Thursday, January 14, 2016

 Oxford University's senior leaders tell students who shut down 'open-minded' debate amid Cecil Rhodes controversy 'we should never tolerate intolerance'

Oxford University’s most senior leaders have launched a stinging attack on campus zealots who shut down debate with so-called ‘no-platforming’ policies.

Louise Richardson, the new Vice Chancellor, and Chancellor Chris Patten, said yesterday that students must learn the value of engaging with ‘objectionable’ ideas in universities.

They said youngsters must understand the true nature of freedom of inquiry, which can involve discussing concepts which they may find uncomfortable.

Their extraordinary intervention comes amid a growing culture of censorship on campuses across the country which has seen a number of controversial speakers banned.

‘Safe space’ policies have been adopted by many branches of the National Union of Students, allowing them to banish speakers, magazines and events which might be deemed ‘offensive’.

In Oxford, Oriel College is consulting on removing a statue of benefactor Cecil Rhodes after campaigning students claimed it is ‘racist’ because the 19th Century politician was a colonialist.

In a speech to mark her installation as Vice Chancellor of Oxford, Professor Richardson said freedom of debate must be ensured amongst the student community.

She said students should be educated to ‘embrace complexity’ while ‘daring to disturb the universe’, and to understand that ‘an Oxford education is not meant to be a comfortable experience’.

She added: ‘How do we ensure that they appreciate the value of engaging with ideas they find objectionable, trying through reason to change another’s mind, while always being open to changing their own? How do we ensure that our students understand the true nature of freedom of inquiry and expression?’

She added that it is the role of Oxford to provide leaders who have been ‘educated to think critically’ and to ‘always question’.

These people will ‘prevent the next financial crisis’ and grapple with other issues facing future generations, she said.

Professor Richardson, the first woman to hold the post at Oxford, added: ‘Let’s keep our eyes firmly fixed on the future, without forgetting the traditions that bind us to our forebears and the values and interests that unite us to one another.’

During the ceremony, Lord Patten said in a separate speech that while the university should listen to people who ‘shout… about speech crimes and no-platforming’, they should not necessarily obey.

He said: ‘We have to listen to those who presume that they can re-write history within the confines of their own notion of what is politically, culturally and morally correct…

‘But speaking for myself, I believe it would be intellectually pusillanimous to listen for too long without saying what we think…

‘One thing we should never tolerate is intolerance. We do not want to turn our university into a drab, bland, suburb of the soul where the diet is intellectual porridge.’

In an apparent reference to the Rhodes campaigners, who have been accused of trying to erase history, he warned that ‘education is not indoctrination’.

He added: ‘Our history is not a blank page on which we can write our own version of what it should have been according to our contemporary views and prejudices.

‘We work, study and sleep in great buildings, many of which were constructed with the proceeds of activities that would be rightly condemned today.

‘Moreover, many who are studying here or are doing research here are assisted with financial support from similar sources.’

Oriel College has already agreed to remove a plaque of Rhodes from one of its buildings after campaigners said making ethnic minority students walk past it every day amounted to ‘violence’.

Rhodes left a vast sum of money to the university, and one of the leaders of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign benefitted from a Rhodes scholarship himself.

The row over the statue is the latest in a string of attempted bans by students on campuses across the country.

Last year, students tried to stop feminist Germaine Greer from speaking at Cardiff University because her views might offend transgender people. Historian David Starkey was removed from a promotional Cambridge University video over claims his views were ‘racist’.

Students also tried to ban human rights activist Maryam Namazie from Warwick University for so-called ‘Islamophobia’ and Macer Gifford, who went to fight with the Kurds in Syria, from UCL.

Other bizarre bans have included ‘racist’ sombreros at the University of East Anglia and a ‘fascist’ Nietzsche society at UCL.

However, the so-called ‘safe space’ policies do not appear to have stopped extremist Islamist speakers appearing before university students across the country.

A Daily Mail investigation revealed last week how representatives from CAGE have toured Islamic societies at universities, making a series of inflammatory claims unchallenged.

The organisation, which called Jihadi John a ‘beautiful young man’, have been holding events to tell young Muslims to sabotage the Government’s anti-extremism policy Prevent, claiming it is an attempt by the State to spy on them.

In September, David Cameron said universities hosted at least 70 events featuring extremist preachers in the last year, a claim some of the institutions dispute.


