Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Harvard pulls offer to Parkland survivor

He was the only shooting survivor who refused to blame the gun so they would have got him for something

A survivor of the 2018 Parkland school shooting has had his offer of admission to Harvard University withdrawn over racist comments he made two years ago.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Kyle Kashuv shared several letters he received from Harvard, first notifying him his admission offer was being reconsidered in light of the comments and, later that it was being revoked.

The decision stems from comments that were shared among friends when he was 16, months before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Screenshots circulated on social media appear to show the teenager using racial slurs on Google Docs, an online word processor, and in text messages.

The comments include anti-Semitic barbs and repeated use of a slur referring to black people.

The now 18 year old , told Harvard that he "unequivocally" apologises and that the remarks don't represent the person he is today. "I take responsibility for the idiotic and hurtful things I wrote two years ago," he wrote in a letter.

In response, Harvard 's admissions dean William Fitzsimons said the institution was "sorry about the circumstances that have led us to withdraw your admission".

"The committee takes seriously the qualities of maturity and moral character," he added.

Harvard sparked debate in 2017 when it pulled offers from 10 incoming freshmen after they reportedly made racist and sexually offensive comments on Facebook.

Mr.Kashuv said he had been planning to take a year off before starting at Harvard, so he could continue his work promoting school safety.

Now he's "exploring all options," he said, but has missed the deadline for many colleges and already turned down other offers.


UK: Teachers are 'too scared' to discuss Empire, director says

Children are no longer taught about Empire because well-meaning educationalists are "frightened" of discussing the subject, Gurinder Chadha has suggested.

The British-Indian director of Bend It Like Beckham was talking in the run-up to the launch of her new ITV series.

Beecham House is set in 18th century India and follows the exploits of a former East India Company officer.

Chadha's last project, Viceroy's House, explored Partition and the end of Empire through the eyes of Lord and Lady Mountbatten. But she worries that the history is unknown to schoolchildren today.

"Most children in British schools aren't even told now that there was an Empire, that the British ruled India," she told Radio Times. "Of course, it's wrong." Asked if that was because educationalists wanted to avoid giving offence in multicultural classrooms, Chadha replied: "Yes, they're frightened of telling the truth."

Beecham House provides a benevolent view of the men of the East India Company, with the French portrayed as the villains of the era as they vied for control of the country's trade.

Chadha, who wrote and directed the drama, said: "History is how you interpret it. I'm sure there will be historians who will take issue, because what I've made is a drama, not a documentary. If I wanted to be 100 per cent accurate, I'd make a factual series for the History channel."

She added: "It's an adventure and a love story. But - hopefully - if you're open to it, a story about today. Because John is an immigrant, looking for a better life. And it's about nationhood, so it has obvious connections with now.

"The most exciting thing is simply having Indians in period costumes on prime time British TV - where their lives and loves are as important as their white counterparts. That's a flipping radical thing. That's something I'd never have imagined seeing when I was watching The Jewel in the Crown."

In an effort to turn her leading actors into screen heart-throbs, Chadha encouraged Tom Bateman and Leo Suter (who play brothers John and Daniel Beecham) to go shirtless. "So we're competing with Poldark!" she said, adding that she had reframed one shot after "realising, when looking down the lens, how ripped one of the actors' bodies was when he took his shirt off".

The series, much of it shot in Rajasthan, has been dubbed "the Delhi Downton" because it looks at the lives of characters above and below stairs.

Chadha has previously said that Britain's involvement in India was more complex than some critics of the Empire would have us believe.

Speaking at the series launch, she said: "As a director, I always want you to like my characters. Even if they're really mean and horrible. I always have to find something about them that I understand and respect.

"Every single person in that East India Company was doing the right thing as far as they were concerned."


Top bosses of Australian universities endorse free speech

The chancellors agree to adopt the model proposed by former High Court chief justice Robert French, thus shafting their wishy-washy Vice-chancellors.  But it will be up to the Vice-chancellors to administer the model

Today we report that Peter Shergold, John Brumby, Angus Houston and other heavy-hitters who serve as university chancellors are taking seriously the activist challenge to open inquiry and free speech on campus.

