Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Student accuses Oxford University of being 'institutionally racist' after Lord Patten tells protesters to go to university somewhere else if they're offended by a Cecil Rhodes statue on campus

Oxford University is 'institutionally racist' and Chancellor Lord Patten made 'scandalous' remarks when he attacked a campaign to remove a Cecil Rhodes student from the campus, one of the activists in the dispute said today.

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, one of the founding members of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, said the presence of the stature on Oriel College indicated 'something deeply wrong with the way Oxford presents itself'.

The campaign wants the statue of Rhodes, one of the architects of the apartheid system in South Africa, removed from public view and instead placed in a museum in its proper context.

Lord Patten yesterday rejected this view, insisting students who cannot reconcile Oxford's historic links with Rhodes should 'think about getting their education elsewhere'.

The ex-Tory MP pointed to the thousands of scholarships funded at Oxford by Rhodes bequest to the university and highlighted the relationship between Rhodes and Nelson Mandela.

And he said creating 'bland' safe spaces at university would be 'treason', suggesting they would be similar to institutions in China. 

But Mr Mpofu-Walsh said this was not good enough, insisting debating history without taking action was not good enough.

He told the BBC Today programme: 'Quite frankly, we think it is scandalous Lord Patten thinks people who disagree with him should consider studying in another university and at the same time purporting to support a generosity of spirit and open mindedness.

'We are doing exactly what Lord Patten is suggesting a university is for. The factor seems to be we are disagreeing with Lord Patten.

'The notion Cecil Rhodes should be glorified in a 21st Century setting in 2016 is no longer tolerable and we think his legacy should be challenged.

'The anaesthetisation of history that's continued at Oxford up to this point should be debated and that is exactly what we are doing.'

He added: 'No one is talking about knocking anything down. What we are calling for is the removal of the statue, something Oxford has done at many points in its history.

'We don't think debate is simply a gentlemanly discussion over tea and scones. Debate involves speaking seriously and taking action - not just talking in abstraction.'

Mr Mpofu-Walsh said Oxford University should take the opportunity to 'reappraise' how it presents itself to the world.

He continued: 'If you continue to glorify certain figures and exonerate the values they stood for then you make a mockery of the kind of debate we want to have.

'We think Oxford is institutionally racist and by that we mean it's had throughout its history significant biases against black people. We know the first black student was only accepted in 1938.

'There is something deeply wrong with the way Oxford presents itself, with the way it has biases against people and we are raising that.

'For the first time we are forcing the university to confront that problem and probably doing a better job of it than any generation before us.'

Lord Patten told the Today programme yesterday: 'To deny freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry at university would be a treason to the sort of values universities should represent.

'I don't think this issue should focus just on Cecil Rhodes, whose endowment has produced 8,000 scholarships over the years including scholarships for some of the greatest campaigners against apartheid and for civil liberties.

'Incidentally, the Rhodes Scholarships were endorsed by Nelson Mandela - he regarded Rhodes and himself as having a common cause. Nobody is talking about Mandela-Rhodes must go and I think the focus on Rhodes is unfortunate.

'But it is an example of what is happening in American campuses, in British campuses, where one of the points of a university which is not to tolerate intolerance, to engage in free inquiry and debate is being denied.

'People have to face up to facts in history they don't like and talk about them and debate them'.

Lord Patten questioned where such a proposal would end, since the entire college building which is home to the statue was built using Rhodes money.

He mocked ideological safe spaces and said it would have been 'complete madness' for him, as a Conservative student to be protected from the Marxist professor he was taught history by.

Lord Patten concluded: 'I do believe we should discuss these issues, I believe we should discuss in particular how to promote greater diversity. All that is up for discussion.

'We are giving (the campaign) the respect of living to their views even when we don't agree with them.

'If people at a university aren't prepared to demonstrate the sort of generosity of spirit which Nelson Mandela showed towards Rhodes and towards history... then maybe they should think about being educated elsewhere. 'But I hope they will embrace those issues and engage in debate.'

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.


British children banned from bringing in birthday cake to school because their teachers are too busy to check for allergens

Primary school children have been banned from bringing in cake to celebrate their birthdays as teachers are too busy to check for allergies.

