Political philosophy now illegal in the UK

by Chris Bertram on March 13, 2015

Well, almost. The British government has just produced the guidance for its “Prevent” scheme for education, which aims to stop young people from being drawn into “extremism”. The elite at Oxford and Cambridge have been granted a specific exemption, allowing them to hear dangerous ideas that might corrupt the ordinary youth, and universities haven’t been given specific guidance on what they may teach. Colleges of further education, on the other hand, have been told that “All relevant curriculum areas will need to be engaged, with a single contact point for delivery of Prevent-related activity.” This so that students are not exposed to arguments that involve

“active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

I suppose it will be news to some that these are “British” values, particularly if they are Irish or live in the former colonies. But leaving that aside, it looks like Plato is off the menu and to make sure:

“Compliance with the duty will be monitored centrally via the Home Office and through appropriate inspection regimes in each sector.”

Well, that’s freedom for you.

{ 200 comments }

1

Ben Alpers 03.13.15 at 4:54 pm

The elite at Oxford and Cambridge have been granted a specific exemption, allowing them to hear dangerous ideas that might corrupt the ordinary youth.

‘Cause, lord knows, those institutions never produce any “extremists.”

2

Adam Hammond 03.13.15 at 5:21 pm

As plain as the problems are with America’s system of private and state-by-state colleges, the system does make it (slightly) harder for a single authority to muck everything up. It takes all of us doing our small parts!

3

Foppe 03.13.15 at 5:25 pm

Awesome. (Is there any point in saying more?)

4

phenomenal cat 03.13.15 at 5:28 pm

Are there mechanisms to enforce this stupidity? Can it be more or less ignored?

5

MPAVictoria 03.13.15 at 5:29 pm

I for one welcome our new Home Officer overlords. All Hail to the Home Office!

6

Matt 03.13.15 at 5:30 pm

Will you still be allowed to study these things elsewhere? Do they feel it’s just educational institutions where too much dangerous learning has happened?

7

Eric 03.13.15 at 5:33 pm

Will such institutions be permitted to discuss UKIP?

8

Matt Matravers 03.13.15 at 5:42 pm

Chris,
I’ve just downloaded the guidance document. I can’t see a reference to Oxford and Cambridge, but I have not read it carefully and may have missed something earlier.
On enforcement, the document says: “The Secretary of State will appoint an appropriate body to assess the bodies’ compliance with the Prevent duty. A separate monitoring framework will be published setting out the details of how this body will undertake monitoring of the duty.” So, more monitoring…

9

Brett Bellmore 03.13.15 at 5:48 pm

Probably, but only in derogatory terms.

10

Phil 03.13.15 at 5:49 pm

They’re treading very lightly in HE, I’m glad to see – nothing about course content at all. Where does the bit about Oxbridge exemptions come from?

11

Peter Dorman 03.13.15 at 5:51 pm

This is an exceptionally blunt and stupid way of addressing the “liberal paradox”, the limitations of liberalism in coping with views that are antagonistic toward liberalism. No one is more in need of education on the political philosophy of illiberalism than these blokes.

12

Chris Brooke 03.13.15 at 6:04 pm

Where does the bit about Oxbridge exemptions come from?

I believe it’s tehgraun’s spin on this exchange:
https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2015-02-04a.710.2

13

Neville Morley 03.13.15 at 6:05 pm

@Phil #9: strictly speaking it’s the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, on the grounds that they’re not really part of the universities in question.

Pretty sure that Thucydides is out as well.

14

novakant 03.13.15 at 6:15 pm

WOW! (Can’t say I didn’t see this coming, though.)

So what do we do? Overthrow the government? Who’s in?

15

js. 03.13.15 at 6:19 pm

If you took the guidance seriously, JS Mill might be out. JS fucking Mill!

16

Roger 03.13.15 at 6:31 pm

17

also david 03.13.15 at 6:38 pm

Since the Prevent program sounds like “active opposition to…individual liberty,” are universities prohibited from telling students about it?

18

Rich Puchalsky 03.13.15 at 6:40 pm

“Appropriate members of staff need to be trained to identify those at risk of radicalisation, and to know what to do in response, including referral into the Channel programme.”

That apparently means turning students “at risk of radicalization” (i.e. that have not committed any crimes) over to a police coordinator.

19

christian_h 03.13.15 at 6:41 pm

Oh my.

20

NomadUK 03.13.15 at 6:51 pm

No doubt, once identified and turned over to the police coordinator, students will be subject to a bit of rehabilitation.

21

Stuart Ingham 03.13.15 at 6:51 pm

22

Brett Bellmore 03.13.15 at 6:55 pm

Seems more than a little bit of an over-reaction. Straight from ignoring crimes, to reporting non-crimes. Couldn’t they have stopped half-way, at reporting crimes?

23

oldster 03.13.15 at 7:31 pm

“it looks like Plato is off the menu”

Yup, that was my first thought–Thrasymachus and Callicles are right out.

I also think that Shakespeare should be scrutinized rather carefully. Quite a lot of opposition to democracy throughout his works–“Take but degree away, untune that string, And, hark, what discord follows!” And a hundred passages more of elitist, royalist, anti-democratic sentiment. But then, what can you expect from a traitor to British values like Shakespeare?

24

Nicholas Denyer 03.13.15 at 7:46 pm

Where is this “specific exemption” granted to Oxford and Cambridge? I can see nothing of it the “Guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” published on https://www.gov.uk/gov…/publications/prevent-duty-guidance

25

Philip 03.13.15 at 7:54 pm

Oh FFS. Working in an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) department at an FE college in an area with relatively immigrants I can’t imagine what management will think of for us to comply with this and the dire warnings they’ll give for if we don’t.

Are debating societies of other universities exempt from this, or are the Oxford and Cambridge Unions different in their relationship to their respective universities?

26

JanieM 03.13.15 at 7:55 pm

Not to mention GBS.

27

Brett Bellmore 03.13.15 at 7:56 pm

Lest this old student radical, (Not at all the same flavor of student radical as you guys, I helped found a college chapter of the Libertarian Party way back when. But still, a student radical.) mislead you, I think there could be a real problem to be addressed, though this may be a clumsy approach.

Here in America we’ve got terrorists teaching the humanities, just because they managed to get off on a technicality. But the people who hired them, and retained them, know quite well they are murderers, and, what are they teaching impressionable students?

That murder in a political cause is ok, if you can manage not to get jailed for it?

I don’t know, so I’ll ask: You have anybody like Ayers in the UK, who might have inspired this? Are you so sure you’ve got nobody in your universities teaching murder?

28

christian_h 03.13.15 at 8:22 pm

Next up: bringing back the Popery Act.

29

Gareth Wilson 03.13.15 at 8:27 pm

In practice, this will obviously be used only against Muslims, and Muslim terrorists are the only reason why it was introduced. So would it be better or worse if it actually specified Muslims?

30

Ze Kraggash 03.13.15 at 8:33 pm

“But the people who hired them, and retained them, know quite well they are murderers, and, what are they teaching impressionable students?”

Right. Not to mention individuals involved in atrocities in Vietnam, Iraq, and other places. Although those things probably are compatible with the fundamental values, so no worries.

31

R Cottrell 03.13.15 at 8:35 pm

From Pink Floyd, another Brick in the Wall…….

32

engels 03.13.15 at 8:41 pm

“In practice, this will obviously be used only against Muslims”

That isn’t obvious to me.

33

Rich Puchalsky 03.13.15 at 8:48 pm

“In practice, this will obviously be used only against Muslims”

Oh yeah right. Let me guess, you’re not an anarchist. Although Muslims will certainly be the majority of victims, I expect that it will also be used against some people found particularly annoying, or in some cases such as when a student turns down a professor’s sexual proposition.

Once the guy on the other thread finishes explaining how the Sign of Chaos is worse than a swastika, who knows — maybe it’ll be used on anyone bringing an Elric book to campus.

34

nick s 03.13.15 at 8:53 pm

strictly speaking it’s the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, on the grounds that they’re not really part of the universities in question.

Which is true: they’re private members’ clubs. And in the case of the Oxford Union, it can’t be considered a breeding ground for political extremism if you consider all the Tories who held committee posit–oh.

35

roger nowosielski 03.13.15 at 9:26 pm

A sad state of affairs indeed. But how different is it, really, from a requirement on the part of faculty, in the sixties, to swear an oath of allegiance. Of course, now it’s the counter-terrorism measures that dictate the order of affairs — all in the name of our “liberty” to keep us safe and secure.

Strange as it may seem, I see a kind of disjoint here between this piece by the OP and the previous one, on the “ideal” theory. Will the real Chris Bertram please stand up!

36

Sam Dodsworth 03.13.15 at 10:11 pm

and, what are they teaching impressionable students?

Things that you disapprove of. And the world will be a better place for it.

37

SNG 03.13.15 at 10:46 pm

“We define fundamental British values as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs, and we expect institutions to encourage students to respect other people with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010 (including with that being used for schools).”

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/388934/45584_Prevent_duty_guidance-a_consultation_Web_Accessible.pdf

38

Phil 03.13.15 at 11:12 pm

Gareth’s right – this will be used almost exclusively against Muslims… for now. If you read the Prevent documentation, it veers between talking about extremism in the vaguest, most general forms and talking about expelling extremist preachers, keeping an eye on extremist mosques, etc. They know what they really mean.

But AQ and IS won’t be making the weather forever. Once the apparatus – and the mindset – is in place, it can be used against “vocal or active opposition to British values” in any form you like (as I said to my students the other day, opposition inside your head is still OK).

I’m just glad that the Lords’ amendments safeguarding freedom of speech and academic independence – in HE – seem to have had some effect. And sorry for everyone working in FE.

39

Brett Bellmore 03.13.15 at 11:15 pm

Or maybe the right proportion of nails to explosive in a nail bomb. Who knows?

40

Phil 03.13.15 at 11:15 pm

Roger – the main difference I see is that never in my lifetime have academics had to swear any kind of loyalty oath, in this country. Maybe 40 years ago you’d have got funny looks if you didn’t stand for God Save The Queen, but that’s about it.

41

MPAVictoria 03.13.15 at 11:21 pm

“Or maybe the right proportion of nails to explosive in a nail bomb. Who knows?”

Rather have Ayers than Yoo everyday of the week and twice on Sundays…

42

guthrie 03.13.15 at 11:32 pm

So on one hand we have someone who was responsible for some not deadly bombs decades ago, and on the other we have everyone from Kissinger to Yoo who knowingly violated the (claimed) ideals of the USA as well as some laws in order to promulgate and encourage wars in foreign countries which directly and indirectly killed many millions of innocent people.
I think we can see who is morally bankrupt here, and it isn’t Ayers.

43

guthrie 03.13.15 at 11:35 pm

I clicked through to the blog post that has the information, and found that itis also a bureaucrats dream, just like what the Tories claim not to like. Sentences like

“Those in leadership positions need to establish mechanisms to assess the risk, make sure staff understand the risk and know how to deal with it, actively communicate the importance of the duty and secure its effective implementation.”

Indicate the sort of structure and behaviour that Tories decry in other circumstances, such as health and safety.

44

stubydoo 03.13.15 at 11:43 pm

I’m not in the teaching profession myself (nor in Britain), but this sounds like a fantastic opportunity for somebody (perhaps somebody here) to be a celebrity test case, Scopes-monkey style.

Just pick a sympathetic enough work and ostentatiously start teaching it in a way that the authorities can’t ignore you.

How about Hobbes?

Or More’s Utopia?

45

stubydoo 03.13.15 at 11:45 pm

No wait, I’ve got it: Edmund Burke.

46

Layman 03.13.15 at 11:58 pm

“Here in America we’ve got terrorists teaching the humanities, just because they managed to get off on a technicality. But the people who hired them, and retained them, know quite well they are murderers, and, what are they teaching impressionable students?”

Who’d have thought Brett Bellmore was opposed to John Yoo teaching our kids!

47

Anderson 03.14.15 at 12:29 am

The challenge is, who unambiguously *can* be taught?

48

Alan White 03.14.15 at 1:39 am

And here I thought American and specifically Wisconsin-cheesehead anti-intellectualism was the exception. Indeed how morbidly effective the politics of fear and loathing are worldwide in the service of military-industrial plutocracy.

I use to argue, somewhat tongue and cheek, that the Middle Ages never ended–just endured fits and starts of what we called Modernity and the Enlightenment. Now I’m convinced that is the case, the only difference being that at least some serfs now earn a paltry minimum wage.

49

hix 03.14.15 at 2:05 am

Who needs political philosophy anyway. As long as there are many courses with names like security studies taught by ex military peoplee, everything students need to know about political science is sufficiently taught. The point of political science courses is to give students access to jobs related to the military budget as expert anylsts of the scary country du jour, not to learn political science. Teaching things that do not immidiatly translate into high paying jobs is post Jesus.

50

Omega Centauri 03.14.15 at 2:06 am

“opposition inside your head is still OK.”
Until they come up withnmindreading technology….

Don’t laugh. Its already possible in the lab to gauge peoples memories by watching the
response to subliminal stimulii. It may not be that long before it is possible
to probe one’s closely held beliefs.

51

Mark Brady 03.14.15 at 3:43 am

“The elite at Oxford and Cambridge have been granted a specific exemption.” No, the Oxford Union Society and the Cambridge Union Society are private clubs, just like the Durham Union Society that was founded in 1842.

52

Bill Murray 03.14.15 at 6:02 am

I imagine some students will miss neo-classical economics, but you can’t make Eggs Benedict without poaching some traitorous eggs

53

Mike Scott 03.14.15 at 6:53 am

There’s no exemption for Oxford and Cambridge. Those universities and their student unions are subject to the legislation in the same way as any other universities. Their Union Societies are not student unions or university bodies; they are private debating societies. There has simply been a clarification that they are therefore unaffected by the legislation, in exactly the same way as any other organisation that is not a student union and is not a university.

54

Chris Bertram 03.14.15 at 8:42 am

Those of us with long memories remember that Oxford University found it within its power to rusticate students for protests against events at the Oxford Union as recently as about 1980 (Nixon’s visit), the independent legal status of the Union notwithstanding. (I wonder if all the constituent colleges are technically within the scope of the legislation?)

Anyway, I take the point, of course, only pausing to note (a) that only Oxbridge benefited from this kind of reassurance, one not provided to the humble FE lecturer assembling a syllabus (b) only students at a few elite institutions benefit from access to this type of free-speech zone.

55

George Berger 03.14.15 at 8:52 am

This is a perfect opportunity for the British government’s partly privatised Behavioural Insights Team, a.k.a. Nudge Unit. Give them an office at every HE unit in the United Kingdom. Each one can figure out the best application of paternalistic totalitarianism for their domain. Set up a central bureau of Guardians in London, which will coordinate the nudging of each office. Within several years staff and students will behave normally, that is, as desired by those who know what right thought is, in any academic situation. Infuse a bit of Martin Seligman’s positive psychology of happiness, and no Soma will be needed. Just the occasional electrode for the truly deviant.

56

Abbe Faria 03.14.15 at 9:53 am

“Gareth’s right – this will be used almost exclusively against Muslims… for now.”

No it won’t, the UK government is terrified of public disturbance being caused by Muslims ‘provoked’ by the far right / far left / anti-Islamists. So they’ve a history of attempting appeasement by trying to suppress these groups. Examples? Numerous travel bans of critics: Geert Wilders, Pamela Geller, Michael Savage, etc. Prosecutions for speech: notably Nick Griffin’s 2004 speech about grooming gangs, something everyone now agrees was true but on which debate was shut down for a decade. Protest bans on movements like the EDL.

The UK also has long history of oppressing secular organisations which oppose Islamists, like the PMOI and PKK. Just today we’ve seen Silhan Ozcelik jailed for attempting to fight against ISIS. I’d encourage everyone to keep their eye on that one. You’ll also get to watch the entire liberal ‘human rights’ establishment – who are always eager to stand up to defend Jihadis – look the other way when someone’s prosecuted for defending civilisation against barbarism.

The UK gov will happily deploy this law against anti-Islamists.

57

guthrie 03.14.15 at 10:16 am

Abbe#56 – that’s the point, that the government of the day will deploy this law against whomever they find annoying or is in the way.

58

Phil 03.14.15 at 10:19 am

The EDL had a demonstration in Manchester city centre last Saturday.

I’ve looked at the recent history of prosecutions under anti-terrorist legislation – most of which don’t get into the papers – and on that basis I can assure you that, unless there’s about to me a massive change of direction, these new powers will be used almost exclusively against Muslims. (I do say ‘almost’.)

59

Phil 03.14.15 at 10:20 am

Ugh – about to be, obv.

60

Brett Bellmore 03.14.15 at 10:21 am

“Rather have Ayers than Yoo everyday of the week and twice on Sundays…”

“Who’d have thought Brett Bellmore was opposed to John Yoo teaching our kids!”

I’d rather have neither, personally, and I think anybody who knew me, rather than just assuming I was some sort of liberal stereotype of a conservative, would be able to figure that out.

“And here I thought American and specifically Wisconsin-cheesehead anti-intellectualism was the exception.”

Really? I’d have thought anybody who was the least informed on the subject would understand that free speech protections pretty much reach their zenith in the US. Honestly, this is the sort of thing I’d expect to see in the UK.

And, Abbe’s right. This is actually more likely to be deployed against critics of Islam. Might be used as a weapon against UKIP.

61

engels 03.14.15 at 10:22 am

62

George Berger 03.14.15 at 10:35 am

On opposition inside your head, see the 1940 dystopic novel ‘Kallocain,’ by the Swedish poet and novelist Karin Boye. I am reading it now, in the original. It is philosophically and psychologically deeper than 1984. It might well have been partly inspired by Zamyatin’s ‘We,’ but was definitely inspired by the author’s knowledge of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. There is a fine recent teanslation into English, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

63

john b 03.14.15 at 10:39 am

(b) only students at a few elite institutions benefit from access to this type of free-speech zone.

Isn’t the point here more that any student at London or Manchester who wishes to go and listen to speeches about any given topic by any given person under the sun can easily do so, hence there’s no need for a Manchester Union – whereas Oxford and Cambridge are small towns whose intellectual life is driven solely by the university? So asking the question about the independent, private Union societies makes sense, in a way that asking it about the myriad venues for political debate in major cities doesn’t.

(full disclosure: I joined the Oxford Union, it was a total waste of time, should have spent the membership fee on a fridge instead)

64

john b 03.14.15 at 10:45 am

Just for the benefit of non-UK readers, this claim;

notably Nick Griffin’s 2004 speech about grooming gangs, something everyone now agrees was true but on which debate was shut down for a decade

is false. Nick Griffin’s 2004 speech was high on accusations of Muslim barbarity whilst featuring no evidence at all, which is why society’s response was – correctly – to call him a race-bating scumbag rather than a bold investigative journalist.

The fact that, ten years later, actual investigative journalists found out that (in a completely different area of Northern England from that claimed by Griffin) there were some rapists of Pakistani descent is like using the Leopold & Loeb case to retrospectively justify preaching the Blood Libel.

65

Brett Bellmore 03.14.15 at 11:06 am

OTOH, did the actual investigative journalists bother looking where Griffin was pointing, back in 2004?

I get the impression, from across the Atlantic, that there’s been some seriously nasty things going on in England over the last couple of decades, that were being successfully hidden, and the cover ups are finally failing. I don’t think the whole of it is yet known, not nearly.

66

engels 03.14.15 at 11:23 am

I get the impression, from across the Atlantic, that there’s been some seriously nasty things going on in England over the last couple of decades

You mean like Birmingham becoming a <a href=http://www.juancole.com/2015/01/emersons-nonsense-birmingham.html?no-go zone for non-Muslims?

67

Haftime 03.14.15 at 11:24 am

john b – I think a more parsimonious explanation for the concern and clarification achieved might be the institutional make up of the Lords? Bearing in mind the question was asked by the former Master of Jesus Cambridge and the question answered by an Oxford MBA.

Anyway, surely the universities most affected by the free speech ban are the campus universities located away from any town, rather than Oxford & Cambridge which are in the city centre?

68

Brett Bellmore 03.14.15 at 11:33 am

No, Engels, I mean like the pedophile rings and child sex grooming.

Which I gather did not so much come as a surprise to the UK media, as the effort to cover them up finally fell apart.

Or, rather, is in the process of falling apart, which is why I think confidence that Griffin was wrong back in 2004 seems unwarranted.

69

Abbe Faria 03.14.15 at 12:01 pm

Re: john b’s apologetics for child rape. The Jay report (into Rotherham and South Yorkshire Police) covers 1997-2013 and is quite clear children were trafficked to Bradford (covered by West Yorkshire Police) where Griffin made his speech in 2004. Grifiin’s source was court reports, the same source the Times used to break the story.

There was also investigative journalism in 2004, notably the Edge of the City documentary which the WYP attempted to suppress, and after which the story was not followed up. The police response at the time is very telling.

“A spokeswoman from the West Yorkshire police says, “In the case of alleged sexual exploitation of young women in Keighley, social services and the police have been conducting extensive enquiries for the last two years. A number of girls have been interviewed, aged mainly between 13 and 16. We have found no evidence of systematic exploitation. Some of the girls admitted having relationships with older men but they described them as their boyfriends and did not feel they were being exploited.”

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2004/aug/09/channel4.otherparties

WYP are now conducting a massive cold case review.

http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/crime-investigators-recruited-west-yorkshire-8142502

70

Phil 03.14.15 at 1:16 pm

And this has what to do with ‘extremism’ on campus?

Let’s be clear, the obligations the new law places on higher education – institutions that award degrees – are pretty limited, and basically put in statutory form guidelines that were already in place. It’s bad news, but it’s not big news. Where there does seem to have been a bit of a land-grab, and where we can expect to see a major chilling effect, is in further education, which in this context means “non-compulsory education for ages 16-18”. But even there, I think a course about Nietzsche, Heidegger and Schmitt would go through on the nod. When they say ‘British values’ they mean ‘the values which are under threat from Britain’s current official enemy’, and when they say ‘opposition to British values’ they basically mean ‘giving aid and comfort to Britain’s current official enemy’.

71

George Berger 03.14.15 at 1:37 pm

But Phil, Collecting a bunch of current regulations under one heading, is itself pretty intimidating, as what falls under that heading can be extended, almost at will and certainly to meet new perceived or cooked-up threats. Also, an admittedly quick look at the actual text in the link, suggests that the terms you use to define others, are often not in the definienda. Those terms are themselves intimidating at least, as some are open-ended. Today’s current official enemy might not be one next year, and can be replaced by another, almost at will. Now, suppose you agree with today’s government about enemies. Suppose further, that this text is retained unchanged for at least five years. Suppose finally, that five years from now a fascist regime attained full power, in the UK or, say, the entire EU as one politically ruling entity. Then some other current official enemy might fall under the terms of this construct. That is one reason why this is not good, apart from its current applicability, whatever its morality.

72

George Berger 03.14.15 at 1:42 pm

Oops. Sorry Phil. I meant, suppose you definitions were canonised as the official meanings to use at all times?

73

engels 03.14.15 at 1:43 pm

“john b’s apologetics for child rape”

Good grief.

74

engels 03.14.15 at 1:56 pm

From Beiner’s thread below it seems that the official enemy is now a coalition of socialists, fascists, Muslims and environmentalists taking its orders from Alexandr Dugin…

75

Rich Puchalsky 03.14.15 at 2:52 pm

Phil: “But even there, I think a course about Nietzsche, Heidegger and Schmitt would go through on the nod. “

No one is seriously saying that people are going to be brought up before the police for teaching Heidegger. That is an Internet “ooh isn’t this ironical” kind of concern. What the plan seriously says is that higher education staff are going to be trained and expected to turn suspicious students over to the police for monitoring and potential further action.

That has certain historical implications no matter what the ostensible definition of suspiciousness is, especially since it was left very broad. But it’s OK if people here don’t get that: it’s not like you study politics or anything.

76

Harold 03.14.15 at 3:03 pm

A coalition that agrees water is wet and the sun rises in the East.

77

stevenjohnson 03.14.15 at 3:37 pm

All very boring but there’s no substitute for detail. Here are the general principles.

“Both higher and further education institutions are subject to the duty and the guidance.

All authorities caught by the duty are expected to apply a risk-based approach, meaning a bespoke assessment of the risk of radicalisation in their area. They are however all expected to respond in the following broad ways:

Those in leadership positions need to establish mechanisms to assess the risk, make sure staff understand the risk and know how to deal with it, actively communicate the importance of the duty and secure its effective implementation.
Authorities need to work in effective partnership and demonstrate productive co-operation with the police, local authorities and multi-agency forums such as Community Safety Partnerships.
Authorities need to build the capabilities within their organisation to spot potentially vulnerable individuals and to take appropriate action.
Authorities need to share relevant information, but must do so lawfully.
These themes are picked up in the sector specific guidance, dealt with below.

Compliance with the duty will be monitored centrally via the Home Office and through appropriate inspection regimes in each sector.”

As I read this, it is essentially the forthright declaration that teachers are police agents; that students who have not committed any specified crimes may nonetheless be deemed at risk of committing crimes and therefore assigned to non-judicial supervision/psychological intervention, allegedly of a non-punitive nature; that the educational system is to be organized to examine the entire student population for behaviors designated as “risk,” which would necessarily include expression of inappropriate opinions.

There is no serious threat to college curricula here, not in political philosophy or any other field. The threat is wholly directed at the students’ persons, not knowledge, except
for the teaching of terrorist theory and apologetics.

This is not equivalent to an anti-bullying program that directs teachers to systematically report bullying, since those behaviors are specified infractions. This is more like a program that requires teachers to survey all students for signs of possible adult criminality, like possible drug addiction. Or perhaps male chauvinism that apologizes for rape, so that they can be placed into a preventive treatment program. And requires of course that no curriculum would provoke undesirable sexual fantasies.

In my opinion, there are already too many police functions assigned to teachers. But conflating police work with psychotherapy and handing the task to an army of untrained teachers already socialized to conformity and authority is a sure prescription for massive, systematic abuse. Which of course may be the ultimate intent, not an error.

78

Colin Danby 03.14.15 at 3:43 pm

+1 to Engels @73. @69 was exceptionally bad behavior by whoever is posting as “Abbé Faria.”

79

bianca steele 03.14.15 at 4:18 pm

At its most anodyne, what this means appears to be:

Students deemed “at risk” and “vulnerable” will all be Muslims, redefining those words in traditional Orwellian fashion to mean “they may be attending a radical mosque.’

Certain variants of political and other theory will be identified with vulnerability to being drawn in by a radical mosque or radical imam. Those variants will either be discouraged, or will be discouraged when they’re touched on by apparent Muslims but not by others. Or else students who are apparently Muslim, and who apparently seem attracted to or influenced by those variants, will be referred to the police for “special attention.”

This seems quite bad enough, without imagining the worst. I agree with steven johnson on the inadvisability of turning classrooms into places where students’ psyches are going to be scrutinized, whether the basis for it is sensible or not.

80

Phil 03.14.15 at 4:20 pm

I teach a third-year course on extremism, and one of the first things I do is unpack the whole idea of extremism & show how incredibly nebulous it is; it’s basically impossible to give it any definition which will tell you whether ideology A is or isn’t ‘extremism’. We also talk about the chilling effect which Prevent has already had; the new legislation may not make the situation much worse, but it’s certainly not going to make it any better. So I am aware that there’s an issue or two here.

There’s been a lot of speculation on this thread about the legislation having an effect on university curricula and being used against left- and right-wing activists as well as Muslims. I think both these concerns are misplaced. Further education is due for a bit of curricular Gleichschaltung, but the requirement seems to be that Prevent-related activity is ‘delivered’ – not that the existing curriculum should be vetted for compliance. In any case, this doesn’t apply in HE.

As for the effect on non-Islamist extremists, in practice ‘extremism’ currently means ‘Islamist extremism’; the two neo-Fascists found with a garage full of bomb-making material the other year weren’t even charged under terrorism legislation. (They were charged with possession of explosives; one of the two pled not guilty and ended up being acquitted.) I expect the police in some areas will use this legislation to take an interest in the extreme Right or Left, but currently – I stress that word again – it’s a bit of a sideshow in comparison with the suspicion Muslim communities will come under. The parallel I’d draw is the difference between police harassment of Black youth and police harassment of hippies.

Obviously (at least, I hope it’s obvious) this doesn’t mean I’m favourable or indifferent to the legislation. If I tell you that anthrax isn’t always fatal that doesn’t mean I want it on my sandwiches.

steven:
There is no serious threat to college curricula here, not in political philosophy or any other field. The threat is wholly directed at the students’ persons, not knowledge, except for the teaching of terrorist theory and apologetics.

In further education “all relevant curriculum areas will need to be engaged, with a single contact point for delivery of Prevent-related activity”; it sounds as if some Prevent coverage will be mandatory for all FE students taking certain (‘relevant’) subjects. As for “the teaching of terrorist theory and apologetics”, I thank my stars that this isn’t covered by the guidance – if it were, quite a lot of my ‘extremism’ unit would have to be rewritten.

But yes, we are being asked to spot students who are ‘at risk’ of turning into terrorists and let the police know about them. (In fact we were already being asked to do this, just not in law.) How zealously we will be asked to fulfil this duty remains to be seen.

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bianca steele 03.14.15 at 4:30 pm

There’s been a lot of speculation on this thread about the legislation having an effect on university curricula and being used against left- and right-wing activists as well as Muslims.

I can see this happening–or not–depending. In Chris’s other thread, the question arose of the right to resist the existing government. How will this be treated (keep in mind that I don’t know how this is treated in the UK already: I know from talking to English colleagues in the past that it’s handled differently than it is in the US, or was in the past)? Will the right to resist the government be denied more strenuously in all cases? Will it be denied, with a reason given, overtly, that signals “because Islamic extremism is wrong”? Or the right to resist be considered a valid point of view, but in practice suppressed unless the person defending the right is of the right race and religion? Or not suppressed, but made more difficult to hold? Or openly not suppressed, but in practice resulting in a referral to the civil power?

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Brett Bellmore 03.14.15 at 4:46 pm

“the two neo-Fascists found with a garage full of bomb-making material the other year weren’t even charged under terrorism legislation. (They were charged with possession of explosives; one of the two pled not guilty and ended up being acquitted.)”

So, they were charged, and the one who contested it was acquitted. This suggests to me that they had a garage full of things which *could* be used for making bombs, but not just for making bombs, and the case that they had those things for the purpose of making bombs, and not some other end, was rather sketchy to begin with.

But that’s just the reaction of somebody aware of how many things can be used for making bombs.

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George Berger 03.14.15 at 5:02 pm

That is a good question that leads to another point. Why limit such ratting to schoola of any type? Fifteen minutes ago the Swedish radio had a programme about Islamic activities: should an Imam be required to report members of his congregation? All I know is that such questions are being asked in the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden, at least. Everything I have heard concerned only Moslims. But this British proposal is so broad that asking a question about Marx might be bad for a student’s career.

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bianca steele 03.14.15 at 5:12 pm

Following on from @81: It seems plausible to me that this kind of policy will in practice result in a general shift of the voting public to the right, by way of (1) shifting the minority population rather far to the right, by eliminating anything to the left of center as a viable option for them, and (2) shifting the majority white population somewhat to the right, by shifting the Overton window, the visibility of left of center options, etc.

One might expect the suppression of right of center views about the absolute responsibility of submission to whatever worldly power, whether from majority or minority, but that probably won’t happen.

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George Berger 03.14.15 at 5:21 pm

@84 I think all your concerns are justified. I am a Dutch citizen of American birth now living in Sweden. Many good people I know live in the UK. Each issue is live in at least one country. The rejection of absolute submission to authority has been a live issue in the Netherlands since the Reformation, given the type of Camvinism that developed there. It won’t vanish.

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bianca steele 03.14.15 at 5:45 pm

I suppose another effect, especially where political theory isn’t a required course, might be the shifting of discouraged ideologies to other fields like engineering, where they won’t be a problem (at least for the time being).

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Luke 03.14.15 at 5:47 pm

@George Berger’s “But this British proposal is so broad that asking a question about Marx might be bad for a student’s career.”

I’m reminded suddenly of Corey Robin’s “Fear: The History of a Political Idea”, particularly the bit on McCarthyism. I’ve flicked through the linked article, but I confess to some confusion as to how discipline would be enforced in practice. Mention of the Home Office does sound rather ominous. Could someone who understands these things better explain to me what kind of disciplinary procedures would be used against students, or teachers who failed to adequately monitor students, in practice? Are we talking institutional (fired, expelled), criminal, or both?

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George Berger 03.14.15 at 6:01 pm

@86 That is happening as I write. This morning a speaker for the far-right Sweden’s Democrats proposed that course preferences should be slanted in whatever direction the job market has that would in theory give a student the best chances of finding a job upon graduation. That means reducing interest in the humanities and even pure maths. This is not new; the shift has been prevalent in Western Europe since around 1985, in my memory.
@87. I tend to be suspicious about political statements. Their intended effect often differs from that implied by their verbal contents. In this case the production of such a broadly-worded text might well intimidate some. Who can know what to do, given broad phrasing? Better probably to play safe by teaching safe stuff (what?), or for a student to speak (and think, ultimately) of safe stuff.

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Pete 03.14.15 at 6:08 pm

*prosecutions under anti-terrorist legislation – most of which don’t get into the papers*

I’ve noticed this too. There have been plenty of people arrested and charged: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/terrorism-arrests-analysis-of-charging-and-sentencing-outcomes-by-religion/terrorism-arrests-analysis-of-charging-and-sentencing-outcomes-by-religion ; seemingly 838 charges resulting in 241 convictions. Seemingly without news coverage. I can’t name any of them off the top of my head, and when a UKIP politician wanted to make a joke about Humza Yusuf recently his go-to terrorist name was Abu Hamza – who was never convicted in the UK.

Are the press more interested in talking about “the terrorist threat” but not *actual terror convictions*? It it because it can’t obviously be used for partisan purposes (unlikely)? The response to Rotherham seems to be mostly stunned silence and incomprehension.

Those of us who are old enough to remember Gerry Adams having his voice dubbed on television will be familiar with illiberal and absurd responses to terrorism.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.14.15 at 6:28 pm

The dangerous terrorists tend to have engineering backgrounds rather than political science backgrounds, and those areas may get special emphasis in programs for monitoring, so keep that in mind when you’re thinking about how this will operate. A good number of the people deciding whether some student gets a lifetime listing on a police watch list will be engineers like Brett.

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engels 03.14.15 at 9:38 pm

I expect the police in some areas will use this legislation to take an interest in the extreme Right or Left, but currently – I stress that word again – it’s a bit of a sideshow in comparison with the suspicion Muslim communities will come under. The parallel I’d draw is the difference between police harassment of Black youth and police harassment of hippies.

This sounds very plausible: thanks for explaining.

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guthrie 03.14.15 at 10:01 pm

Pete #89 – call me cynical, but as far as I can see the press nowadays simply doesn’t have the manpower and expertise to research and digest and then report such court cases and convictions.

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Phil 03.14.15 at 10:24 pm

that’s just the reaction of somebody aware of how many things can be used for making bombs

The people in question actually said they’d stockpiled the stuff in order to make bombs – for self-defence, when the race war kicked off as they expected it to. One of them had talked about assassinating namedpoliticians & had downloaded a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook. Virtually the first thing the police said when they arrested him was “He is not a terrorist”. (IANMTU. The guy’s called Robert Cottage.) Go, as they say, figure.

George: Why limit such ratting to schools of any type?

It’s not limited to schools by any means. There’s a long list of public and semi-private bodies which are under these obligations, including health authorities, police forces and probation services (not to mention all schools, down to pre-school level). Universities get off lightly – there’s a specific clause (added when the Bill was discussed in the House of Lords) saying “in the case of universities, do remember about academic freedom and freedom of speech, ‘kay?”. I suspect that’s the main reason why the duty to ‘deliver’ Prevent-related material is limited to FE and not HE.

In Chris’s other thread, the question arose of the right to resist the existing government. How will this be treated

“The right to resist the existing government” isn’t really a thing over here – the idea of militias being organised against central government boggles British brains. We tend to take the view that the govt would only need resisting if it was illegitimate and undemocratic, which ours isn’t, so never mind.

(Saying that we don’t think in terms of a right to resist doesn’t mean that we think the government should always be obeyed or that its actions are always just and correct. It just means we don’t think in terms of a right to resist, as something lying dormant in peaceful times, to be invoked when necessary.)

Luke (and George): at the outset it will just be a contact name circulated on an “all staff” email, a policy to add to the list of policies, and a box to tick in some senior manager’s annual report. Obviously it could get much more intrusive than that; it could become something that individual staff are asked to take responsibility for. But it doesn’t have to go that way, and I hope it won’t. Also, there’s no commitment to de-radicalising the curriculum, for which small mercy much thanks.

Peter:
Are the press more interested in talking about “the terrorist threat” but not *actual terror convictions*?
It’s odd. I can only imagine that the press are following the police’s lead, and the police aren’t making a big deal of the minor convictions – which tend to be for things like possessing the wrong sort of documents – because they’re just not very scary. But there are a lot of people getting prison time for terrorism-related offences.

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Collin Street 03.14.15 at 11:10 pm

>The dangerous terrorists tend to have engineering backgrounds rather than political science backgrounds,

Well, if they had political science backgrounds they’d know why it wouldn’t work, I’d think. You see the problems you’ve trained to solve, and what-have-you.

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Layman 03.14.15 at 11:20 pm

Brett Bellmore : “I’d rather have neither, personally, and I think anybody who knew me, rather than just assuming I was some sort of liberal stereotype of a conservative, would be able to figure that out.”

Well, it’s quite simple. If you don’t want to be taken for the liberal stereotype of a conservative, stop acting like one.

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Layman 03.14.15 at 11:25 pm

“And, Abbe’s right. This is actually more likely to be deployed against critics of Islam. “

With what sort of gage does the engineer measure this probability? A clairvoyanometer?

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Brett Bellmore 03.14.15 at 11:49 pm

“One of them had talked about assassinating named politicians & had downloaded a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook. “

In light of the latter, I’d guess they were more dangerous to themselves, than to the named politicians. I would NOT advise using the Anarchist’s Cookbook as a guide to how to make real bombs.

“Virtually the first thing the police said when they arrested him was “He is not a terrorist”. (IANMTU. The guy’s called Robert Cottage.) Go, as they say, figure.”

Doesn’t sound like a terrorist to me, either. I knew a lot of people like that in Michigan during the 90’s, they certainly weren’t terrorists. They just figured that the time to prepare for fighting off a tyrannical government was before it became tyrannical, that you wouldn’t have to opportunity to stock up in the middle of a civil war. Didn’t mean they had any intention of starting things themselves.

“With what sort of gage does the engineer measure this probability? A clairvoyanometer?”

Well, that’s the way things are trending here, anyway. We’ve got a President who doesn’t want to utter the phrase, “Islamic terrorism”, and official government policy seems to be that the real threat is public attacks on Muslims.

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Matt 03.15.15 at 12:27 am

We’ve got a President who doesn’t want to utter the phrase, “Islamic terrorism”, and official government policy seems to be that the real threat is public attacks on Muslims.

If Obama would just use the power word “islamofascism” already ISIS would be reduced to 5 hit points and permanently lose 1d4 charisma. But no, keeps telling his annoyed teammates that using physical weapons instead of spells is part of staying in character as a wizard with amnesia.

I hadn’t known about the US government manned combat aircraft and UAVs deployed to kill anti-Muslim groups here in the States. I heard that they were being used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. Another one of those things the liberal main stream media is covering up, I suppose.

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bianca steele 03.15.15 at 12:49 am

the idea of militias being organised against central government boggles British brains.

Really? How odd. (I’m tempted to insert one of those snarky British responses that make no sense, something like, “Let the market decide, eh?” Does someone wake up one morning and decide, “I’d like to belong to a militia, I think; obviously, I want to help the government do its job; I think I’ll organize my own”?)

I mean, that’s all fine, I guess. I imagine it gets some pressure put on it at the university level, though, and probably even before.

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Ronan(rf) 03.15.15 at 1:07 am

To insert a snarky response, I think a lot of it depends on your definition of British.

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Ronan(rf) 03.15.15 at 1:20 am

To be less cryptic, Bianca

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_loyalism

Afaict it’s the same dynamic as Brett’s ‘backwoods Michigan militia’ ie incomprehensible to anyone either not from that specific area/that specific militia. Id assume the majority in the US sees the idea of rustling up a militia against central Gov as bizzare.

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bianca steele 03.15.15 at 1:51 am

Ronan,

Thanks for the clarification, I thought you were saying my attempt at snark was more Irish than British. That could be cleared up if commenters had to say where they were writing from.

The Ulster thing makes sense, though. Thanks.

Id assume the majority in the US sees the idea of rustling up a militia against central Gov as bizzare.

Yes, but not baffling. Maybe this is a language issue. We have the IRA in the news, the ETA, the partisans in WWII. Where are the militias in support of local government?

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Ronan(rf) 03.15.15 at 1:56 am

These are also militias in support of local government. To be opposed to central governent is just to be in support of local government (if you get me)

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Ronan(rf) 03.15.15 at 2:01 am

Put it like this, I do buy Phil’s claim that – ‘the idea of militias being organised against central government boggles British brains.’ But I also think it’s true basically in any developed country, ie ‘the idea of militias being organised against central government boggles Spanish/Irish/American brains.’
But it’s also clearly true that within all of these polities there are people whose brains it doesnt boggle. So we shouldn’t mistake our brains for everyone elses.

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novakant 03.15.15 at 2:36 am

It should be possible to discuss a topic concerning British society without a bunch of trolls immediately relating everything to US politics and their respective hobbyhorses, no?

I mean forfucksakes, how parochial and self-centered can people get?

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ckc (not kc) 03.15.15 at 3:14 am

…how parochial and self-centered can people get?

the meter stops at 11

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Ronan(rf) 03.15.15 at 3:20 am

I like the fact that the place errs on the side of cosmopolitanism. Just a pity that the cosmopolitanism is a little limited at times. Shame to make it more parochial in the name of fighting parochialism.

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Phil 03.15.15 at 9:36 am

With what sort of gage does the engineer measure this probability? A clairvoyanometer?

My superpower is called “academic study of the recent development of the body of British counter-terrorist policy, of which this is a part”. Unfair, I know.

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Phil 03.15.15 at 9:48 am

I was going to comment on bianca & Ronan’s exchange on militias, but I realised that I literally don’t know what they’re saying.

What I’m saying is that the idea of it being the citizens’ right (nay, duty) to be prepared to resist their own government, militarily if necessary, just sounds crazy to me and always has done. And I don’t mean “that would never work” crazy – let alone “yeah right, have you heard of Ruby Ridge?” crazy; it’s more “why would anyone even think that?” crazy. Just doesn’t resonate.

I certainly believe in the right to protest, and I think the line between “appropriately democratic political engagement through protest” and “political violence which should be suppressed” is drawn at different places at different times, generally as a result of a shift in the balance of forces between the people doing the protesting and the people trying to control it. But I do think there is a line; the idea of political violence being legitimate is… odd.

Revolutionary and counter-revolutionary guerrilla groups (such as the IRA and the UVF) are a whole different argument.

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Philip 03.15.15 at 10:43 am

Luke at 87 for FE it says ‘Ofsted (Estyn in Wales) will monitor compliance with the duty as part of its assessment of safeguarding under the Common Inspection Framework. Inadequate action by colleges could lead to an intervention by the FE commissioner (and ultimately intervention by the Secretary of State).’ For HE ‘An appropriate monitoring framework will be published.’ For FE this means when Ofsted inspect a college (every few years) they will expect to see the RA, action plan, list of named people, relevant policies and procedures, all with evidence that they are being carried out e.g. lesson plans that cover ‘British values’. When they observe lessons it could be one thing they look for. Any failure on this would reflect badly on the institutions Ofsted report and score and could lead to the Secretary of State intervening. Individual teachers would not really be held accountable, except they have to provide evidence that they are in compliance, which is a significant administrative burden amongst many others in FE. Or if a student did become involved in extremism and had not been referred by the college then there could be an inquiry/witch hunt and anyone could be blamed.

Phil, the part that impacts on curriculum delivery in FE is ‘Staff need to receive appropriate training so that they can develop the curriculum to challenge and educate about extremism and so that leaders and teachers can “exemplify British values”.’ Rather than ‘All relevant curriculum areas will need to be engaged, with a single contact point for delivery of Prevent-related activity’ which reads to me that it could cover staff training. Also where do you get that FE in this context is non-compulsory education for 16-18 year olds (post 70)? The article states colleges have to report to the EFA and SFA , which are the separate funding organisations for 16-18 year olds and 19+. To me it’s not clear if all staff need training on curriculum development or just those in relevant curriculum areas, nor when or how those relevant areas will be identified.

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bianca steele 03.15.15 at 2:52 pm

I certainly believe in the right to protest,

This is what was at issue in the other thread, so why you’ve brought up “militias” (and italicized “against,” as if the British find armed vigilantism in support of government somehow more plausible) was what confused me. Thanks for explaining.

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JanieM 03.15.15 at 3:08 pm

What I’m saying is that the idea of it being the citizens’ right (nay, duty) to be prepared to resist their own government, militarily if necessary, just sounds crazy to me and always has done. And I don’t mean “that would never work” crazy – let alone “yeah right, have you heard of Ruby Ridge?” crazy; it’s more “why would anyone even think that?” crazy. Just doesn’t resonate.

It seems so blazingly obvious to me that maybe I’m being stupid in some other direction, but the second amendment was written by people who had just established a new nation after resisting their own government militarily.

Does it sound so crazy when it’s framed that way?

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bianca steele 03.15.15 at 3:34 pm

Yeah, I guess my eyes glazed over and tried to skip the whole Bellmore, Faria thing above. I know Phil and I think I know what he’d getting at, for the most part. But on the one hand, based on past discussions with Brits, I’m not clear that something as peaceful and broadly accepted as legitimate, as the Million Man March, wouldn’t be considered somehow “violent” rebellion by many in the UK–maybe it would, and I just caught one or two people on a bad day. And on the other, I don’t think most Brits understand federalism well–any more than I understand Empire–or, for that matter, Union–and besides that social democrats often get prickly when they have to talk to someone who feels the “more government” side is the side with the burden of proof–etc. So maybe I don’t really understand what Phil is getting at, after all, I don’t know.

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bianca steele 03.15.15 at 3:35 pm

And, I meant to add, the cluster of ideas around “militia” is one that irritates me no end, and Phil’s casual use of the term the way he did annoyed me.

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Ronan(rf) 03.15.15 at 4:07 pm

“I was going to comment on bianca & Ronan’s exchange on militias, but I realised that I literally don’t know what they’re saying.”

I’m also a little lost as to what my point is. Really, I’m not being snarky.
I guess all I’m saying is that I was a little surprised by the idea that raising a militia to resist an illegitimate government is incomprehensible to the British mind.

” and I just caught one or two people on a bad day. “

I hope you dont think me. I agree with you. ( I think) I certainly didnt mean to be hostile to your point.

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bianca steele 03.15.15 at 4:29 pm

Ronan:

No worries. It seems like we weren’t talking about the same thing when we referred to “local” government (less sure about “central”), but I think it was clear what you meant.

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Phil 03.15.15 at 4:48 pm

On “right to protest” vs “right to resist”, I thin I’d say that protest (if non-violent) is per se a form of legitimate politica activity; it may involve denunciation of the government’s entire strategy, it may even entail non-compliance with particular legal obligations, but it doesn’t imply rebellion or delegitimation of the government.

I’m not clear that something as peaceful and broadly accepted as legitimate, as the Million Man March, wouldn’t be considered somehow “violent” rebellion by many in the UK

No, violence (as opposed to legitimate protest) is when the police are hitting people. I mean that seriously – a conservative would say that the threat of violence makes it OK for the police to hit people, a radical would say that it’s violence when protesters hit first & hit hard. They’d both agree that something called violence is wrong as a political tactic. (A revolutionary would say that – sometimes – protesters should hit first & hit hard.)

JanieM – what I find hard to understand is the founders of a new nation, staunch believers in the national project, thinking it vital that citizens should have the right to rebel against it. I’m not sure many other post-colonial nations – or federations – have that clause in their founding narratives.

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Phil 03.15.15 at 4:53 pm

the idea that raising a militia to resist an illegitimate government is incomprehensible to the Britush mind

What’s hard to understand is this idea being seen as patriotic rather than revolutionary, to the point of being commended by the founders of that same government.

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Brett Bellmore 03.15.15 at 5:30 pm

“What’s hard to understand is this idea being seen as patriotic rather than revolutionary, to the point of being commended by the founders of that same government.”

Well, “Novus ordo seclorum” is on the US great seal, and what it means is that our government was decidedly NOT intended to be in the British model. And that’s one of the ways. But, not to hijack the thread, it’s just that making sure you have the capacity to become violent if circumstances eventually warrant it, is not the same thing as being violent. It’s closer to the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared”.

There are a lot of things about Britain that Americans don’t understand, either, like the tolerance for censorship. The sort of “guidance” we’re talking about here would be cause for tar and feathers in the US, and maybe not metaphorically.

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Pete 03.15.15 at 5:32 pm

2nd amendment clearly has at least some basis in Bill of Rights 1688:

“… That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law. “

This didn’t really last, and by “protestant” really meant “loyalist”; following the insurrections in Scotland up to 1745 Highlanders were banned from owning not just guns but also pikes and swords.

Current UK opinion contains a few people who’d like to ban “annoying” protests but is generally supportive of the right to peaceful assembly and protest – Speaker’s Corner etc. This has been eroded somewhat since the Iraq war and protest restrictions in central London. The right to violent protest is meaningless; it implies violating the rights of others and is guaranteed to end badly.

Armed self-defence isn’t very popular in the UK and tends to be defended mostly by the kind of people who think it’s OK to punch an Irishman for bringing you the wrong kind of sandwich. Mind you, I was having a discussion the other day with my Polish colleague who reported rumors of a lot of people in Poland trying to get hold of guns for potential self-defence against the Russians. He was very much in favour of individual gun ownership.

Also, in practical terms, the US 2nd amendment only really protects white people.

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bianca steele 03.15.15 at 5:44 pm

Re. the militia, I believe it’s worth mentioning that one of the complaints against Parliament was for not defending the colonies well enough from the French, in the Seven Years’ War. There was little trust that the government could do better, and not much precedent.

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Brett Bellmore 03.15.15 at 5:51 pm

Well, if the President had his way about local option, that would be the case. As things stand it certainly isn’t.

“Armed self-defence isn’t very popular in the UK”

I wonder about that. I hear stories about old guys who defend themselves against burglars, and get treated like the criminal in the matter, and really wonder: Is self defense actually unpopular with the public, or is it unpopular with the political elite? And just seems unpopular with the general public because only elite opinion gets reported? We’ve seen some of that going on here.

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armando 03.15.15 at 6:09 pm

Well, as someone living in the UK, I can say that I have very rarely met people who get exercised about gun ownership. These people do exist, of course, but I’d say they were rare. This might be reflective of circles I travel in, of course, but I see nothing in the papers and hear nothing by most political parties (there was a big thing about fox hunting, but that’s not a groundswell of opinion about guns for self defence, and isn’t about general gun ownership, being tied into particular class practices). The exception, I guess, is UKIP who do advocate some change in the UK gun laws, but it is so rarely a policy they make any noise about – despite being quite voluble about most of their commitments – that I read that as quite a low priority for them.

You could say that was all simply indicative of “elite” opinion, I suppose, but there is no populist outlet – talk radio, national organisations, or public demonstrations – that indicate the issue to be particularly pressing for anyone.

I guess I am saying that I see no evidence at all for any movement in the UK to liberalise the gun laws, and I think that one should take that as evidence that there simply isn’t such a political faction, absent a good argument as to why it isn’t visible. “Elite opinion” is far to vague to serve such a purpose, in my view.

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Stephen 03.15.15 at 6:21 pm

phil@117: “what I find hard to understand is the founders of a new nation, staunch believers in the national project, thinking it vital that citizens should have the right to rebel against it.”

I would have thought that several events in US history showed that the government of the new nation thought that its citizens had no right whatever to rebel against it, or secede from it.

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Phil 03.15.15 at 6:22 pm

Self-defence against criminal incursion is pretty popular, but – as with ‘violent protest’ – it all depends what you mean by ‘self-defence’. In my experience, a lot of the people who call Tony Martin a martyr become less enthusiastic when you point out that his victim was shot in the back.

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Brett Bellmore 03.15.15 at 11:14 pm

“I would have thought that several events in US history showed that the government of the new nation thought that its citizens had no right whatever to rebel against it, or secede from it.”

It’s one of those, “If you strike at the king, you must kill him” things. They thought it very important that, if the government and the populace were sufficiently at odds, the populace have the means to rebel. But they never thought ALL rebellion justified, or that a government that ought to be rebelled against would passively permit itself to be overthrown.

“In my experience, a lot of the people who call Tony Martin a martyr become less enthusiastic when you point out that his victim was shot in the back.”

Here in the US we tend to think that if you don’t think burglary merits being shot to death, then don’t commit it.

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js. 03.15.15 at 11:45 pm

Here in the US we tend to think that if you don’t think burglary merits being shot to death, then don’t commit it.

Who’re you calling “we”, white man?

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nvalvo 03.16.15 at 1:53 am

Here in the US we tend to think that if you don’t think burglary merits being shot to death, then don’t commit it.

WTF?

And you can stop dropping faux-salacious hints about your bombmaking prowess to everyone while you’re at it. It’s almost as if you have a gleeful disregard for the lives of others.

129

JanieM 03.16.15 at 2:23 am

@js.
@nvalvo

Thirded. WTF indeed.

130

Meredith 03.16.15 at 4:49 am

Two immediate responses I had to OP:
Ah yes, the colonels in Greece banning Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides from public performance. Good luck with that.
Rhode Island and Roger Williams. (And New Amsterdam, when Peter Stuyvesant was required by his company overseers to allow non-Dutch-Reformists (even Jews) to worship as they pleased, if only privately and quietly.) But mostly Roger Williams: hero.

And a third response: tea in the water. Just go ahead and teach what you were going to teach to your students, whoever they are. Just do it. (Well-regulated militias: that’s what we professors are, including those of us who have no idea how to handle a gun.)

131

Phil 03.16.15 at 9:19 am

Meredith – I’m sure that a lot of governing bodies will give the proposals their urgent consideration, in depth. I’m not too worried about university teaching in any case, particularly since we’ve got a statutory “academic freedom” concession. As Philip (no relation) @110 points out, the guidance for further education is much more intrusive. And even there I wouldn’t underestimate the potential for pushback (“isn’t free speech a British value? isn’t that one of the ones we’re supposed to be exemplifying?”).

132

Brett Bellmore 03.16.15 at 9:51 am

Nvalvo, I have a non-gleeful disregard for the life of anybody who breaks into somebody else’s home with criminal intent.

And I was born in 1959. I didn’t grow up in an era when chewing a pop-tart into the shape of a gun got you detention. I grew up in an era when chemistry sets had chemicals in them, and sharing your thermite recipe with your high school chemistry instructor got you extra credit. You’d be amazed at how many of my generation know how to make bombs.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that knowing how to make a bomb doesn’t turn one into a mad bomber. But it does make the Anarchist’s Cookbook into hilarious reading.

133

engels 03.16.15 at 12:34 pm

Free speech isn’t a British value. The fundamental British values are: anti-intellectualism, philistinism, xenophobia and house-price inflation.

134

Brett Bellmore 03.16.15 at 1:14 pm

You forgot over-cooked beef.

135

MPAVictoria 03.16.15 at 2:07 pm

Shorter Brett @132- We can’t bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell ’em stories that don’t go anywhere – like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. Give me five bees for a quarter, you’d say.

Now where were we? Oh yeah: the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones…

136

reason 03.16.15 at 3:40 pm

As a german resident, I don’t find this particular the least bit distressing. Basically, protecting such values is in the constitution. Would you rather that schools promoted openly (as against only subliminally) anti-democratic and intolerant viewpoints? Perhaps Eton may be in trouble. Maybe there were worse things in the document, than what you chose to highlight?

137

reason 03.16.15 at 3:43 pm

I agree though that “exposure to arguments” was poor wording (because it stops them countering such arguments as well).

138

Luke 03.16.15 at 5:03 pm

@Reason
“active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

Note the ‘including’, as in ‘including but not limited to’. Likewise, what precisely do ‘individual liberty’ and ‘the rule of law’ mean? Will teachers or students be disciplined for supporting or tolerating civil disobedience, or criticism of laws? What about ideologies that do not support ‘individual liberty’, where that means absolute and alienable property rights in all things?

For that matter, if one construes ‘democracy’ to mean, in Hayekian fashion, anything that occurs within the parliamentary system and nothing that occurs without (which is, already, increasingly the case is Western countries), then unions, protests, unrepresented political groups, etc. etc. are all potential enemies of democracy and thus beyond the pale.

The wording is breathtakingly imprecise, which, as others have pointed out, is probably the point. I put it to you that this kind of legislation could have been used to e.g. remove Ernst Bloch from Tuebingen, or to discipline the Frankfurt-school types.

I’m not British, but this legislation is interesting to me as further evidence of the breakdown of the rule of law (as in, the re-emergence of the police state, to the extent that it ever went away) in the West. Making both private and public institutions (I’m assuming it applies to privately run schools?) accountable for enforcing ideological discipline… It’s astonishing. Also a distinctly Hayekian, neoliberal response to the progressive aspect of liberal freedoms.

139

Rich Puchalsky 03.16.15 at 5:34 pm

In the recent, 1000-comment “what is communism” thread, I tried to point out that democracy is hardly an uncontested practice that has a clear, single meaning that everyone is on board with. A good deal of recent activist history around e.g. Occupy has been exactly about tensions with regard to democracy: rejection of representative democracy in favor of direct democracy, consensus as a replacement for democracy, etc.

140

Phil 03.16.15 at 5:47 pm

Making both private and public institutions (I’m assuming it applies to privately run schools?) accountable for enforcing ideological discipline… It’s astonishing.

All schools. Also probation services, hospitals, etc, etc.

I think it’s very bad news, but as yet it’s very localised bad news. It’s going to have a seriously chilling effect and, at worst, cause greater polarisation, but for the present nobody’s got any interest in extending the disciplinary gaze to racists or Irish republicans, let alone socialists or (pace the OP) teachers of political philosophy. Talk of generalised Gleichschaltung would be premature. These powers would be one hell of a weapon in the hands of a future Conservative/UKIP/English Defender Party coalition, though.

141

stevenjohnson 03.16.15 at 6:22 pm

Organizing all teachers to carry out (amateur) psychological assessments of all student in target populations to slot them into behavior control programs, with systematic review of compliance on the part of schools and teachers, is a new step. Not only does it do away with actual evidence about criminal or delinquent acts, it categorizes potential thoughts as something demanding expressions of conformity.

I really can’t see how curriculum is threatened more than the students.

142

Brett Bellmore 03.16.15 at 6:28 pm

But isn’t that standard ‘liberal’ practice, forging weapons to use against one’s enemies, careless of what damage could happen if said enemies ever get to wield them? It seems to be here in the US.

143

Trader Joe 03.16.15 at 7:10 pm

“And I was born in 1959. I didn’t grow up in an era when chewing a pop-tart into the shape of a gun got you detention. I grew up in an era when chemistry sets had chemicals in them, and sharing your thermite recipe with your high school chemistry instructor got you extra credit. You’d be amazed at how many of my generation know how to make bombs.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that knowing how to make a bomb doesn’t turn one into a mad bomber. But it does make the Anarchist’s Cookbook into hilarious reading.”

For those unfamilliar with the Anarchist’s Cookbook, I’d concur with Brett its a document that is more likely to cause the user to suffer second degree burns than one which is capable of doing much more than upsetting a few woodpiles (as it did one fine summer in central PA when a bunch of nerds with chemistry sets tried nearly every recipe in the book – except for those that were so obviously stupid that it wasn’t worth wasting the ingredients). Sorry for the off-topic, but thanks for the trip down memory lane.

FWIW, the iodine based ones worked best. The “pseudo-napalm” not so much.

144

Pete 03.16.15 at 7:24 pm

forging weapons to use against one’s enemies, careless of what damage could happen if said enemies ever get to wield them

Applies equally to gun ownership, drone warfare and a whole bunch of other stuff.

For those interested in rapid chemistry, I’d like to recommend “Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” ( http://library.sciencemadness.org/library/books/ignition.pdf ) and the absurdly titled “Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide?”

145

Phil 03.16.15 at 7:32 pm

The point about the Anarchist’s Cookbook is that possession thereof can be seen as, and has been cited as, a criminal offence under anti-terrorist legislation. Our current anti-terrorist legislative regime is designed to be used selectively; the Cottage/Jackson case is a particularly clear example of how that selectivity works in practice.

steven – I certainly agree that these powers are aimed more at monitoring the student body than at revising the curriculum. But I don’t think it’s as bad as you suggest, or not yet. Until a former student commits a terrorist offence, I have no way of knowing that that person has been ‘radicalised’ – and if a former student does commit a terrorist offence, I have no way of knowing that he or she was radicalised while I was teaching him or her. So I’m really struggling to see how compliance with the duty to “identify those at risk of radicalisation” can be policed.

146

Phil 03.16.15 at 7:35 pm

The point about the Anarchist’s Cookbook is that possession thereof can be seen as, and has been cited as, a criminal offence under anti-terrorist legislation

Terrorism Act 2000, section 58:

(1)A person commits an offence if—

(a)he collects or makes a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

(b)he possesses a document or record containing information of that kind.

(2)In this section “record” includes a photographic or electronic record.

(3)It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had a reasonable excuse for his action or possession.

That last clause is a ‘reverse onus’ provision – in a reversal of the usual pattern, they don’t have to prove you’re guilty, you have to prove your innocence.

Maximum sentence 10 years.

147

engels 03.16.15 at 7:52 pm

The fact that it’s now legally required to provide an ‘excuse’ for possessing information ‘likely to be useful’ to Bad People Plotting Bad Things already seems pretty fucked up, if you ask me…

148

Luke 03.16.15 at 8:00 pm

BTW, thanks for the technical explanations, Phil.

149

engels 03.16.15 at 8:29 pm

(ie. writing down something you overheard can be a criminal act, if you don’t have a good excuse)

150

stevenjohnson 03.16.15 at 9:52 pm

Phil—It is true there are no rational metrics to apply in determining whether institutions and personnel are fulfilling their new duty to identify and divert into behavior modification all wrong-thinking (Muslim) students who might radicalize, because there are no objective indicators other than acts. It’s the same kind of problem in saying teachers have a duty to monitor students and divert potential drug addicts or street criminals into supervision.

But fulfillment of the obligation is demonstrated simply by putting students into programs. There is no need to come up with a genuine way to identify at-risk students, so that one can complain at review, “These teachers at this school didn’t refer these students,” whipping out a checklist. Having a list of targets provided by teachers is all that’s required. The point is not to have high quality intelligence on real threats, since we’re talking about potential radicalization. The point is to put anyone suspicious under some sort of surveillance, aka special services for at-risk students.

And it doesn’t matter that this is fundamentally irrational, that any system will be swamped by so much data on students that it would be more or less random if it actually worked. All western intelligence/security agencies are committed to the profitable proposition that more data substitutes for intelligent analysis.

151

Phil 03.16.15 at 10:26 pm

But that’s my point – if I say “no, I didn’t refer anyone, I didn’t have any students whom I judge to be at risk” what comeback can there be?

(I’ll probably find out the non-rhetorical answer before we’re all much older.)

152

Brett Bellmore 03.16.15 at 10:34 pm

“FWIW, the iodine based ones worked best. “

Yup, nitrogen tri-iodide, loads of fun. If you don’t forget, and leave the lid off the bottle, that is…

“Our current anti-terrorist legislative regime is designed to be used selectively;”

Here in the US, so many things are illegal that the entire legal system would collapse if they tried to impartially enforce the law. If, one day, everybody just refused to plead guilty, and insisted on their right to a trial, the whole house of cards would fall in.

I long for that day.

153

engels 03.16.15 at 10:41 pm

…When asked what law they were breaking, Officer DiPace replied, “There’s a law against everything. That’s America.”

154

hix 03.16.15 at 10:49 pm

The German legislation with regards to “defending democracy” is rather disturbing too. E.g. in Bavaria all members of the left party are considered a threat to democracy worth surveiling by the Verfassungsschutz (decissions are made on a state level).

155

Rich Puchalsky 03.16.15 at 10:57 pm

Rational metrics aren’t the point. It’s like asking what the rational metics for dekulakization were. The point is that the system needs numbers: to satisfy higher-ups, to defend against the idea that teachers aren’t doing anything when a scandal happens, and to justify a continued funding stream once this program gets a funding stream. Those numbers are going to be made somehow. Probably there are some teachers at each institution who will be happy to turn students in, and the rest of them will shudder and virtuously say that at least it isn’t them who is doing it.

156

Phil 03.16.15 at 11:38 pm

and the rest of them will shudder and virtuously say that at least it isn’t them who is doing it

As opposed to doing what – resigning? Give me a good hypothetical alternative to your hypothetical virtuous shudder and I’ll give you the right to that sneer.

157

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 12:12 am

Resigning is at the upper end of the available options, but I assume that at least some people have tenure. How much trouble would you really get in if you declared openly that you weren’t going to cooperate with the turning-in-students part of the program? If you helped to organize campus protests against it?

158

stevenjohnson 03.17.15 at 12:54 am

“But that’s my point – if I say ‘no, I didn’t refer anyone, I didn’t have any students whom I judge to be at risk’ what comeback can there be?”

“Where’s your documentation?”
“Where is this in your lesson plans?”
“You’re responsible for documenting compliance for the inspection.”
“What’s your input on this recommendation for intervention.”
“This is our responsibility, we are accountable and this is the way it’s going to be.”
“We’re helping them, not hurting them. Don’t you want to help your students?”
“Our team meeting today will identify at-risk students.”

Specifying that this program covers all curricular areas ensures that there will be somebody who is eager to carry out the program. Passive resistance on the part of others is immaterial, because schools are systems, not personal relationships.

159

ZM 03.17.15 at 2:58 am

From the OP : ‘so that students are not exposed to arguments that involve “active opposition to fundamental British values, including … individual liberty and the mutual tolerance of different… beliefs’

I am not sure about in the UK but here in Australia our (right wing) Liberal party —now in government — quite often opposes pro-environmental stances and responsible action on climate change to its version of what liberalism is.

Although in this case universities seem to be unaffected or less affected due to “academic freedom” — this would pose a problem for people wanting the university’s to improve the responsibility of the content of the curriculum and their organisational investments etc as they relate to sustainability and climate change.

Over Summer academics at my university who are supportive of divestment of climate change causing investments (also currently under discussion at Oxford) have been trying to build support for a Charter on Sustainability and Climate encompassing “learning and teaching, campus sustainability and investments”.

It would seem to me that government interference intent on supporting some version of liberalism could be quite detrimental to these efforts.

160

Peter T 03.17.15 at 3:53 am

From what I have read, you need to refer all the bright students with a strong sense of ethics. They will then take the referral as evidence that the Western system is corrupt, and be more inclined to think about ways to blow it up. Or you could use the system to weed out the academically hopeless, in which case little harm comes to anyone, as failure due to rehab is more soothing than failure due to academic inadequacy.

161

floopmeister 03.17.15 at 4:34 am

Free speech isn’t a British value. The fundamental British values are: anti-intellectualism, philistinism, xenophobia and house-price inflation.

Add in a propensity for militant apathy and you’ve described Australia as well.

162

Phil 03.17.15 at 8:21 am

Rich – here’s Marina Warner, who was recently pushed out of a professorial position at Essex:

After I wrote a piece about the experience in the LRB, letters and emails poured in to me – and to the paper. The correspondence reveals a deeper and more bitter scene in higher education than I had ever imagined. I had been naive, culpably unobservant as I went about my activities at Essex. Students, lecturers, professors from one institution after another were howling in sympathy and rage; not one of them dissented or tried to justify the situation. I had thought that Essex was a monstrous manifestation, but it turns out that its rulers’ ideas are ‘the new normal’ …

With only two exceptions, every single one of the correspondents, terrified that their complaints would come to light and that they would be punished (the term used is ‘disciplined’), made me swear not to reveal their names.

163

Stephen 03.17.15 at 12:18 pm

Perhaps the OP’s position, and the positions of various contributors, could be made clearer.

It seems to me there is a choice of several positions:
1) Students being led, or misled, into extremist positions is not a problem, so nothing should be done about it.
2) It is a problem, but anything that can be attempted to be done about it will only make things worse, so nothing should be done.
3) It is a problem, and something should be done about it, but not the proposed actions. My preferred solution is [insert actions here].
4) It is a problem, and the proposed actions are correct.

Fairly clearly, the OP and most others disagree with (4), for various reasons. It is not clear which of (1-3) they do agree with.

Clarification, please.

164

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 12:39 pm

Phil, I suggested that high-status professors take the lead in this kind of protest, because they are difficult to discipline. But the UK doesn’t seem to have tenure any more, so all right, what does your union say about this?

If people aren’t protesting because they are “terrified that their complaints would come to light and that they would be punished”, then I have to point out that all workplace agitation and protest comes from people with very good reason to fear for their jobs.

165

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 12:46 pm

Stephen: “Perhaps the OP’s position, and the positions of various contributors, could be made clearer.”

If you’re a political science professor and you can’t teach your students that democracy and British values are better than the alternatives, then maybe there’s something wrong with democracy and British values. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the teachers are terrified of being punished for speaking their minds within this wonderful system of British values.

166

Stephen 03.17.15 at 1:40 pm

Rich: “If you’re a political science professor and you can’t teach your students that democracy and British values are better than the alternatives, then maybe there’s something wrong with democracy and British values.”

If that were the case, the situation would indeed be dire. But what has that to do with the original topic? I thought the proposal was to reduce the creation of extremists by those who teach, explicitly, that alternatives are in fact far better than infidel democracy and values?

167

Brett Bellmore 03.17.15 at 1:42 pm

“If you’re a political science professor and you can’t teach your students that democracy and British values are better than the alternatives, then maybe there’s something wrong with democracy and British values.”

Or something wrong with you.

168

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 1:48 pm

“I thought the proposal was to reduce the creation of extremists by those who teach, explicitly, that alternatives are in fact far better than infidel democracy and values?”

Perhaps you should read the proposal again, with reference to the Channel programme and the police-enforced system that says that individual students had better profess British values or else.

169

bianca steele 03.17.15 at 2:40 pm

There does seem to be a contradiction, between “British values” and “values that wouldn’t lead to radicalization,” depending on how you define “British values.” Which is why I said that views like “England for the English, England has always been a Christian (Anglican) country” are those that surely are the ones that ought to be stamped out. It does seem obvious that the views least likely to lead to radicalization are those that say “we welcome people of all races and creeds,” and that stressing these values as compatible with those mentioned in the OP, even more so.

170

bianca steele 03.17.15 at 2:42 pm

It’s not even obvious to me that prohibited ideologies would have to be eliminated from the curriculum. For example, if one strand of extremism draws on Leninism, and you can depend on your students already hating Leninism, you can point that out.

