Sunday, September 27, 2020

Extremism in schools

 I've just seen this trending on social media. I've not had chance to look further into it, but it seems the Department for Education has recently banned schools from using resources from organisations holding 'extreme' views, even if the resources in question are not themselves extremist. 

 Here is an excerpt (emphases added):

“Schools should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters. This is the case even if the material itself is not extreme, as the use of it could imply endorsement or support of the organisation.”

It listed examples of what were described as “extreme political stances”, such as “a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections”; opposition to freedom of speech; the use of racist, including antisemitic, language; the endorsement of illegal activity; and a failure to condemn illegal activities done in support of their cause.

I see a number of problems.

Why is a desire to abolish democracy or capitalism inherently 'extreme'? And could one not also be a pro-democracy/capitalism extremist? In which case, perhaps by trying to stifle opposition, the Department itself qualifies as extremist.

In any case, this guidance could also be seen as opposing free speech. That's not obviously true, because the restriction is not on the expression of these views as such, but only their use within schools. There are many things that teachers may be free to do in general, but not to do in a classroom.

Still, there's a case that the Department is 'tak[ing] extreme political stances on matters' - in which case, ironically, any resources it produces should not be used in schools.

Further, while this does not go as far as banning the teaching of these views in schools, it is clearly an impediment to doing so. It's all the more incumbent, then, that universities expose students to these ideas. Next thing we know, universities will be accused (again) of trying to brainwash students with lefty liberalism...

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Applauding one's opponents

 I just read this interview with Andy Robertson on the BBC website, in which he suggests that "Marcus Rashford could be the first Manchester United player to get a standing ovation here [at Anfield]."

No doubt Rashford would be deserving, but he wouldn't be the first. I was immediately reminded of Alan Smith's nasty injury.