Sugary treats brought in by pupils will be sent home uneaten by Norbreck Primary Academy in Blackpool, Lancashire, because teachers don't have the time to check whether they are suitable for all youngsters to eat.

The school's head teacher Karen McCarter said she 'hates to be a killjoy' but due to 'modern society' couldn't take the risk of giving children something they might be allergic to.

Mrs McCarter said: 'As we are not able to account for the ingredients, we could unknowingly give a product to a child which they are allergic to.

'Even if we had a list of ingredients, in a busy school day it is too much to expect teachers to read it and decide who can and cannot eat the product.

'Sharing cake for a birthday is a lovely thing to do. However, all children are made to feel special when it's their birthday and the teachers ensure all birthdays are remembered and celebrated.

'Cake is something to share outside of school with family or with friends at a party.'

Mrs McCarter also said that ten of the school's approximate 610 pupils who suffered from allegies were feeling 'left out' and said it was impossible to tell if kitchens at home were hygienic, adding it also went against the school's healthy eating initiatives.

She said the decision to ban the treats from classrooms came after seeing teachers struggle to slice cakes big enough for a class of 30, as well as clean up the mess left behind.

The school said pupils bringing cakes to share with classmates had become a recent phenomenon, but was disrupting an already busy school schedule due to it becoming an increasingly popular ritual.

However parents slammed the school, saying the measures were 'over the top' despite Mrs McCarter being backed by councillors.

Nicola Mealor, who is mum to seven-year-old Tyler Wallace, said: 'It's a bit over the top. Usually I send Tyler in with a cake on his birthday but they always said it shouldn't have nuts in. I didn't know about this but it's a bit sad.'

Another parent, who didn't wish to be named, said: 'Some things you just think, "Really?"

'If children are at school on their birthday they should be able to take a cake in to share it, but then again some people see this as a good thing. 'Each to their own.'

The school had previously banned glass bottles, aluminium cans and cash, but Mrs McCarter denied being over protective of the children.

She said: 'We are not a school which makes decisions that over-protect children, we are a school which makes sensible decisions to keep children safe.

'I am certain parents would not want their children to attend a school where glass bottles and cans are on site. Children don't bring money because they don't need it.'

Mayor of Blackpool Peter Callow said: 'I'm sure there will be people in the town who will think it's over-cautious, but the teachers are the people on the front line and the decision is theirs.'

Councillor Tony Williams said: 'To be left out because you are allergic is a little bit cruel.  'I understand why the school is doing this because it's very difficult to take cake to school to share and not leave children feeling left out.  'I have never known it to be a problem anywhere else but if the school has children who are allergic then it's common sense.'

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said while there was no legal requirement for cake being brought by pupils into class to display allergen ingredients, it was 'good practice to do so'.

A spokesman for the FSA said: 'As part of their duty of care to children, schools will of course want to ensure pupils with food allergies or intolerances are kept safe.'


Can’t spell, can’t count: Bosses lash out at Australian workers’ lack of skills

WORKERS have such poor literacy and numeracy skills they can’t do simple sums, type on a computer or give clear ­directions in a worrying trend employers have revealed is cruelling their business.

The problem has been exposed by an Australian Industry Group study that found staff’s English and maths skills are so bad hardly a workplace in the country is unaffected.

The report, released today, found nine out of 10 bosses complain they have staff who can’t calculate orders, prepare work riddled with errors or give confusing directions.

AI Group chief executive Innes Willox said the results indicated a “deepening concern about the level of foundation skills in the workforce and a continuing drag on the nation’s productivity”.

He called on the Turnbull Government to tackle the problem as the need for highly educated workers became more crucial, with high-skilled occupations growing faster than low-skilled work.

It follows an international report showing 44 per cent of Australians have literacy ­proficiency below a level set as the minimum to operate effectively in the workplace and ­society.

Numeracy was worse, with 55 per cent below the proficient level, the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies found.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the Government realised it must arrest our slide down inter­national comparison ­tables for mathematics and ­literacy.

“We must embrace the digital age, diversify our economy and upskill Australians to meet the jobs of the 21st century,” Senator Birmingham said. “Key to the success of this and future generations of young Australians is in having an excellent grasp of literacy and numeracy.”

He said the Government was improving teacher standards and pushing maths and science in schools.  “Mistakes are costly and business is saying too many mistakes are being made,” he said.


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