Standing up for kids and minorities

Will Congressional Republicans push for reauthorizing the D.C. school voucher program?

Republicans say they care about the poor and minorities, but do they really?  We have a test case in front of us right now over whether the congressional leadership will reauthorize and then hopefully expand the Washington D.C. school voucher program. President Obama is against the program though it’s $25 million budget is less than 0.1 percent of federal education spending. The opportunity scholarship program was created in 2004 and was the handiwork of John Boehner and President George W. Bush. The results have been uniformly positive for these families.

But something unforgivable happened at the end of last year. The House leadership admits that they “inadvertently” left out of the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that passed late last year. They forgot to fund the voucher program for poor black and Hispanic parents because apparently they were too busy funding the Export Import Bank to help Boeing. So amazingly, about the only domestic program that got eliminated was the one that matters the most. Message: Republicans don’t care about these families any more than the Democrats do — which is very little.

The very first order of business for this Congress should be to immediately reauthorize the Washington, D.C. school voucher program. Do it now. Hold a rally in front of the Capitol with the thousands of minority parents and kids who depend on these vouchers. Stand with them. Fight with them loudly and proudly.

A first-rate education for the nation’s poor children is a righteous fight and, as Jeanne Allen, the president of the Center for Education Reform puts it, “the civil liberties issue of our time.”

What is for sure is that Democrats will never stand with these parents. They can’t because the teachers unions won’t let them and the political contributions would dry up. So union brass and the leaders of the Democratic Party oppose programs that take control from Big Labor and instead empower parents. It’s all about power and money for the education blob. The opposition has nothing to do with what’s right for the kids. Only rare Democrats like former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman dare support the program — and he was ousted from his own party. Nothing exposes the spectacular hypocrisy of the Democratic Party more than their brick wall opposition to education voucher programs.

Meanwhile the Republicans won’t call them out on this. Why not?

The D.C. voucher program has helped thousands of very low-income and mostly black kids opt out of the often dismal public D.C. schools and opt into high-performing private and Catholic schools. A major assessment study funded by the Department of Education found the graduation rates for the students with vouchers is an estimated 12 percentage points higher than for those who didn’t get the vouchers. More of the kids go on to college — some to Harvard and Yale. The odds are high that a large percentage of these kids from good schools but poor neighborhoods will be financially successful and rise into the middle class or higher. Is there a better way to reduce income inequality?

The most powerful evidence is to meet these kids because the impressive results hit you right in the face. The parents almost universally describe the vouchers with words like a “godsend” and a “lifesaver for my children.” Republicans should sit down with Joseph Kelley, a single father with several kids who have received vouchers. “The public schools in my neighborhood aren’t just extremely poor academically, They are physically unsafe,” he tells me. “At our neighborhood school there was cursing and shoving with a total breakdown in any discipline. Total mayhem. I couldn’t expose my son to this environment or I would have wound up hurting some of those bullying kids.” How many politicians would send their kids to such schools?

I know one who doesn’t. Barack Obama. The Obamas live in public housing in Washington D.C., but they are rich so they send their daughters to the very elite, expensive private school called Sidwell Friends. The president’s daughters sit next to some of the voucher kids. But Mr. Obama wants to kill the program, because apparently only rich people should get to go to the finest schools.

Rather than shut down this program it should be expanded dramatically in Washington, D.C. and bring the program to cities with failing schools all over the country. The goal should be for every parent who wants a voucher to get one. We spend more than $30 billion on the Department of Education every year and Republicans even gave DOE a pay raise last year. DOE spending has had zero impact on test scores, as the graph shows.

This is the perfect political fight for these times. Paul Ryan should announce tomorrow that there will be no budget this year without vouchers. If Mr. Obama wants to shut down the government to stop this from happening let him.

What better way for Republicans to show that they believe black lives matter.


Australia's largest uni goes smoke free

Smokers will no doubt call this tyrannical but a ban would not be needed if they had the decency to stop imposing their foul habit on others

Smoking has been banned on all campuses of a major Victorian university.  Monash University announced that smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, would be banned from every campus, including grounds and vehicles from January 2016.

The university said it was part of a broader commitment by all Victorian universities to provide healthier smoke-free environments.

"There is clear evidence to show that smoke-free environments increase the rate of quitting and reduce the amount of people taking up smoking," the university said in a statement.

Students, staff and visitors will need to leave the campus to light up and those caught smoking on university grounds may face "disciplinary action".


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