This is good news, because Universities Australia, the lobby for the vice-chancellors in charge of campus life, reckons there isn’t a problem. This is an issue that goes to the heart of higher education and its interplay with values and institutions in the wider culture. The task of universities is to pursue knowledge and truth, encouraging young minds to range widely, reason honestly and test their opinions against other views. None of this amounts to “hate speech”, the lazy smear now aimed at opinions that depart from progressive orthodoxy. If society is to solve complex problems, we need graduate-citizens who won’t tailor their thinking to audience sensitivities.

But the trojan horse of “social justice” has brought unhinged activism into higher education. Politics and academic integrity do not go together, especially when emotionally brittle activists demand “safety” from competing viewpoints — opinions, not hate speech. The future of universities in their present form is not assured. They undermine their true interests if they appease noisy minorities. Online courses have yet to shatter the face-to-face campus business model but entrepreneurs, companies and technologists are all actively investigating cheaper, better and more flexible options. Meanwhile, the cost of professional qualifications is rising (two degrees are often needed now for entry-level jobs) and discontent with value for money is likely to intensify.

Universities are less dependent on public money these days but they cannot afford to alienate the federal government, which has noticed the change in campus climate. Last year, psychologist Bettina Arndt, a sceptic of the claimed “rape crisis” at university, faced ugly attempts to shut down her speaking tour. A visiting US paediatrician, deemed “transphobic” for opposing sex change treatment of children, was “deplatformed” at the University of Western Australia. Also last year, physics professor Peter Ridd, a climate science critic, was unlawfully dismissed by James Cook University, partly for breaching a (difficult to satirise) order that he not satirise the disciplinary process against him.

All this, and the passivity of UA, helps explain the intervention by Education Minister Dan Tehan last November. He appointed former High Court chief justice Robert French to look into campus freedom. Mr Tehan’s action presented no threat to university autonomy. He has highlighted a missed opportunity for the sector to self-regulate. In the US, the Heterodox Academy has emerged to champion “viewpoint diversity”. Key figures in this movement — including psychologists Steven Pinker and Jonathan Haidt — are classical liberals, hardly anti-intellectual right-wing enemies of the academy. It’s heartening that Heterdox has a foothold here in Australia.

UA’s shabby reception of Mr French’s report in April shows the need for leadership on this fundamental question of principle. The lobby seized upon Mr French’s legalistic finding of “no crisis” in campus speech, ignoring his pointed remarks about the vulnerability of free expression under the endless rules and codes that entangle university life. UA has to judge for itself how best to protect the lucrative education industry it represents, its reputation, recruitment prospects and revenue streams.

But there are dissident vice-chancellors behind the collective indifference of the lobby. Dawn Freshwater, vice-chancellor at UWA, has certainly stolen a march with a new, beefed up statement telling students (and staff) that they have to be open to viewpoints at odds with their own, a sometimes uncomfortable experience that any thoughtful person has to get used to. And now university chancellors have agreed in principle to Mr French’s suggestion that universities adopt a voluntary model code making freedom of expression a paramount concern. (Mr French is also chancellor of UWA.)

It’s important to keep a sense of proportion. Even in the humanities and social sciences, where progressive groupthink is strongest, there are many scholars quietly faithful to evidence. It seems big city elite institutions are more likely to suffer from a dysfunctional campus culture. That is the case in the US, where the problem is worst. But all the Anglosphere countries have some level of this corruption and the US experience shows it can spread very quickly. The task is to prevent a crisis and resist a dysfunctional culture already present in higher education, as well as the corporate world.

In business the same ideology of selective “diversity” put paid to the career of footballer Israel Folau and generated the Orwellian newspeak of “behavioural awareness officers” for the AFL. Like the May 18 election result, the good sense of the mainstream will impose a correction; there are already hopeful signs. But why can’t more vice-chancellors see the advantage of rising to the occasion and becoming authors of their own reform?


No comments: