Sunday, March 27, 2016

British teachers to call for ‘safe space’ for children to discuss radical Islamic views

Teachers are to debate whether to launch a campaign so that schools and colleges "ensure a safe space" for pupils to discuss radical ideas without the fear of being branded extremists or risking being reported to the police.

The motion will also include a discussion on whether to call on the Government to withdraw the Prevent strategy which imposes a duty to spot signs of students being radicalised.

"We want it to be possible to come into school and know that there is a safe space to discuss ideas and we don’t want teachers feeling that they need to close the space. There are some already thoroughly discussed cases where people have got it wrong."
Christine Blower, NUT general secretary

This follows concerns among teachers that a statutory duty upon teachers to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism is actually closing space for debate and leading to radicalisation.

Teachers argue that there are already "long established and robust" safeguarding mechanisms in schools to spot potential radicalisation among pupils.

However, the Counter Terrorism and Security Act places a statutory duty on teachers to prevent young people from being "drawn into terrorism".

Already, there have been cases where pupils have been wrongly referred to the authorities for comments they made in class and some teachers are shutting down spaces of debate as a result, the motion will say.

Speaking ahead of the motion, which will be discussed at the NUT’s annual conference in Brighton on Saturday, Christine Blower, the union’s general secretary, said: "The precursor position for us is that teachers know that they have a moral as well as a professional responsibility to keep young people safe. That’s keeping them safe from everything from sexual grooming to preventing them from becoming radicalised not just from Islam but also from extreme right wing ideas.

"Young people are more likely to be preyed to radicalisation of one kind or another when they are at home surfing the internet than at school. It’s important that schools have the space and that teachers use the professional judgement to allow for debate to happen. That way young people will have reasonable ideas rather than unreasonable ideas when they are sitting at home in front of the computer.

"We want it to be possible to come into school and know that there is a safe space to discuss ideas and we don’t want teachers feeling that they need to close the space. There are some already thoroughly discussed cases where people have got it wrong.

Her comments followed a conclusion by David Anderson QC, an independent reviewer of the terrorism legislation, who said that "if wrong decisions are taken, the new law risks provoking a backlash in affected communities, hardening perceptions of an illiberal or Islamophobic approach, alienating those whose integration into British society is already fragile…"

Ms Blower added: "Of course we have to keep children safe, but we need to review the prevent agenda, which is having the outcome in some spaces of closing down the space for debate rather than allowing for the debate that will vaccinate young people against [radical ideologies]."

Reaction on the motion, Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: "The requirement on schools to spot and report radicalisation risks teachers over-reacting. Schools themselves should be safe spaces in which ideas can be expressed.

"Let's trust the teachers, on the one hand, to report real concerns about children attracted to terrorism and, on the other, to protect children from being bullied because of who they are and what they think."

A government spokesman said: "We make no apology for protecting children and young people from the risks of extremism and radicalisation. It’s irresponsible to draw attention to such ‘sensationalist’ cases and undermine the efforts of teachers who use their judgement and act proportionally. Prevent is playing a key role in identifying children at risk of radicalisation and supporting schools to intervene.

"Good schools will already have been safeguarding children from extremism and promoting fundamental British values long before this duty came into force. We have published guidance on the Prevent Duty and made a wide range of advice and materials available to the sector through our Educate Against Hate website."


A Facebook status post mocking "safe spaces" at  Ryerson, a major Canadian university, causes rage

It was posted by a student there -- by a member of a student organization

The status, which was posted by Dan Petz, the RMA’s vice-president of corporate relations, included a rant about "fascist practices disguised as ‘safe spaces.’"

Petz, a third-year commerce student, wrote, "Please if you need a safe space go home, you can be safe there. I am growing sick of this childish nonsense and I didn’t pay thousands of dollars to be coddled like a little bitch. I am not going to take it anymore, and neither should you."

Screenshots of the status were shared on Facebook, with students expressing concerns over Petz’s inflammatory comments.

Petz, who currently sits on the course unions committee at the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), also ran for a seat on the Ryerson senate this month as the Ted Rogers School of Management representative.

John Sullivan, a third-year RTA school of media student, shared Petz’s status on his own Facebook page, saying that he was worried that an elected representative of a Ryerson course union was denouncing the need for safe spaces on campus.

"If someone has a shitty opinion, that’s fine. But if someone has that shitty opinion as they’re actively trying to get more involved in student life and they express that opinion in ways that aren’t conducive to creating a better environment for students, then that’s when I kind of go, ‘Well hey, if this person is supposed to be a representative of the school, then I’m not really comfortable with that,’" Sullivan said.

Rabia Idrees, the current Ryerson Students’ Union vice-president equity, said that it is "easy for somebody who has never had the need for safe spaces to say that they aren’t necessary.

"For somebody like me, who is racialized and a woman, if I saw something like this in the classroom, and the majority of people had the same kind of mindset, that wouldn’t be a safe space for me," Idrees said. "That would affect my own learning ability.

"He has not really thought out how this affects all of the other people who are not male, not white, not in a business program and don’t see the world in numbers."

