper, but they included threats to my personal safety, disgusting sexual abuse, venomous comments about my looks and personality, a flurry of one-star Amazon reviews of my novels — and several attempts to hack into my Wikipedia entry.

Astonishingly, those behind them were girls and boys of between 15 and 21 years old, many of whom declared themselves to be current or former pupils of Bedales. They defended the school by calling me bitter, greedy, bitchy and, what’s more, claimed that I ‘deserved to be bullied’. Then they said that the school was wonderful, and that bullying didn’t exist there, and that ‘every single one of (the abusive comments that had been posted about me) was understandable and acceptable’.

The poisonous mob mentality these messages displayed actually did far more to show any current or prospective parent the ugly side of a ‘liberal’ education than what I had written. I was told that ‘we know where you live, so watch out’, ‘your [sic] dead, bitch’, ‘die, you ugly c***’ and so on.

‘You are insulting an establishment you show no understanding of, in a way in which you can only expect a [sic] outraged reaction. You have not only insulted our way of life, our home but us as individuals. I feel personally attacked,’ wrote one boy.

A couple of current pupils were moved to express sympathy and to assure me that things had changed, but these, like the nicer kind of Bedalian student of my own time, seemed far and few between.

One posted a more moderate, thoughtful comment about my article — and his peers turned on him: ‘Stop s***ing her d**k Toby, and stick up for the f*****g school. Your [sic] the minority here!’ wrote one who called himself George Zealington Vaughan-Barratt.

The abuse was so remarkable that two national newspapers picked it up, and one even wrote a leader page column. Yet when the Head of Bedales, Keith Budge, was approached for comment, his response, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph, was to say his pupils were simply defending their school.

The Old Bedalian magazine, edited by a former member of staff, decided to publish a sneering piece, which included a photograph of me printed upside-down and — a lovely touch — an encomium of the school’s creativity by Kirstie Allsopp.

Nobody in authority has attempted to contact me to apologise, and no pupil, as far as I know, has been reprimanded. Now, I don’t take the ravings of over-excited teenagers seriously. But neither do I think anyone should be allowed to get away with this kind of behaviour — least of all the privileged pupils of a £30,000-a-year school.

For such mindless venom to come from privileged children living in conditions which the majority can only dream of, and attending an institution that prides itself on its liberal outlook would be especially offensive.

Every contemporary school is aware of the life-long emotional and psychological damage that bullying can cause, and the responsible ones, both in the state and private sectors, have strong protocols about dealing with such issues, especially online.

Cyberbullying is worse and more cowardly than playground bullying. Even as an adult, I found the abuse deeply offensive. It was extraordinary that I was being addressed as if I were still the vulnerable, innocent 12-year-old I had been all those years ago. What I had described was so painful that I thought nobody in their right mind could feel anything but shame and compassion — and, more importantly, concern about whether the ills I described were still happening.

Instead, it seemed to provoke the opposite reaction. It was extraordinary — and ludicrous. But that’s the thing about the internet. While it has transformed the way people can communicate, it has also allowed some to say the most unkind things to someone they don’t know, have never met, and wouldn’t dare to confront face-to-face.

These so-called ‘trolls’, inspired by envy, rage and spite, appear to live in a parallel universe in which they believe they can threaten, stalk, intimidate and libel anyone with impunity.

You don’t have to do something as provocative as write about your unhappy schooldays to set them off. Just being pretty, happy, or good at what you do is enough. Whole families can be affected by the fall-out, if my experience is anything to go by.

‘Why do people keep saying horrible things about you on Facebook just because you were bullied at school?’ my 15-year-old son asked me, bemused. ‘Because they’re total losers,’ replied my 18-year-old daughter. Having been forewarned by their schools about how to handle online abuse, they were far better placed to deal with it than me.

My husband was the most shocked — and angered — at the hate-filled messages I showed him. He was the one who then had sleepless nights — and who became the most worried about our physical safety.

I am not easily intimidated, but I was admittedly depressed by this evidence of how little had changed about the mentality of bullies. On the flipside, however, the attempts to undermine me caused something rather wonderful to happen.

A number of distinguished authors, journalists and lawyers — many of whom had, ironically, become friends of mine through Facebook — saw what was being posted on my page and sprang into action, unasked, to defend me with both eloquence and wit.

To see the likes of Philip Hensher, Nicholas Lezard, Louisa Young, Chris Priestly and Katy Guest all pouring scorn on these abusive bloggers was rather like the scene at the end of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia novel, The Silver Chair, when the bullies who have been terrorising the children at the progressive Experiment House are punished.

Alarmed by this unexpected challenge, the trolls began, one by one, to delete their messages. Today, they are all gone — though I, and several others, took copies of them, in case they feel tempted to strike again.

People who do not have Twitter and Facebook accounts may be rather mystified by all of this. Meanwhile, those who do may wonder why I have dared to risk further online abuse by describing my experience here.

The answer is two-fold. One is that I believe bullying will never stop unless there is a concerted effort from the top to confront it, and that while any school continues to appear to condone its own smug cult that will not happen. Second, if you haven’t experienced bullying, you have no idea what a scar it leaves on the soul. Just because I learnt how to use my rage in creative, positive ways, writing novels, doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Connecting with readers and writers through the web can be one of the greatest delights of 21st-century life, as Twitter and Facebook host a vast virtual conversation, in which people share views and exchange ideas about everything, from trivial thoughts to breaking news. But more and more bloggers and writers are complaining about the intimidating attacks made on them.

Caroline Farrow, a vicar’s wife and mother-of-three who blogs for the Catholic Voices website, recently revealed she receives at least five sexually threatening emails a day.

One of the least offensive read: ‘You’re gonna scream when you get yours. F*****g slag. Butter wouldn’t f*****g melt, and you’ll cry rape when you get what you’ve asked for. Bitch.’ That anybody can get away with writing in such a horrific manner to another human being beggars belief — but, thankfully, the law is slowly catching up.

The Police Central e-Crime Unit is responsible for investigating malicious communications. For example, a man of 60 has been charged with sending threatening Twitter messages to MP Louise Mensch.

Perhaps the threat of arrest, a criminal record and punishment will help the bullies think twice. For the victim, an abusive Twitter message or email is no different from receiving verbal abuse, or getting a poison-pen letter.

For the bully, though, there is one key difference: although they think the internet affords them anonymity, every message can be traced back to a location and a specific computer. Cyberbullies would do well to remember that before they click the send button.


Why my school will stay open during the strike

Striking British teachers are part of a culture that is quick to whine and slow to find solutions

Striking teachers will today subject children and parents across Britain to serious inconvenience. I think they’re wrong to do so. For the past 10 years, I have been head teacher at Woodberry Down primary school in Hackney, and I am executive head of four schools in total. Woodberry Down will stay open today. The other three schools in the group will not, because of union action. That is a shame. Striking should be the last resort for teachers, and we should think carefully before returning to the days of downing tools at the slightest pretext.

This strike demonstrates a lack of realism among teaching unions. Someone has to pay for public sector pensions – we’re all living longer, the economy is stagnating, and teachers ought to understand these facts.

I worry, too, about the example being set to children. I remember the teachers’ strikes in the Eighties. It was fun to be out of school for a day, but we had no respect for those who went on strike. We felt that the proper teachers were the ones who were still there, teaching. We were annoyed, actually. I remember that distinctly. I recall thinking: if it’s that easy to remove yourself, by going on strike, do they actually need all the people in the building? I wouldn’t want to make myself disposable in that way.

Other aspects of the strike disturb me. I’ve heard some staff saying they’re not marching, but are going out “for a jolly” today. I hope that’s not the case. We get 13 weeks off a year and, while lots of us work long hours, taking a free day to go Christmas shopping is an insult to parents. What happens if a mother, forced to take a day off work, bumps into a teacher out lunching today? What message does that send?

The unions have their own agendas. For example, I appeared on breakfast television with Christine Blower, the leader of the NUT, and she criticised synthetic phonics, a proven system for improving literacy. It was only afterwards that she said she had never seen synthetic phonics being taught in a school. Here was the head of the country’s largest teaching union passing judgment on something she had not seen. This suggested that the ideology was more important than the reality. You have to use the teaching methods that work. Synthetic phonics is one, but Christine Blower hadn’t bothered to see how it worked.

It’s the same with Sats. They’re not perfect, but if you don’t have tests, you cannot tell which schools need help. And yet, when I sat in on Lord Bew’s review of Key Stage 2 tests, I heard union after union demanding an end to Sats without offering any credible alternative. They seemed prepared to jeopardise the educational wellbeing of children – since external assessment such as Sats is essential if you are to have a system of accountability that lifts standards in schools.

This is the paradox about the unions: on the one hand, they’re very Left-wing and want money poured into deprived areas, but, on the other, they reject the measures that do some good for children in poor communities. Sadly, some unionised teachers have lost sight of why they came into teaching. Trying to improve failing schools, I have faced obstruction from militant teachers who have become so bound up in ideology that they have forgotten the children. Very often, the unions won’t tolerate anything that threatens their beloved “work-life balance”.

What makes the schools I run successful is that we have teachers who realise that, especially with pupils who start from a low base, you need to go the extra mile. That’s where vocation comes in. The drive and energy that you need to inspire children will never fit into the NUT’s rigid work-life policy. To make education work you need dynamism, not people who sigh, shrug their shoulders and moan.

Compare teaching with the medical profession and you’ll see that there’s a different ethic there. There’s an ethos of service. We have lost that in teaching, and that is a shame. Either what we do matters, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t matter, and the children can genuinely afford not to be at school for two or three days a year, then why don’t we just increase the holidays?

It all comes down to this: a school exists for one thing, to educate children. Whatever fight you have with the system, engage in the fight in a way that doesn’t undermine you and let down the pupils.

