Monday, December 18, 2017

Student campaigners branded Oxford professor 'bigoted' and his article 'racist'

It's the students who were able to see only one side of the question who are the real bigots

Oxford students have branded an eminent professor ‘bigoted’ after he suggested feelings of guilt around British colonialism may have gone too far.

Nigel Biggar, regius professor of moral and pastoral theology at Christ Church college, said society should take a more balanced view of the Empire rather than simply remembering it with shame.

He acknowledged ‘atrocities’ had occurred under colonial rule, but said it had also provided law and order in other countries that many citizens had valued.

The comments were made in an opinion piece for a newspaper, titled ‘Don’t feel guilty about our colonial history’.

Yesterday, student campaigners at Oxford called the article ‘racist’ and claimed it ‘whitewashed’ the British Empire.

Common Ground, a student-run race rights group, wrote an open letter condemning the article and claiming it ‘seeks to justify’ colonialism. It also said Professor Biggar should not be allowed to run his new academic project, called Ethics and Empire, which the students said filled them with ‘horror’.

However, Oxford University last night stood by the professor, saying he was ‘entirely suitable’ and an ‘internationally-recognised authority on the ethics of empire’. It said it supported ‘academic freedom of speech’, which must not be allowed to be curtailed in the face of protesters.

Professor Biggar has been at Oxford for a decade and is also a canon of Christ Church Cathedral. He is the director of Oxford’s McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life.

His article, in The Times newspaper, said ‘apologising for empire is now compulsory but shame can stop us tackling the world’s problems’.

It pointed out that Britons may become too afraid to intervene in human rights abuses abroad if they saw all past foreign policy as inherently bad. He said: ‘If on the other hand we recognise that the history of the British Empire was morally mixed, just like that of any nation state, then pride can temper shame.

‘Pride at the Royal Navy’s century-long suppression of the Atlantic slave trade, for example, will not be entirely obscured by shame at the slaughter of innocents at Amritsar in 1919.

‘And while we might well be moved to think with care about how to intervene abroad successfully, we won’t simply abandon the world to its own devices.’

The students said: ‘The inaccuracy displayed by Biggar, as well as a conspicuous lack of rigour, must not go unchallenged. He implies colonised societies had no political order prior to colonisation, invoking a racist, hackneyed, and fictional trope about the nature of pre-colonial societies … [he] seeks to justify a post-colonial agenda of interference that destabilises developing nations.’

They said of Ethics and Empire: ‘We believe Nigel Biggar has shown himself to be an inauspicious and inappropriate leader for this project… Is this what is needed at the University of Oxford – a project led by someone pushing to “moderate our post-imperial guilt”?’

They called on the university to answer what input ‘students of colour’ had in the project and who was funding it.

‘The proud announcement of this project, following on the heels of Biggar’s bigoted article, reflects a university that has shown itself to be singularly incapable of reckoning with its colonial past – and singularly incapable of taking responsibility for how that past continues to shape its present and its future,’ they said.

‘If the University of Oxford, our university, wanted to reckon properly with that past – and its impact on the present and future – it would not stand idly by in the face of Biggar’s commendation of imperialists and apologies for colonialism.’

An Oxford spokesman said: ‘We absolutely support academic freedom of speech. The history of empire is a complex topic and it is important that universities consider our global history from a variety of perspectives.

‘This is a valid, evidence-led academic project and Professor Biggar, who is an internationally-recognised authority on the ethics of empire, is an entirely suitable person to lead it.’

It comes following the failure of a campaign at Oxford to tear down a statue of Cecil Rhodes because of his life as an imperialist. Students at other universities have tried to ‘no-platform’ academics on their campuses because they disliked their views.


On campus, ‘diversity’ is now a threat to free thought

Equality quangos are pressuring universities to buy into PC ideology

We’re used to hearing stories about some universities making life difficult for those who openly disagree with a predominantly liberal-left outlook. Less well-known is a movement to railroad universities into endorsing as official policy some truly controversial views on race, gender and equality.

Until about 10 years ago, universities by and large concentrated on their primary functions of teaching students, sponsoring research, and hiring and supporting academics. Of course, they rightly had to practise fairness and non-discrimination in doing this. But they still regarded education and research as their primary purpose, and would never have dreamed of making the promotion of equality or diversity a primary aim in its own right.

Unfortunately, this sensible and balanced view has largely gone. Not only do we have a new breed of academic interested in process over purpose and ‘social justice’ over everything - we now also have the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).

The ECU is a little-known organisation founded in 2005 and based in London. It has a staff of around 40, overseen by a board of 13 drawn mainly from the academic great and good. It is bankrolled by Universities UK, similar Welsh and Scottish higher-education bodies, and organisations such as the Royal Society, and is subscribed to to the tune of a few thousand pounds per year by just about every university in the UK. The ECU functions as a kind of equality pressure group, and sponsors two so-called charter marks – the Race Equality Charter and the gender-equality charter, Athena Swan – which are awarded to universities and university departments that meet certain requirements.

This academic quango may be well-meaning, but it is far from clear whether it is worth funding. For one thing, the cost of premises and a staff of 40-plus on central London salaries could presumably cover a decent number of bench fees, library books, or, for that matter, researchers. For another, universities themselves have their own army of equality and diversity officers, not to mention human-resources departments charged with being up-to-date on anti-discrimination law.

Indeed, the ECU isn’t just concerned with traditional ‘fair treatment’ equality – the sort no one would object to. Instead, it goes a good deal further. Take the Race Equality Charter, which universities are under almost irresistible peer pressure to adopt. If a university wants to participate, its vice-chancellor must formally endorse a document stating, among other things, that ‘racism is an everyday facet of UK society’ and that ‘diverse teams enhance creativity and promote innovation’.

For Athena Swan, the process is similar. Universities signing up to it must commit themselves to ‘addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions’; ‘making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality’; and ‘tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people’.

Now, these aims and assertions may or may not be justified. But it is deeply problematic that universities, supposed homes of free thought, are now expected to adopt them as a sort of academic equivalent of the Thirty-Nine Articles. And this is just the basics. The charters also have bronze, silver and gold awards, which require universities to go a good deal further.

Dig deeper into ECU documents and you see far more concerning examples of a postmodern, victim-centred approach to equality. Its explanatory document on gender, for example, claims gender is ‘self-determined by [people’s] internal perception, identification and experience’, and ‘often performed – meaning that gender is a “doing” or active experience’.

Of course, participation with the ECU is voluntary. But this is true only in a very literal sense. UK research councils consider participation in Athena Swan when issuing grants. And the next Research Excellence Framework, which will report in 2021, is likely to include a requirement not only that universities participate in Athena Swan, but that individual departments have at least a bronze award.

This is bad news for those of us who believe the university should be a place for free debate, rather than evangelising an official, or semi-official, ideology.


Australia: Pro-homosexual school program is gone, but its influence remains

Miranda Devine

EDUCATION bureaucrats keep trying to find ways to get around the NSW government’s ban on the “sexual and gender fluidity” sex education program known as Safe Schools.

This time it’s an attack on special religious education (SRE) classes. New education department guidelines issued in September banned volunteer scripture teachers from referring to sexual and gender issues.

In a letter this month responding to complaints from Presbyterian minister Rev Dr Peter Barnes, and Anglican minister Rev David Milne, Rod Megahey, assistant director of primary education, cited a departmental review of the SRE program which had elicited complaints from a “small number” of parents who “objected to secondary school SRE teachers addressing issues of sexuality and expressing homophobic views.”

Rev Barnes, of Revesby, and Rev Milne, of Panania, are insulted by the charge of homophobia. They want to know whether the new policy means that SRE teachers are not allowed to teach the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, or the Sermon on the Mount, which includes the line: “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

Rev Barnes asks if the Ten Commandments has to become the “Nine Suggestions”.

“Such a policy would clearly hand over the teaching of sexual ethics to those of the same mindset as the one who brought in the Safe Schools Program. “So much for freedom of religion, even in voluntary SRE classes.”

That’s the point. Religious education classes are voluntary, and if parents want their children to learn Christian ethics, that is their right. Parents who object to Christian teachings equally have the right not to allow their children to attend the classes.

But they don’t have the right to force their values on to other people’s children.


No comments: