Sunday, February 21, 2016
UK: Left-wing protesters force an academic to cancel his lecture on welfare reforms after launching a social media campaign to 'shut it down'
Left-wing activists have succeeded in stopping a university lecture in which a respected academic was due to present his research on welfare.
The talk at the London School of Economics has been temporarily postponed over concerns that campaigners were threatening to disrupt it.
Dr Adam Perkins had been due to speak about his book, which examined the relationship between personality and the welfare state.
However, organisers suspended the event after a social media backlash from activists who labelled it 'nauseating' and threatened to 'shut it down'.
It represents an escalation of the long list of 'no-platforming' incidents, in which students have attempted to stop speakers appearing who they disagree with.
Until now, their efforts have been focussed on political campaigners and provocateurs, but this latest incident appears to show that even ordinary academics presenting their work can now be targets.
Last night, Dr Perkins said he was 'saddened' by the activists' 'knee-jerk reaction', which he said might discourage other researchers from carrying out similar studies.
He told the Daily Mail: 'I was surprised by it. I think some of these people have got the wrong end of the stick about the book.
'It actually has a fairly positive message that we can improve the welfare state by taking advantage of personality research, although there are some findings which some people will find uncomfortable.
'Certain people are primed to be outraged by data they don't like. But there's no place for outrage in science.
'People are afraid to speak up about challenging topics for fear of abuse, but data will always win in the end. 'It is absurd to protest against data without offering any counter-data. 'This is a new and unfortunate turn of events.'
Dr Perkins, a lecturer in the neurobiology of personality at King's College London, has already seen his work criticised by those who say it stigmatises the long-term unemployed.
His book, The Welfare Trait, states that 'individuals with aggressive, rule-breaking and antisocial personality characteristics are over-represented among welfare claimants'.
It suggests that because personality is partly formed by environmental factors, a welfare state that increases the number of children born into disadvantaged households can proliferate employment-resistant personality characteristics.
Dr Perkins said the research builds on more than 100 peer-reviewed studies and that the findings have been discussed in academia for many years.
He added that his book's central argument is that 'if we want a sustainable welfare state that provides a safety net during unemployment but without eroding work motivation, we need to take account of discoveries from personality research'.
He added: 'The sad thing is that the findings that I'm citing go back decades. Researchers have known about this but have kept their head down.
'They don't want talk about it publicly because they know that it would be a risk to their career. I was like this for a while but eventually a friend convinced me that I owed it to the tax payers to publicise these data.'
In the run-up to his LSE talk earlier this month, his views were denounced as 'grotesque' on Twitter, and disability rights group Black Triangle appeared to be organising a picket and protest on the day.
'I think [work and pensions secretary] Iain Duncan Smith would love this idea as it fits the Tory notion of 'benefits scroungers',' said the group's Facebook page.
One Twitter user appeared to call on student campaign groups Occupy LSE and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts to protest at the event.
Another woman wrote of the lecture: 'Nauseating. This is how the further dismantling of welfare and demonisation of claimants will be justified.'
Organisers postponed the event with just days to go due to 'unforeseen circumstances'.
It is understood they hope to reschedule the event for a later date when a more robust security team can enlisted to manage any potential protests.
Dr Perkins said that LSE staff had been 'open-minded and helpful' and that the postponement had not been forced on them or suggested by any central LSE body.
Nevertheless, the failure to ensure that the original event went ahead is likely to dismay some academics in light of recent concerns about campus censorship and the fact that social media comments did not suggest that any violence was planned by protesters in this case.
Black Triangle is a Glasgow-based campaign group which protests against the current government's attempts to reform the welfare system regarding incapacity benefits. It claims changes are a breach of human rights and stigmatise disabled people.
The group was co-founded by John McArdle, 48, an Englishman who lives in Edinburgh and appears to have worked as a reporter in China in his younger life.
An LSE spokesperson said: 'The speaker and hosting department agreed to postpone the lecture for logistical reasons.
'The speaker and organisers were aware of some negative social media activity and the postponement is to ensure the safe and smooth running of the event, once it is rescheduled.'
The LSE has long been a centre for radical politics of all persuasions and has been at the centre of controversy in the past.
Expose children to extremist views early on to prepare them for university, says expert
Children as young as four should be taught about homosexuality, the government’s behaviour tsar has said, as he criticises ‘snowflake generation’ for classroom intolerance.
Tom Bennett said too many youngsters are being sheltered from ‘the harsher realities’ of life while at school, leaving them ‘overwhelmed’ and seeking ‘safe spaces’ when they go to university.
The former night club manager said teachers should be more proactive at encouraging discussion in the classroom and at confronting pupils with views they may find offensive to teach them how to disagree with others rather than shun debate.
Views pupils may find offensive include prejudice against gay people and ideas around abortion and atheism, he said.
His comments emerged as student unions at UK universities have increasingly become intolerant on speakers, pop songs and even objects, like sombrero hats, that might cause offend to anyone. The practice of banning speakers on campus has been labelled ‘no-platforming’.
The headteacher from Glasgow said he was against no-platforming. He said: “If you want to create a healthy community of people who are liberally minded and prone towards compassion and democracy you need to start encouraging those values quite early on and principally by role modelling. “Help them go to university, and encourage children not to be scared that other people will disagree with them.
“[With] generation snowflake, sometimes, there is an element of truth that children are a little bit inoculated perhaps against the harsher realities of the world. “And then when they go to university they might then encounter a truth that may overwhelm them. “No wonder why they are seeking safe spaces, because they can’t handle that truth.”
As figures reveal minority groups are awarded fewer places at university, Yomi Adegoke wonders if it's any surprise ignorance about certain ethnicities remains in higher education Views pupils may find offensive include prejudice against gay people and ideas around abortion and atheism, he said. Photo: Alamy
Speaking at a conference on free speech this week, he said he promotes debate on controversial topics like atheism and abortion in his religious studies classes.
Mr Bennett said: “We need to help children develop to become more robust to understand ideas that are contrary to their own by role modelling.
“Sometimes we have children saying some extreme views. Children from very religious backgrounds saying things like homosexuals should be put in prison. “That’s as extreme a view as you could get in a liberal democracy.
“Rather than just saying you’re not allowed to say that in the classroom, [I would] ask what other people think, why do they think it’s wrong and so on.’
He advocated for ‘healthy spaces’ where children are exposed to racist, sexist or homophobic comments in an effort to help them argue against views they find abhorrent.
He said: “The sad fact is that in society you get homophobic and sexist views. “And the children pick that up and bring it to the school gate four years old and onwards.
“So as a teacher you have to deal with it in a sensitive way by having discussions about it and to some extent directing the discussion a little bit because at the end of the day you can’t walk away [saying] all views are ok.
“I think many schools discuss views brilliantly but some schools could do more.”
Boston Public Schools releases findings of investigation into Boston Latin School racism concerns
After all the Leftist hysteria about racism in the schools, they found only one thing said by one student that was out of line
Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced today that the district’s Office of Equity has completed an internal investigation of alleged violations of the district’s internal nondiscrimination policies at Boston Latin School (BLS). The executive summary of the investigation will be posted to bostonpublicschools.org.
“Racial intolerance should never be accepted in any Boston public school,” said BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang. “This is deeply personal to me as someone who had similar experiences growing up as an immigrant in the United States. I am fully committed to ensuring that no student should ever feel unsafe in any of our schools. BLS must take a critical examination of itself, in particular around issues of race and culture.”
According to the executive summary, the Office of Equity’s inquiry focused on all reports to BLS administrators of student incidents related to race and ethnicity between November 2014 and January 2016. The review identified a total of seven incidents during that time period, and determined that the internal policy was violated in one of those incidents.
The substantiated violation was in relation to a student using a racial slur and making a threatening remark toward another student. The review found BLS did not adequately investigate the incident, did not adequately discipline the student, nor take appropriate steps to ensure the support and safety of the targeted student.
In another November 2014 incident, in which students presented administrators a binder with printouts of social media posts that contained racist and offensive speech, the review found BLS did not violate district nondiscrimination policies and procedures. In this case, BLS administrators determined that the most offensive remarks were made by people who live outside of Massachusetts and who were not BLS students. Additionally, four BLS students who made racially insensitive remarks on Twitter, which were contained in the binder, were required to meet one-on-one with administrators to discuss their conduct, the review found. There were no further issues with the four students after these meetings.
The Office of Equity submitted a set of extensive recommendations to Superintendent Chang designed to enhance protocols and procedures at BLS; improve the culture and climate at the school; sustain an anti-racism initiative; and train students and staff at BLS and across the district on racial awareness and cultural proficiency, including student-, Equity Office-, and community-led workshops.
While student and employee discipline are subject to privacy protections under the law, the Superintendent stated he intends to implement all recommendations proposed by the Office of Equity, both at BLS and system-wide across the district.
“A guiding principle of Boston Public Schools is to ensure that every school provides a safe, respectful, and responsible environment for all students,” Chang said. “I am grateful for the Office of Equity’s comprehensive investigation and recommendations, which lay the foundation of important work at Boston Latin and throughout the district. We now have an incredible opportunity in Boston Public Schools to embrace a culturally sustainable education for all students.”
Proactively, prior to the investigation’s completion, BPS had already completed equity protocols training for all principals and headmasters, and begun planning educational sessions with students and staff around issues of diversity and cultural proficiency. As an immediate step, BLS shared a six-point planwith the BLS community last month.
Among the recommendations to improve the climate at BLS, the Office of Equity has asked BLS Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta and others to institute a racial climate audit before the close of this school year and again next year; immediately launch dialogues on race and ethnicity with the school community, including members of the student social justice organization Black Leaders Aspiring for Change and Knowledge (BLS B.L.A.C.K.); and to work with the district to increase the hiring of Black and Latino teachers for the 2016-2017 school year.
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