Today’s strike is a symptom of a culture in parts of the educational establishment that is quick to complain and slow to find solutions. I can understand why people are concerned about pensions. Clearly what issues there are need to be resolved. But I think a lot of that concern has been whipped up by unions determined to criticise whatever the Government does. And these unions are determined to live in a world where reality, including financial reality, does not exist.

I didn’t come into the profession for the money. I trained as a teacher because I wanted to improve people’s lives. This is what we try to do in our federation of schools. I love teaching. In fact, I’m looking forward to going into work today. By coming to school I will have helped to make a positive impact on children’s lives, and on their chances of finding fulfilment and reaching their potential – something I would not be able to do standing on Victoria Embankment waving banners.


Chancellor Miller Tear Down This Wall

Mike Adams

Dear Dr. Miller:

Let me first express my great satisfaction over your selection as our new chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I am delighted to have a former Mississippi State Bulldog in charge of our university. I am also impressed by your qualifications. Unlike your predecessor, you were not selected on the basis of your gender or any other irrelevant demographic characteristics. You were selected on the basis of your qualifications. You deserved the position you were awarded. And you’ve been doing an outstanding job so far.

Unfortunately, some of the actions of your predecessor have damaged the climate for free expression at UNC-Wilmington. Among those actions was a decision to post our Seahawk Respect Compact on the wall of every classroom at the university. My purpose in raising this issue is fourfold. I want to 1) highlight (by underlining) a portion of the respect compact that I believe to be problematic, 2) explain how I think it could be misinterpreted, 3) relate a recent classroom incident that shows how it is, in fact, being abused, and 4) propose a solution to the problem.

The Seahawk Respect Compact is indented below. Note that the bold portions are not my emphasis. I have underlined only one small portion for emphasis:
In the pursuit of excellence, UNC Wilmington actively fosters, encourages, and promotes inclusiveness, mutual respect, acceptance, and open-mindedness among students, faculty, staff and the broader community.

~ We affirm the dignity of all persons.

~ We promote the right of every person to participate in the free exchange of thoughts and opinions within a climate of civility and mutual respect.

~ We strive for openness and mutual understanding to learn from differences in people, ideas and opinions.

~ We foster an environment of respect for each individual, even where differences exist, by eliminating prejudice and discrimination through education and interaction with others.

Therefore, we expect members of the campus community to honor these principles as fundamental to our ongoing efforts to increase access to and inclusion in a community that nurtures learning and growth for all.

As you can see, Chancellor Miller, I have a problem with the suggestion that there is some sort of “right” that extends to “every person” and which entitles him to be the recipient of “respect.” Let me explain why this is wrongheaded by sharing a few examples:

* Several years ago, an N.C. State visiting professor expressed the view that all white people needed to be “exterminated” from the face of the earth. He was invited to debate me on Fox News and he declined. When I went on Fox to denounce him, I was not concerned about “civility.” He was not entitled to it. He’s a violent racist. Nor was he entitled to “respect” for his violent racist views. In fact, given his advocacy of violence and fear of debate he was not even entitled to respect as a human being. He just needed a good public shaming.

* Around that time, a professor here in North Carolina wrote to me saying that the Holocaust was the greatest “hoax” perpetrated in modern history. I went on national television to rebuke her. She was also invited to debate me on Fox News. Like the other racist at N.C. State, she declined. I did not - nor do I now - respect her views. I do not even respect her as a person. Put simply, nothing can make me respect an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier.

* Finally, there is a professor here at UNCW who has reportedly articulated the view – in class, mind you – that 911 was the result of a planned conspiracy between Bush and “the Jews.” Because she has tenure, UNCW is stuck with the 911 conspiracy theorist as well as her anti-Semitic views. But what about the occasional Jewish student in her classroom? Should she be required to “respect” her professor’s anti-Semitic views?

I hope you see the danger in granting a “right” to be respected. Once students begin to believe that respect is an entitlement they are granted - and not a privilege they must earn - the academic work product suffers. Bad ideas are placed on equal footing with good ideas and eventually the pursuit of truth suffers as a whole. But the pursuit of truth is already suffering here at UNCW. Earlier this semester, there was a vigorous discussion in one of our social science classes. Ideas were exchanged and disagreement was articulated. But, following the conversation, something unfortunate happened. The professor sent an email to all of his students reminding them that they were required by the Seahawk Respect Compact to maintain a climate of mutual respect and civility. An important question follows: Is there any chance that the professor’s email will not adversely affect future discussions by creating a chilling effect on free speech?

You know as well as I do that student discussions are not bound by the Seahawk Respect Compact. At this public university, they are bound by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Therefore, I ask that you order the Seahawk Respect Compact to be removed from every classroom at UNCW. I furthermore ask you to replace it with a copy of the First Amendment so students will be reminded daily that the right to be unoffended is to be found nowhere in our constitution.

This action will also remind our students that the UNCW handbook is not the law of the land. The U.S. Constitution is the law of the law. It has not been preserved by the blood and sacrifice of the easily offended.

With all due respect and civility,

Mike S. Adams


No comments: