Sunday, July 29, 2018

Manchester University students paint over Rudyard Kipling mural. Students replace poem If by ‘well-known racist’ with Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise

This is simply ignorant.  Kipling was born in India and anybody who has read his famous novel "Kim" will recollect a quite loving tale about India.  If anything, Kipling portrayed India and Indians too favourably, failing to make much mention of its poverty.

And his poem "If" is simply widely known advice to persevere in adversity, an entirely personal poem with no mention of any ethnic group or political situation.

And people who condemn his poem "The white man's burden" have almost certainly not read it.  It is in fact in praise of an American "Progressive", Theodore Roosevelt.

In the poem, Kipling was setting out the duty of  the British to help poor populations and said that they would have to do so without expecting any praise for it.  He was right about that.

If anyone doubts the humane impulse that formed British colonial policy, just reflect that it was in 1807 that Britain became the first major country to abolish slavery. And, unlike Abraham Lincoln many years later, the British both attacked it outside their own domain and abolished it at home. Lincoln's war "against slavery" was fought while permitting slavery in the North! Lincoln's war was really a power-motivated war with slavery as a thin pretext.

And the humane thinking (mostly of Christian origin) behind British policy is spelled out in Kipling's poem. Kipling saw the British as having a civilizing mission and saw that mission as one of replacing primitive values with humane and Christian ones. And he persuaded himself that TR had such values too. He wrote his poem as a commentary on the American takeover of the Philippines. He saw America as joining Britain in the mission of civilizing backward people.

It was a very idealistic poem. Kipling was a writer, not any sort of colonialist.  The egotistical poem by Maya Angelou is a much lesser work.  It's just a Leftist whine

Kipling's poem "If", which was written around 1895, had been painted on the wall of the university’s newly refurbished students’ union. But students painted over the verses, replacing them with the 1978 poem Still I Rise by the US poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

In a statement on Facebook, Sara Khan, the union’s liberation and access officer, said students had not been consulted about the art that would decorate the union building.

“We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for,” she said.

“Well known as author of the racist poem The White Man’s Burden, and a plethora of other work that sought to legitimate the British empire’s presence in India and dehumanise people of colour, it is deeply inappropriate to promote the work of Kipling in our SU, which is named after prominent South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.”

Kipling, born in Mumbai in 1865, was the first English-language writer to be awarded the Nobel prize in literature, in 1907, and he remains its youngest recipient to date.

His works have long been criticised for their colonialist sympathies, with George Orwell writing in 1942 that Kipling was a “jingo imperialist” and “morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting”.

The White Man’s Burden, written in 1899 during the Philippine–American war, encourages the US to assume colonial control of the country.

Khan said the decision to paint over the mural was “a statement on the reclamation of history by those who have been oppressed by the likes of Kipling for so many centuries, and continue to be to this day”.

A spokesman for the union apologised for not considering student opinion before commissioning the mural. “We understand that we made a mistake in our approach to a recent piece of artwork by failing to garner student opinion at the start of a new project. We accept that the result was inappropriate and for that we apologise,” he said.

If is one of Kipling’s most well-known works. Two lines from the poem (“If you can meet with triumph and disaster / and treat those two impostors just the same”) are written on the wall of the players’ entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

Janet Montefiore, a professor emeritus at the University of Kent and editor of the Kipling Journal, said the students should have been consulted about the mural as it was “their wall” but that the decision to paint over the poem was “a bit OTT”.

“Of course he was a racist. Of course he was an imperialist, but that’s not all he was and it seems to me a pity to say so,” she said. Montefiore argued that Kipling was “a magical storyteller” and that his perspective was part of history. “You don’t want to pretend that it all didn’t happen,” she said.

“Dickens said dreadful things about black people in the Jamaica rebellion. Does that mean you don’t read Dickens?”

She added: “If is not a racist poem. It’s a poem of good advice. I don’t personally like [the poem] but it has meant a great deal to a lot of people.” Montefiore invited Khan to write a piece for the Kipling Journal, setting out her opposition to the writer.

Amit Chaudhuri, author and professor of contemporary literature at the University of East Anglia, said Kipling was “a compelling and very, very gifted writer” who “clearly had racist prejudices”.

He said Kipling wrote about India in a language that was “very interesting, rather than merely exotic”.

“What in a lesser writer would have been predictable is in him very unpredictable and alive,” said Chaudhuri. “There are great blind spots in Kipling and the blind spots are all the more curious and regrettable because they occur in a writer who was extraordinarily observant and acute in his observations.”

Chaudhuri added: “There may be a case for rethinking our relationship to writers and whether writers are ever perfect but also for rethinking our own desire to for them to be perfect.”


Overhaul of sex education in England could elevate LGBT rights

England’s schools could for the first time treat LGBT life the same as heterosexuality in a radical shift that campaigners say would transform the lives of children struggling with their sexuality or gender.

According to draft guidance published by Britain’s Department of Education (DoE), children from five to 16 would be taught that other families, “either in school or in the wider world, sometimes look different from their family”.

The existing rules governing sex education in schools, which came into force in 2000, state there should be “no direct promotion of sexual orientation”, angering many activists.

“All young people deserve an education that reflects and celebrates the diversity of our communities,” Ruth Hunt, chief executive of LGBT rights group Stonewall, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Far too many lesbian, gay, bi and trans students are leaving school, having received no information or advice on how to lead healthy and safe relationships.

“[The proposed changes] will transform the experience of many thousands of LGBT young people at school.”

Under the proposed guidelines, children of both primary and secondary-school age will be taught about marriage and civil partnerships of both same-sex and heterosexual couples.

“It’s a big step,” said Ian Bauckham, a former head teacher who advised the government. “The over-arching principle that runs across both primary and secondary schools is that all teaching about relationships must be LGBT inclusive.”

Britain’s other regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all have devolved education authorities with differing approaches. Wales, for example, recently announced a revamp of its curriculum that will introduce “relationships and sexuality education” for all children.

Countries such as Denmark and Sweden also focus on teaching pupils about the wider aspects of sexuality – rather than simply offering advice about sexual relations.

“Sex education needs to prepare young people for adult relationships,” said Katherine O’Brien, head of policy research at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

Society is also becoming more comfortable with LGBT matters – and at a much earlier age than the previous generation.

According to a recent BPAS survey of 1,004 16-18-year-olds, 17 percent identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual (none did as transgender). A survey by Stonewall last year estimated the number at 2 percent of the British population.

“Sex education has to be reflective of the fact that many young people do identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual – and it makes no sense to exclude them,” O’Brien said.


Know-nothing journalists

JOURNALISM graduates are leaving university "almost comically underprepared" to work in the real world, according to a local newspaper editor.

Paul Mitchell, group editor of the South Australian Riverland paper The Murray Pioneer, said six young hopefuls during the paper's recent recruitment process were "completely clueless", unable to answer a series of basic politics, current affairs and general knowledge questions.

The 23 questions included head-scratchers such as "Who is Australia's Treasurer?", "What does NBN stand for?" and "Which political party does Donald Trump represent?" Only two of the six knew the name of the federal opposition leader, while one confused him with the PM.

"This isn't just a bad batch of candidates," Mitchell wrote in an editorial last week. "The Pioneer has been running basically the same test for many years, only altering the handful of current affairs questions included on the list.

"The abysmal results have been consistent, and if anything are slowly getting worse. What do the poor general knowledge and current affairs results say about our schooling system, and more specifically, our university system?"

Try your hand at the full quiz below. "If you get 10 correct, you're doing better than most of the allegedly news-hungry and switched-on job hunters fresh out of their journalism courses, ready to `tell people's stories' and take on the world," Mitchell said.

Mitchell told the editorial, which included sample responses from the six candidates, had "generated a lot of feedback" from people in the local area. He said most who took the test themselves scored in the 20s.

"Most people were a bit shocked at the responses we got to the test," he said. Asked whether he blamed the quality of the university courses or graduates' reliance on social media for their news, he said it was a "combination of both".

"When they've completed their studies and they get these type of results, that makes me scratch my head a little, but equally if these young people are serious about careers in media and journalism you'd think they'd be a little more switched on," he said.

But he didn't pin the blame for lack of preparation on a sense of entitlement, saying he hadn't picked that up from candidates. "Some of them are just generally clueless," he said.


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