Sunday, February 07, 2016

UK: University free speech group set up to counter campus censorship faces being BANNED by students in ‘breath-takingly ironic’ move

A free speech society at the London School of Economics faces being banned over claims it is ‘self-important’ and ‘seeking to play the victim’.

The student union is due to debate a motion to ban the group later this month after a member complained they were ‘ill-informed’.

A number of bizarre bans have been imposed by student unions on speakers, events and publications which they consider to be ‘offensive’.

Organisers of the group say their aim is to have an open debate about whether bans are appropriate, but they now face calls to be banned themselves.

Connor Naylor, 19, second year International Relations student and spokesman for the LSE Speakeasy, said: ‘Originally, we thought the person calling for us to be banned was just joking.  ‘Now it turns out he is actually going ahead with it.

‘We know that there are some individuals who oppose us. However, I find it hard to believe that people will not see the breath-taking irony of banning a free speech society.’

The motion has been proposed by law student Maurice Banerjee Palmer, 20, who said it would be ‘hilarious’ to ban an anti-ban society.

He told student newspaper The Beaver that the LSE Speakeasy was 'naive to the limits on freedom of expression' and 'pretty much endorses hate speech' – a claim the group denies.

He claimed they were ‘ill-informed’ and ‘self-important’ and said union bans may be valid to help stop discrimination which women, ethnic minorities and the disabled face in society.

‘They [the LSE Speakeasy] seem to fall into a group of people who don't like a perceived focus on women and minorities,’ he added.  ‘They seem to be looking for a victim card to play and to confuse a loss of advantage with an act of oppression.

'The maligned SU measures are aimed at solving a problem which they don't seem to find serious and for which they explain no alternatives.'

When contacted by the Daily Mail, Mr Palmer said that despite his motion, he did not want to ban the Speakeasy but had raised the issue simply because he hoped it would prompt people to debate it.

He said: ‘I agree with many of the things that LSE SU Free Speech/Speakeasy say in principle. You can see that from my only other involvement in student politics.  ‘What I'm looking for is a bit of common sense in the debate.

‘I don’t deny that the current trend of what is being called “campus censorship” ought to be debated. But let’s do it with a bit of accuracy and fairness.’

He pointed out that he has himself in the past resisted campus bans, including one on meat products being sold on campus on Mondays, proposed last year.

The Speakeasy plans to invite speakers who have been ‘no-platformed’ – or prevented from appearing – by student unions.

Organisers also hope to raise awareness of the history of free speech and hold debates on ‘uncomfortable’ topics.

According to an investigation by Spiked, an online current affairs magazine affiliated with the group, LSE is among ‘the most ban- heavy universities in the country’.

The student union recently suspended the rugby club for a year because it gave out sexist and homophobic leaflets.

The Sun newspaper was also temporarily banned in union shops and the student paper refused to publish an article about upcoming elections because it was too political.

So-called ‘trigger warnings’ were recently placed in front of the Palestine society’s stall, saying their content may be upsetting.

And the atheist society has been prevented from wearing T-shirts showing Jesus and the prophet Mohammed holding hands.

Mr Naylor added: ‘There is a clear appetite for what we are doing. We’ve become representatives of the movement against censorship on campus.  ‘People want to speak up but often they don’t for fear of going against the grain.  ‘We want to have a debate about campus censorship, no-platforming and safe spaces. ‘We want to have a dialogue on that instead of accepting it at face value.

‘Nothing should be dictated to us. We shouldn’t be told what we should and shouldn’t discuss.’

A spokesman for the SU said: ‘It’s unfortunate that it has gotten to this stage, as the Students’ Union did approve of the society which goes to show that in fact, we are facilitators of free speech rather than opposing it.

‘However, the real question is around how members of the Students’ Union want their Union to work and what they want it to facilitate. It is up to students voting through their democratic structures as to whether things should be “banned” or not and where bans are in place, it is a reflection of the will and opinions of students rather than a “ban heavy” SU.’


S.C. May Let Teachers Carry Firearms in School

The South Carolina State Committee on Education and Public Works is set to review a bill allowing teachers in the state to carry guns in school.

The measure allows any personnel at the school to carry a gun if they passed the appropriate training to be considered “School Protection Officers.”

Under the bill, a School Protection Officer keeps the weapon on his person at all times while on the premises except when locked in a school firearm safe and uses only frangible bullets.

Frangible bullets are designed to disintegrate upon impact to limit danger around an intended target and avoid ricochets.

According to WPDE, bill sponsor State Representative Phillip Lowe (R- Florence) said since schools are gun-free zones, that makes them targets.

"The people who are deranged and want to inflict pain chose a school because it's a gun-free zone, and they can inflict the most punishment on innocent people," said Lowe.

"It doesn't force the district to participate, and it doesn't force them to take every candidate who may want to be a protection officer," said Lowe.

The school boards would work with each school and choose administrators who would go through the extensive training that would allow them to have a gun on school property.


Parents need more choice in schooling, says new report

Australia's three school sectors – government, independent and Catholic – have far more in common than generally believed, with diversity within the sectors often exceeding the differences between them.

That's the finding of a report, One School Does Not Fit All,  by the Centre for Independent Studies. The report said there is a wide variety of schools in each sector, with diverse student populations.

"Broad-brush comparisons between the school sectors based on average results are not useful, either for policy decisions or for parents choosing a school," said the report, which was co-authored by Jennifer Buckingham and Trisha Jha.

"There is substantial overlap in the student populations in each sector – none exclusively serves any particular demographic."

One finding is that the majority of independent schools do not conform to the private school stereotype of being well funded compared to government schools.

The report said 83 per cent of government schools, 94 per cent of Catholic schools and 76 per cent of independent schools have total funding levels below $20,000 per student per year (in 2013).

And independent schools, like government and Catholic schools, are bunched around the per-student incomes of between $10,000 and $15,000 a year. Only 7 per cent of independent schools were very wealthy, with per-student incomes over $30,000 a year.

However independent schools are clearly better off in one respect: hardly any independent schools had per-student incomes (from both public and private sources) below $10,000, a year, while about 20 per cent of government and Catholic schools are in this category.

"There is no such thing as a typical government, Catholic or independent school," the report said.

"Some government schools more closely resemble high-fee independent schools in terms of their student demographic and level of resourcing than a public school in the next suburb."


Dr Buckingham said there were many independent schools that did not conform to the picture people had of these schools. One example is the Berry Street School in Victoria, which caters to children who have been expelled or excluded from mainstream education.

"Very often the Berry Street School is their last option for gaining a secondary education," the report said. The school deals with poor literacy and numeracy by devoting about half the teaching time to these areas, and follows the "no excuses" approach, which attracts controversy but has produced results in some US charter schools.

Berry School uses explicit instruction methods, and believes that "students who are struggling need more support and structure, not greater flexibility," the CIS report said.

Dr Buckingham and Ms Jha also believe that governments should promote further diversity and choice in schooling by developing charter schools and exploring home-schooling options.

Charter schools – which are well-established in the US and other countries – receive government funding equivalent to public schools, but operate independently of the government system and are generally not religious.

The report says that introducing charter schools in Australia would offer more secular schooling options for parents beyond the existing public school system.

"Choice is currently restricted for families who can't afford non-government school fees, or those who do not want a religious education or who do not subscribe to alternative educational philosophies. The majority of non-government schools fit into one of these two categories," the report said.

Similarly it says that lack of consistent government support limits home schooling as an option in Australia.

"The ease with which home-schoolers can access government distance education courses varies across states and territories," it says.

Over 12,000 students were registered as being home-schooled in 2012. However, the report urges more research in this area to discover how effective home schooling is and how many unregistered students are being home schooled.


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