Alyson Rogers, co-founder of the Ryerson Feminist Collective, said that she finds it "extremely concerning that he is a representative of Ryerson students."

"If (Petz) is someone who feels he can walk out in the world and feel safe and not have any concerns about his safety, then that’s great, but not everybody has that luxury," she said.

"That’s actually a huge privilege to have. I think there needs to be some understanding that not everybody has that, so there is a real need for safe spaces on campus," Rogers said. "A comment like this is extremely insensitive and only takes into account his lived experiences and discounts those of everybody else on this campus."

The RMA distanced itself from Petz after his comments began to pick up traction on social media, saying in a statement on its Facebook page that the opinions and political views of its team members "are not necessarily in line with that of the (RMA) as an organization."

Ryerson currently has six equity service centres on campus sponsored by the RSU, including the Racialized Students Collective, RyeAccess, the Centre for Women and Trans People, the Trans Collective, the Good Food Centre and RyePride. As well, the Aboriginal Multipurpose Student Space is a dedicated safe space for aboriginal students.

Petz did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


The Hypocrisy Behind the Student Renaming Craze

University students across the country — at Amherst, Georgetown, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UC Berkeley and dozens of other campuses — are caught up in yet another new fad.

This time, the latest college craze is a frenzied attempt to rename campus buildings and streets. Apparently some of those names from the past do not fit students' present litmus tests on race, class and gender correctness.

Stanford students are demanding the rebranding of buildings, malls and streets bearing the name of Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Franciscan priest who some 250 years ago founded California’s famous chain of 21 coastal missions. The sainted Serra was often unkind to Native Americans and by our standards racist in his worldview.

Harvard is ditching its law school’s seal because it is based on the coat of the arms of the Isaac Royall family. Isaac Royal Jr. donated his estate to create Harvard’s first law professorship, but he and his family owned slaves, so apparently that cancels out his philanthropy.

For students, politically incorrect actions in politically incorrect eras mean that otherwise generous historical figures have to be judged as bad in all aspects — at least by 21st century standards. But why the sudden nationwide renaming frenzy — and how is it any different from other campus fads?

Are students aware of the historical antecedents, like the fickle ancient Roman practice of the postmortem erasing of someone’s name from all mention (damnatio memoriae)? Have they any idea that they are playing roles right out of George Orwell’s dystopian works "Animal Farm" and "1984"? Do they know the history of the verb "Trotskyize"?

The renaming craze is not really about race, class and gender correctness at all. If it were, there would be no Warren Hall at UC Berkeley. Before liberal Earl Warren became chief justice of the Supreme Court, he was the California attorney general who instigated the wartime internment of tens of thousands of Japanese-American citizens. There also would be no Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. President Wilson was a man of dubious racial attitudes who infamously re-segregated the federal workforce.

Instead, the "Animal Farm" rules of the current campus bullies go something like this: Some incorrect people from centuries ago are bad, but other politically incorrect people from the recent past are not quite so bad if they were at least sometimes liberal.

Or are students even hypocritical with their made-up litmus tests?

Few students are demanding, for instance, that San Diego State University drop the school nickname "Aztecs." The imperialistic Aztecs sacrificed tens of thousands of victims from among the tribes they conquered — often ripping out the hearts of their living victims — and enslaved even more.

Should UC Berkeley students demand the renaming of their Cesar E. Chavez Student Center, on the contemporary campus principle that not being a saint in the past means becoming a sinner in the present? Chavez, the iconic farm-labor activist, sent his lieutenants down to the southern border to use violence to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the U.S. He courted Ferdinand Marcos, the cutthroat dictator of the Philippines, to support his union. And Chavez tried to implement the Gestapo-like management principles of the discredited cult Synanon among his United Farm Workers hierarchy.

Is the logic of the campus bullies that some heroes did not mean to do bad things, and so they cannot be judged by the standards of the moment — at least not if they were liberal and deemed politically correct?

Students fail to realize that revolutionary tastes change quickly, and yesterday’s PC hero can become today’s pariah. Based on students' own expanding definition of sexual assault and the curtailment of freedom of speech, former president and notorious womanizer Bill Clinton would not be allowed to set foot on any campus because of his past exploitation of women. Nor would his enabler, Hillary Clinton, who in the past has sought to demonize her husband’s female accusers.

There are other hypocrisies in the campus renaming fad.

Why would Stanford students just stop with airbrushing away Father Serra’s name? The university’s co-founder, philanthropist Leland Stanford, who was also governor of California, exploited Chinese laborers to help build the transcontinental railroad. He even dubbed them a "degraded" people.

Today’s students, however, have invested tens of thousands of dollars into their blue-chip Stanford-branded educations. So far, they have shown no desire to lose that snob appeal and expensive cachet — or perhaps have their degrees restamped from Stanford to something more politically correct but less marketable, such as Ohlone College, which would honor the original pre-Colonial peoples of the surrounding Silicon Valley region.

In the 1930s, half-educated student faddists swallowed goldfish. In the 1950s, the silly campus craze was to cram into phone booths. In the 1960s, students went feral and torched buildings.

Now, they pout and rename things.


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