Monday, September 28, 2015

UK: Anxious parents 'breed generation of clueless children', says schools leader

Anxious parents are breeding a generation of “clueless” children who never experience any physical risks, a schools leader has warned.

In an effort to protect them from physical and mental harms, parents are leaving children unable to cross the road or walk to school on their own when they reach senior school, according to David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS).

Parents, he said, are also damaging children by wanting to live “precariously through their achievements” by adding unnecessary pressures in their academic and extra-curricular activities.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph ahead of the IAPS annual conference next week, Mr Hanson said: “One can understand why parents are anxious about their children. It’s very hard for them to be even handed and balanced.

“But sometimes parents put a cotton wool around children because they want to protect them from everything, including physical risks and mental challenges.

“There is a fear of failure but we actually want children to climb trees, fall out and scratch their knees. We want them to struggle with mental challenges and learn when they don’t achieve what they were hoping for.

There is a fear of failure but we actually want children to climb trees, fall out and scratch their knees.

Sheltering children, Mr Hanson said, can hinder children’s development because “they are never going to cope in the real world. Many parents drive their children to school and the children never learn common sense rules of being a pedestrian. They are clueless about crossing the road. When they walk to senior school the injury rates are horrendous.

“If children from a young age, walk to school with a gown up, they come to instinctively learn about traffic and how to cross the road in a safe manner. To suddenly discover this as a distracted teenager leads to the tragically high injury rate we see in this country.”

He added that “depending on circumstances” children should be let to walk to school or cross the road on their own at appropriate age. He added: “Parents should first protect, then lead and show and then support and then let go.”

Excessive expectations on performance can be as damaging as protecting children from mental and physical challenges, Mr Hanson added.

He said: “Parents almost wish to live precariously through the achievements of their child. They want their child to be the musician or the sportsman they were never themselves.”

Mr Hanson recalls how the pressure has reached over the top levels in some parents. At a sailing event recently a parent brought a professional trainer and a camera operator to give the child a professional debrief on how to be the best.

He discouraged this type of behaviour from parents. He said: “That’s just over the top. You’re knocking all the joy out of this. We need to find the balance between enjoying the game and wanting to win so that when you do fail, you fail with grace and you pick yourself up and you do it again.”

Mr Hanson also criticised parents who pushed children through “corrosive tutoring”.

He said: “The children have a good education at school and you don’t need to push them through hours and hours of tutoring. It’s very corrosive.

“Parents are spending a lot of money hot housing a child to get them through selective examinations. The child then gets into that highly demanding school and they are miserable because they have just been pushed to a point which will mean that secondary school will not be a happy experience.

“They are far better off going to a school where they will flourish, enjoy and achieve very good results.”


UK: 'Universities must not shy away from difficult subjects'

The Government’s anti-extremism plans risk curtailing academic freedom, when universities should be centres for debate, argues Sally Hunt

The Government’s controversial anti-extremism plans are scheduled to come into force in UK colleges and universities on Monday. According to Number 10, the plans are “part of the Government’s one nation strategy to confront and ultimately defeat the threat of extremism and terrorism.”

Critics, including my union – the University and College Union – argue they risk curtailing academic freedom and will create an uneasy relationship of mistrust between students and lecturers.

Lecturers’ opposition to the many forms of guidance that have been issued to further and higher education institutions is long-standing, including raising serious concerns about the Government’s definition of “extremism” and its attempts to make staff spy on their students.

The latest guidance will mean that for the first time that universities and colleges in the UK will be legally required to put specific policies in place to stop extremists. Legal advice produced when the subject was being debated in Parliament early this year pointed out that placing a legal duty on universities to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism was in conflict with existing law.

Other anxieties highlighted in February included those outlined by group of university vice-chancellors who argued that to be effective in countering terrorism and radicalisation, universities had to remain independent from government.

We are still seeking reassurance that academic freedoms will be protected and that there will be no grey areas over what can and can’t be debated. We are worried that the politicisation of the lawful expression of views is both counterproductive and unnecessary.

Leader of the French party National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen (C) arrives to give a speech at the Oxford Union's prestigious debating society in OxfordControversial topics: Leader of the French party National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen (C) arrives to give a speech at the Oxford Union's debating society  Photo: EPA

For a Government that likes to make much of the red tape and bureaucracy that apparently blights so many areas of our public service, it is rather keen to add yet more paperwork to a sector that has suffered more than most from form filling and box ticking in recent years.

All this sits against a backdrop where the workloads for staff may have increased considerably, but their pay has fallen dramatically in real terms.

Our universities and colleges are centres for debate and open discussion, where received wisdom can be challenged and controversial ideas put forward in the spirit of academic endeavour. The best response to acts of terror is to retain our universities and colleges as open democratic spaces.

"Students need to be confident that they can debate, explore and challenge serious topics in lectures and seminars."

Draconian crackdowns on the rights of academics and students will not achieve the ends the Government says it seeks. Students need to be confident that they can debate, explore and challenge serious topics in lectures and seminars.

Some of the subjects up for debate may be difficult ones, but shying away from them because people are fearful they may be considered extreme is no way to deal with any issue.

Universities and colleges already have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students and staff, and not to allow activities which are intended to foment hatred or violence, or support for unlawful activities such as terrorism.

However, universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of our civilised society. It is essential to our democracy and right to freedom of speech that views are open to debate and challenge within the law.


UK: Secular activist who fled Iran’s repressive regime banned from speaking at university in case she ‘incites hatred against Muslims’

I should note that Namazie is an Iranian Tudeh (Communist party) supporter.  There would be no free speech if she had her way

A high-profile secularist has been banned from speaking at a university for fears she will offend Muslims.

Activist Maryam Namazie was due to make a presentation to Warwick University's Student Union on October 28, having been by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists (WASH) group.

The group was contacted by the union to be told that her speech had been cancelled after 'a number of flags' were raised.

According to The Independent, the union told the group: 'After researching both [Ms Namazie] and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus'.

Articles written by Ms Namazie indicated she was 'highly inflammatory' and 'could incite hatred on campus', according to the union.

Ms Namazie fled Iran with her family in 1980 following the revolution.

She told the newspaper that she was going to be speaking about apostasy, blasphemy and nudity in the age of ISIS.

She was stunned that her talk was cancelled by the student union.  'They're basically labelling me a racist and an extremist for speaking out against Islam and Islamism,' she said.

'If people like me who fled an Islamist regime can't speak out about my opposition to the far-right Islamic movement, if I can't criticise Islam, that leaves very [few] options for me as a dissenter because the only thing I have is my freedom of expression.

'If anyone is inciting hatred, it's the Islamists who are threatening people like me just for deciding we want to be atheist, just because we don't want to toe the line.'

'To try to censor me, does a double disservice to those people who are dissenting by denying people like me the only opportunity we have to speak.'

WASH's president, Benjamin David, appealed the decision. He said: 'The infringement of free-speech is becoming insidiously ubiquitous, and many universities, including Warwick, are circumventing the freedom of speech in pursuit of inoffensive, sanitary narratives.'

Isaac Leigh, president of Warwick Student Union said: 'The initial decision was made for the right of Muslim students not to feel intimidated or discriminated against on their university campus, rather than in the interest of suppressing free speech.'

'A final decision on this issue will be reached by the most senior members of the Student Union in coming days.'


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