Sunday, 8 January 2017

SOAS Students want to ban "white" ideas

A bust of Socrates
Photo: By Sting, CC

A lot of people who attend University in their youth (or in my case a Polytechnic) are attracted to radical ideas of some sort or another, it's part of the growing process. That said even in my day the majority of students avoided politics and didn't participate in the students union except when they put on gigs and parties or needed funding for some club, particularly sports.

Then of course there was the cheap bar....

When I arrived at the Polytechnic of Central London in 1977 I found the students union controlled by of all things Maoists. As far as I'm aware the only place they ever managed to take over. The organisation behind the "Socialist Society" (Soc Soc as we called it) was the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) who published a lithographed paper called simply The Worker

The CPB (M-L) is still going today but has absolutely no influence on politics whatsoever. They were just one of a whole range of parties and tendencies that were around at the time. There was the Socialist Workers Party, the "official" Communist Party of Great Britain and the Revolutionary Communist Tendency (which became the RCP in later years).

Just around the corner was one of the bookshops owned by the Workers Revolutionary Party and a young lady from the Posadists turned up to sell her wares outside the bar. 

Oh and there was a Labour Club (which I ran for a couple of years) and a Conservative Students group, the Chair of which I became friends with despite his politics.

In those days the only ban we pursued was "no-platforming" the National Front which was becoming a big threat during the late seventies. I do not recall any move to stop speakers of any sort, though there was a protest against the Shah of Persia and certainly whilst there was a burgeoning Women's Group, there was none of this self indulgent "intersectionalist malarky that seems to have grown within the modern students movement.

The bottom line was we went to learn (some more than others) and did read and those that studied politics/sociology and the like took account of various schools of thought from left to right and some in between as part of the process.

That was then.

Today the student movement seems to be all about censorship of some sort or another. It's not so long ago the campaign to remove Cecil Rhodes statue was in the news along with other types trying to control language by insisting the use of "ze" instead of he or she in case of "transphobia" or some other possible "micro-aggression" or discrimination.

Now I read that the Students Union at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) are demanding all "white" philosophers are dropped from course work due to "white colonialism" in education. In practice this means Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, the list is endless and probably goes up to including Hegel, Marx, Sartre and heaven knows who else.

Appalling. There is a place for all kinds of philosophers on courses. Confucius anyone? But remove the Greeks and those that followed. It just smacks of the kind of bigotry that led to book burning in Nazi Universities.

It certainly leads to some very confused thinking as this quote from Patai and Koertge, Professing Feminism illustrates:

If minority race students do not understand a philosopher, then it is the philosopher who is inadequate, not the minority race students.

Erm, no. And anyway what if a white student doesn't understand either? Philosophy isn't an exact subject like mathematics where there can only be one answer (though some maths geek is bound to try & disprove that assertion).

Education requires a broad and open mind. Today's activists have pre-conceived, ill thought out ideas and are tomorrow's potential oppressors.

Thank god I went to college in the seventies.

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