171

Stephen 03.17.15 at 2:42 pm

Rich: “can’t teach your students that democracy and British values are better than the alternatives” has two possible meanings. One, you are not allowed so to teach. Two, you are not successful in so teaching. I thought, in the context of a discussion about preventing extremism, you might mean the first: which would be way off the point. If you mean the second, your conclusion that there must be something wrong with the values taught is equally off the point. A student may fail to learn something for a range of reasons quite unrelated to what is being taught.

As for “the police-enforced system that says that individual students had better profess British values or else”: where do you get that from? It isn’t in the proposal, as far as I can see.

172

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 2:52 pm

I linked to it already above. But all right: the story that the OP links to reads in part: “Appropriate members of staff need to be trained to identify those at risk of radicalisation, and to know what to do in response, including referral into the Channel programme.” The Channel programme, according to the link I gave above, reads in part:

Channel is a key element of the Prevent strategy. It is a multi-agency approach to protect people at risk from radicalisation. Channel uses existing collaboration between local authorities, statutory partners (such as the education and health sectors, social services, children’s and youth services and offender management services), the police and the local community to:
• identify individuals at risk of being drawn into terrorism;
• assess the nature and extent of that risk; and
• develop the most appropriate support plan for the individuals concerned.

1.2 Channel is about safeguarding children and adults from being drawn into committing terrorist- related activity. It is about early intervention to protect and divert people away from the risk they face before illegality occurs.

173

bianca steele 03.17.15 at 3:03 pm

On metrics (I only skimmed the Warner pieces, but I think she discussed them): Anyone can impose stupid metrics. The stupid part is usually when they’re made into quotas. Not everyone can impose smart metrics, I suppose. You need a Ph.D. to say something like “science has found that our data follows such-and-such distribution, so (rather than stupidly imposing quotas) we’ll expect the data to follow the distribution in question.” But luckily academia has its own Ph.D.’s who can do their own research and expect to be taken seriously in turn.

174

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 3:16 pm

Stephen: “One, you are not allowed so to teach. Two, you are not successful in so teaching. I thought, in the context of a discussion about preventing extremism, you might mean the first: which would be way off the point. If you mean the second, your conclusion that there must be something wrong with the values taught is equally off the point. “

I clearly don’t mean the first, which I had hoped would be obvious. If people are not successful in so teaching, is it the students’ fault? Are we allowed to admit into evidence the assertion that teachers are terrified of being punished if they speak out? How are the British values of tolerance and democracy and so on actually functioning, within a system in which teachers are terrified of being sacked for speaking out on political matters? (Note: given previous confusion, I had better point out that those are rhetorical questions.)

I can’t see anything to respect in a system in which terrified teachers teach about tolerance and democracy according to rule, while being trained on how to turn students who have committed no crimes over to the police for observation. What kind of British values are those?

175

Brett Bellmore 03.17.15 at 3:24 pm

“Rich: “can’t teach your students that democracy and British values are better than the alternatives” has two possible meanings.”

Three. You missed, “can’t bring yourself to teach”. Which I suspect is the source of most of the angst concerning this directive.

176

Stephen 03.17.15 at 3:40 pm

Rich: the Channel program to which you refer says nothing, as far as I can see, about a “police-enforced system that says that individual students had better profess British values or else”. Please let me know what I am missing.

As for Britain having “a system in which teachers are terrified of being sacked for speaking out on political matters”, I haven’t noticed it. The complaints made by Maria Warner, with which I entirely sympathise, refer to university staff fearing the consequences of opposing university policy and practice: in a sense, I suppose, that could be called a political matter, but it’s hardly relevant to countering extremism. I suppose, also, that teachers who oppose the mutual tolerance of different faiths and beliefs, or call for the death of members of the armed forces, might be afraid of being sacked. Should they not be?

Incidentally, I would appreciate an answer by you to my initial enquiry.

177

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 4:00 pm

Stephen: “Please let me know what I am missing.”

No. No amount of linking, quoting and so on can make someone see what they are determined not to see.

As for whether matters of university policy and practice are largely influenced and in this case determined by political processes — in this case, the “Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015” — perhaps you might to take a political science course?

178

Stephen 03.17.15 at 4:35 pm

But the matters of University policy & practice that Maria Warner was complaining about were in no way determined by Governmental politics, were they? Staff who were worried about the consequences of opposing their University weren’t worried about the consequences of opposing the Government, were they?

And as for the CTSA, you seem to have missed section 31 (2) which insists that a university or similar institution must have particular regard to the duty to ensure freedom of speech, and to the importance of academic freedom. Sorry if this interferes with your fantasy of terrified academics trembling under Government dictatorship.

You are of course under no obligation to answer my original question. I suspect you might choose option (1).

179

bianca steele 03.17.15 at 4:41 pm

There seems to be an assumption in the government statements that “British values” isn’t a contested concept. In the US, with rare exceptions, this wouldn’t work. A system like the one in the old Soviet-bloc, where even engineers were expected to undergo ideological indoctrination through the university level, at least lets everyone know where they stand–which isn’t always the case in the West, because where you stand depends (necessarily) on who else is standing there with you. I’ve always wondered how UK theater companies produce 1776, as it seems they do, with all its throwing around of the word “republican” and so on (though I suppose no one admires George III).

It’s really quite fascinating. Also interesting in conjunction with the thread on “privilege.” To the extent this is directed at Muslims, white Christian-heritage students of impeccable Englishness will feel less oppressed (with all that implies) than others will.

180

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 4:53 pm

Stephen: “But the matters of University policy & practice that Maria Warner was complaining about were in no way determined by Governmental politics, were they?”

Funding levels aren’t determined by Governmental politics? No, this is leading down another rabbit hole. What are you teaching people like Stephen about politics there in Britain? Maybe he’s not from the UK.

Section 31 (2) is a form of particular triumph of words over actuality. When curricula are under central control and every teacher is being asked to turn students over to the police, what freedom of speech and academic freedom actually survives?

And your original question was an exercise in deceptive framing and false dilemma. It asserts that there is a single thing called “extremism” which I must either assume is not a problem, or that is a problem. If we are classing everything but “British values” as extremism, then we already know there’s a problem.

Do you teach in the UK, Stephen? I assume that you will dutifully do your bit to protect people by turning students over to the police.

181

Phil 03.17.15 at 5:58 pm

Rich @164 – I’m sure the union is looking at all this. I’m not sure what ‘tenure’ is; when I got my first job as a computer programmer it was understood that I couldn’t be fired without just cause (unless my position itself was made redundant), and that’s been the case in most of the jobs I’ve had since. The difference in academia at the moment is that there seem to be an awful lot of things that could potentially constitute ‘just cause’, a lot of them speech-based. And the triviality of the ‘offending’ behaviour – more precisely, things which could be treated as offending behaviour – makes a real difference. Go on strike and you’re in breach of contract – we’ve all heard that, and by and large once you’ve heard it a couple of times it doesn’t scare you any more. But to be told that if you could be disciplined if you say the wrong thing on a blog or in email – that’s what you call a chilling effect.

(Oh, and please stop talking to me as if I was a child who needed a lesson in citizenship. But, but – if they go on strike they could lose their jobs! “That’s right, son – it’s a big risk they’re taking. But sometimes you need to take a risk in order to do the right thing!” OK, message received.)

182

Phil 03.17.15 at 6:00 pm

Stephen @176-8:

As for Britain having “a system in which teachers are terrified of being sacked for speaking out on political matters”, I haven’t noticed it.

You won’t have done, because until the other week Britain didn’t have a system in which teachers had a duty to monitor students for signs of radicalisation and/or to exemplify British values. Now, we do. My purpose in bringing in the Warner piece is to suggest that resistance to this imposition may, unfortunately, be quite muted.

as for the CTSA, you seem to have missed section 31 (2) which insists that a university or similar institution must have particular regard to the duty to ensure freedom of speech, and to the importance of academic freedom.

If you’d read the thread before posting you might have realised that this section was added by opponents of the Bill; it wasn’t in the draft put forward by the government. And that it only applies to universities and institutions at that level – not to colleges of further education or to schools.

183

Phil 03.17.15 at 6:20 pm

bianca @169-70:

I think what we need to bear in mind is that all of this derives from a government policy, drawn up by committee, in haste, responding to political imperatives and addressing genuinely difficult issues. It’s not a recipe for clear thinking. The policy’s been revised several times since, but all that really means is that they can’t claim to be working in haste – all the other problems remain.

The whole thing is made up of guesses and rules of thumb. What’s radicalisation? We don’t know, but presumably it’s the kind of process people go through before they become radical enough to be recruited by a terrorist group. How does radicalisation work? We don’t know, but presumably it’s got something to do with acquiring radical ideas. What are radical ideas? We don’t know, but presumably they’re ideas that are at odds with the kind of ideas we approve of. What are the kind of ideas we approve of? Oh, you know, democracy, free speech, the rule of law, all those things.

If you mentally translate ‘radicalised’ as ‘ready to join Al Qaida and/or ISIS’, and ‘British values’ as ‘the kind of thing that people don’t believe in when they’ve been radicalised’, it all becomes a lot more straightforward. Not that it makes sense or seems useful, but it is more straightforward.

As for teaching Leninism – or Islamism, for that matter – without ‘exposing’ the students to arguments in favour, that would be fine until the first student asked the question Why? – specifically, ‘why does anyone believe in this entirely evil and reprehensible ideology?’. That’s, ah, a complicated question; our research hasn’t really got to the bottom of it yet, but we believe that what scientists call Mind Control Rays may play a large part…

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Stephen 03.17.15 at 6:37 pm

Rich @180: sure, funding levels from government funds are determined by government policy. How could they not be?
University responses to funding levels are not determined by government policy. How could they be?

That UK curricula are under central control is news to me.

As for my original question: “extremism” was a word used by the OP. I should not have been so trusting. More fool me. What the CTSA, chapter 5, sections 26-35 is actually concerned with is “preventing persons being drawn into terrorism”.

So let’s rephrase it:
It seems to me there is a choice of several positions:
1) Students being led, or misled, into terrorism is not a problem, so nothing should be done about it.
2) It is a problem, but anything that can be attempted to be done about it will only make things worse, so nothing should be done.
3) It is a problem, and something should be done about it, but not the proposed actions. My preferred solution is [insert actions here].
4) It is a problem, and the proposed actions are correct.

Fairly clearly, the OP and most others disagree with (4), for various reasons. It is not clear which of (1-3) they do agree with.

Over to you, Rich.

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Stephen 03.17.15 at 6:39 pm

Phil@182: when considering the effects of a law, I prefer to concentrate on the wording of the law as it was actually enacted. Sorry about that.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 7:25 pm

If you’re talking about terrorism specifically, then I unequivocally agree that it’s a bad thing. What should be done about stopping people from becoming terrorists? I don’t know, and I suspect that no one really knows. I suspect that having teachers inform on students who are trusting and foolish enough to confide in them or to defend terrorism in class is not likely to catch any people who go on to become actual terrorists, and that the actual long-term answer has to do with Britain’s foreign policy. But this is classed as “apologizing for terrorism”.

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Brett Bellmore 03.17.15 at 7:39 pm

“I suspect that having teachers inform on students who are trusting and foolish enough to confide in them or to defend terrorism in class is not likely to catch any people who go on to become actual terrorists”

I suspect you’re right. But, how about having students inform on teachers who defend terrorism in class? That might actually be more to the point, the students being the ones being radical’ized’, you want to catch the people who are doing the radical’izing’.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 7:51 pm

Phil: “(Oh, and please stop talking to me as if I was a child who needed a lesson in citizenship. But, but – if they go on strike they could lose their jobs! “That’s right, son – it’s a big risk they’re taking. But sometimes you need to take a risk in order to do the right thing!” OK, message received.)”

The conversation went like this: I sneered at people who hypothetically told themselves that they were virtuous because they weren’t personally turning people in, you replied “As opposed to doing what – resigning? Give me a good hypothetical alternative to your hypothetical virtuous shudder and I’ll give you the right to that sneer”, I replied that people could protest. You said that academics can’t protest because they’re afraid of getting fired.

I don’t really know of any response to that other than the obvious one, which is that anyone who protests anything having to do with their work risks getting fired. And that academics in general have more workplace protections on political speech and protest than most people. Should I just assume that I have a right to that sneer?

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Philip 03.17.15 at 8:17 pm

Looking at it a bit more closely it is being presented as a safeguarding issue not a law enforcement one. Schools and FE colleges already have to have named safeguarding officers who will share information on children and vulnerable adults with other organisations. It might not really change things much and just be a case of something must be done and this is something, so risk assessments, action plans, policies and procedures, are made, staff are given training and everyone can show what they are doing to stop people being radicalised. Even the bit about delivery in FE is just saying that staff have to be trained so they can ‘develop the curriculum . . . and exemplify British values’, I guess they would only have to if they identify a need to.

When it becomes clearer what the impact will be then there could be push back from unions and even the institutions themselves e.g. if universities think it will put off overseas students. The worry is that it is being introduced through counter-terrorism and security legislation not safeguarding legislation, and the act contains a duty to have regard to the guidance from the Secretary of State. So the guidance could be changed, and therefore also the effect of the law, without the change being voted or debated on.

As well as seeing how ‘radicalisation’, ‘extremism’ and ‘British values’ are interpreted it will be interesting to see what the relevant curriculum areas are. Especially in regard to Bianca’s point about white privilege, i.e. will ESOL be seen as a relevant when other English languages qualifications aren’t?

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Luke 03.17.15 at 8:46 pm

It’s always interesting the way libertarian types like Brett are such ardent totalitarians.

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Phil 03.17.15 at 9:19 pm

Rich – I think the point you’re missing is that not wanting to get sacked is a perfectly valid reason for not protesting. If people are cowed into submission that’s wrong, but what’s wrong is the fact that they’re under that threat. Protesting anyhow is brave and honourable, but I don’t think that deciding to keep your head down – if you’ve assessed the risks correctly – is actually blameworthy. But I’m basically agreeing with you on this thread, so never mind. I probably come off as having a bit of an attitude myself.

That said, and FWIW, I really don’t think that “academics in general have more workplace protections on political speech and protest than most people” – not in Britain, anyway. Put it this way: I haven’t included details of a recent high-profile disciplinary case known to me, because it was (as far as I could tell) entirely speech-based, and this suggests to me that speech can be costly in our line of work – perhaps very costly. And this is my point about the disciplinary power of uncertainty, particularly when an individual’s acting (or speaking) alone. Signing a petition in favour of Dr Smith, alongside several hundred others: no problem. Joining an official strike to protest against Dr Smith’s treatment: fine. Poking my solitary head up on social media, weeks or months after the event, and suggesting I might not be OK with what happened to Dr Smith: that could be taken down and used in evidence against me, and why take the risk?

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bianca steele 03.17.15 at 9:42 pm

Phil,

I think we agree.

I would assume that a reasonable definition of “at risk of being radicalized” includes (a) at risk of becoming severely alienated from mainstream society, and (b) likely to come into close contact with extremist groups that promise solace against alienation. As well as (c) at least in some cases, likely to be attracted to ideologies that might offer support for those extremist groups. Maybe there are other specific things they’re looking for (though from what I’ve read about religious extremism, you can’t really predict it from current level of religious practice). OTOH unless there’s explicit guidance on this, I’d expect decisions occasionally to be based on irrelevant traits.

As for As for teaching Leninism :

Here’s the kind of thing I have in mind. John Gray in the Guardian describes ISIS as relying on Leninist ideas; obviously he assumes readers of the Guardian will read that and say “yuck.” A boyfriend once described Ayn Rand as a combination of Nietzsche and Marx; obviously his high school teacher assumed they would say “yuck,” or at least know that “yuck” was the proper response. By the time I’d finished college, I’d learned to be very wary of romantic nationalism, which I think is common in the US, though others, I know, have a different attitude. So in a class where everyone was a middle-class American, you could expect to mention Lenin or (in some cases) Herder, and know you’d elicit a “yuck.” But I think this is what you’re saying.

But “British values”–does that include, say, C.S. Lewis? Because I can imagine a young man, inclined to religious conservatism, reading Lewis, and deciding that his mixed-sex school is deplorably modern, and his society in need of root-and-branch reform (and never getting to the point where Lewis massacres the Turks, or accepting apologetics about their allegorical significance).

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Rich Puchalsky 03.17.15 at 11:58 pm

Phil: “I think the point you’re missing is that not wanting to get sacked is a perfectly valid reason for not protesting. If people are cowed into submission that’s wrong, but what’s wrong is the fact that they’re under that threat. Protesting anyhow is brave and honourable, but I don’t think that deciding to keep your head down – if you’ve assessed the risks correctly – is actually blameworthy.”

Well… I’ve never experienced a society in which protesting was entirely risk-free. Generally there is at least the veiled threat of arrest, even for the most seemingly nonobjectionable protest. (For instance, in the Occupy group I was in, we were threatened with arrest for having tents up without a permit.) So I’m used to thinking of all protesting as protesting despite risk. I agree that the risk of losing one’s job (and being effectively blacklisted within academia, probably) is a greater risk than most protesting entails.

But you and Stephen have very diverging risk estimates, seemingly, and it can’t be both at once. There is either a “healthy” risk regime in which nonviolent protest by academics is nearly risk-free or an “unhealthy” one in which protest leaders get fired. The second regime calls into question the exact values of British tolerance, democracy, liberty and rule of law that are supposedly being defended. The only real test of which regime it is is for someone to protest and see what happens.

So this is a particularly apt subject for protest. I don’t expect everyone to be willing to take this risk, but someone should be willing to. I certainly don’t recommend a solitary poke at the authorities on social media: someone should get a petition together, have hundreds of people sign it, etc. Corey Robin has done that kind of thing here more than once.

Parenthetically, in the U.S. the situation with academics vs other employment is very different. U.S. employment is generally “at will”: people can fire you for any reason, while it is very difficult to fire a tenured academic.

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Phil 03.18.15 at 9:49 am

I certainly don’t recommend a solitary poke at the authorities on social media: someone should get a petition together, have hundreds of people sign it, etc.

Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. I’m saying that my sense of the disciplinary environment at my institution inhibits the things I’m willing to say on threads like this one – even when a particular issue is settled & in the past. I’ve written tweets & deleted them before now. Just day-to-day “here’s how I feel about stuff” commentary, if it can be seen to reflect badly on your institution, can be really career-limiting – or at least, that’s the fear. It’s not so much that “protest leaders get fired” (although that happens too). It’s more that being critical of management may lead into a disciplinary downward spiral, at the end of which either they can fire you or you’ve saved yourself and turned into a model citizen (unless you’ve given up and left of your own accord by then).

And, while I hate to give any credence to Stephen’s arguments, it can be both at once: some university managements are significantly more aggressive than others. For instance, some places treat “action short of strike” (e.g. marking boycotts) as strike action & withhold a proportion of the participants’ salary for the duration of the action, or even the whole of their salary (this of course makes the distinction between ASOS and an actual strike moot, effectively depriving the union of ASOS as a tactic). When ASOS was taken at my last place, the VC issued a statement following a strike to the effect that the norms of academic freedom and collegiality were too important to risk through punitive management responses, and therefore no deductions would be made.

But there is a general trend towards more aggressive management, as Marina Warner’s article suggests. (And things may have changed at my old place, which has a new VC now.) It’s not just in HE, either – other things I’ve heard suggest that HE is getting a relatively light dose, so far. A friend who worked for a local authority told me that their management made a cult of resilience – a perfectly good social-psychological concept, which they (mis)interpreted to mean “taking whatever we throw at you and never complaining”. You’ve worked all weekend and now you’re going to have to work all night? Resilience! You’ve been told to stop working on A and concentrate on B, then asked where the hell A is? Resilience! You’re not very happy with being shouted at in the workplace and given impossible tasks? Wrong answer – ha ha, look who’s not resilient!

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Rich Puchalsky 03.18.15 at 1:36 pm

“I’m saying that my sense of the disciplinary environment at my institution inhibits the things I’m willing to say on threads like this one”

I’m not expecting anyone to say anything on threads like this one. I can, but I’m self-employed.

But I’ll restate the obvious yet again, for anyone else still reading this — instituting a trained squad of police informers at every place of further or higher education is not the act of a healthy democracy. Arguments that you need to do it because you need to do something are not arguments that would succeed in a healthy democracy. The people making these arguments are damaging British tolerance and liberty more than the terrorists could; the people democratically bringing this informer squad into being are demonstrating the failure of democracy as implemented in the UK. And of course students will turn to “extremism” of various kinds (hopefully not terrorism): the society that is educating them is demonstrating the failure of its values.

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bianca steele 03.18.15 at 1:38 pm

Part of what Rich is saying, I think, is that in the US we rely heavily on academics as protesters and it’s difficult to think of academics as actually less able to protest. This is probably due in part to the way tenure and at-will employment, respectively, work in the US, to the weak labor movement and poor legal support for unions, to the weak left generally, to a suspicion (though this can be overblown–there’s a strong native tradition of the opposite) of being the nail that sticks up. ISTM that this leads us to risk having a professional protester class, made up of academics and people who can “afford to” protest with all that implies, both giving up other things and also not risking calumny. Not sure this is entirely on-topic, though.

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bianca steele 03.18.15 at 1:42 pm

Cross-posted with Rich’s last; mine not a comment on his.

Rich, in the US, in elementary schools, from time to time we have teachers referring kids to services for pictures and creative writing that meets criteria that have been identified as indicating being “troubled” or possibly becoming a school shooter. I admit I don’t know whether the UK system will be more like that, or more like something like vulnerability to cult recruitment, or more like McCarthyism.

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Phil 03.18.15 at 2:53 pm

bianca @196 – I certainly don’t feel “more rather than less able to protest”, precisely because my job involves having informed opinions & sharing them with the public. I used to work for an insurance broker; if I’d written an article denouncing the state of the insurance broking industry it wouldn’t have done me any harm at all – my boss and his boss probably wouldn’t even have read it. Very different being a lecturer.

How it will work – two stories I’ve already heard were somebody receiving home healthcare being reported for downloading flight training manuals and a primary-school child being referred (to a series of agencies and ultimately the police) for describing 9/11 as “a great event in history”. The thought that the kid might be using the non-laudatory sense of ‘great’ apparently didn’t cross anyone’s mind. Expect more.

Rich – hearty agreement with your conclusion.

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bianca steele 03.18.15 at 3:31 pm

Phil,

I think I understood that you don’t feel more able to protest. Your explanation (about “informed opinion”) is interesting because I’m not sure it could be made in the US, where academia is–and pretty much has always been, for easily more than a hundred years–mostly too separate from the rest of society for academics’ opinions to be seen, by them or by the public, as representing the public. (I suppose in the wake of the Cold War it’s possible some academics persuaded themselves it must be otherwise and therefore is otherwise, however.) So an academic opinion is in itself a protest. It protests against the status quo in the name of an ideal, or on the basis of scientific discoveries about consequences of social conditions. It is, however, not in itself an engaged protest (except when it concerns academics’ conditions of work).

But still less is academic “protest in itself” a defense of the right wing or the status quo or the ruling class or the administration or some (non-existent in the US even if otherwise elsewhere) popular consensus. Rather, it’s a defense of a liberal ideal: science should take precedence over politics, and reason over power, pluralism and openness over dogma, humanism over prejudice, and so on. (Religious extremism, on the contrary, being often an attack on the legitimacy of the liberal ideal, in favor of the way it was done in some other time or place, by people who were better than us.)

There’s not much else to say. I think there’s a fair amount of fantasizing about how it all simply must work out for the best, even if no one does anything about it or about anything, some of it drawn from Marx, some not; some of it sheerly negative, as if the bad stuff will go away and the good stuff come back if we just attack absolutely everything with everything we have. Some of it probably disingenuous, even.

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ZM 03.18.15 at 9:24 pm

“Rather, it’s a defense of a liberal ideal: science should take precedence over politics, …”

Our Liberal Party would vehemently disagree with this – here the liberal view is politics takes precedence over science. In practice they try to achieve this by cutting government funding for science. The non-liberal parties are more fond of science

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