Should we ‘decolonise’ the curriculum?

Campaigns such the NUS backed ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ and #DecoloniseEducation promise to overturn ‘the “Whiteness”, Eurocentric domination and lack of diversity in the curricula…which frames the West as sole producers of universal knowledge’. There is growing support for making courses, faculties, reading lists and ‘core’ subjects more culturally diverse to take account of the diverse backgrounds of an expanded student population. It is argued that ‘White’ curricula are responsible for feelings of ‘isolation, marginalisation, alienation and exclusion’ among non-white students.

Critics note that while the decolonising ‘young Turks’ see themselves as more enlightened and progressive than their out-of-touch lecturers, they seem to be kicking an open door. Many academics have long been defensive about the politically incorrect history of their institutions and even their disciplines, and are quick to apologise and ditch classic texts. But at what cost? Black radical CLR James wrote that ‘the origins of my work and thought are to be found in Western European literature, Western European history and Western European thought’ and argued that black people could liberate themselves by embracing the universal legacy of Shakespeare and Hegel, Mozart and Melville. Might limiting students to knowledge deemed appropriate to their cultural background leave them without any grounding in major intellectual developments? Isn’t the point of learning to transcend one’s particular cultural background? Or does a curriculum dominated by the ‘pale, male and stale’ explain the attainment gap, whereby non-white students are 20% less likely to achieve a first or 2:1 degree, despite arriving at university with the same grades?

Should education, at school or university, be about reflecting students’ cultural identities? Or should education be about creating, even imposing, a different type of identity – not given by biological fact or social background – but that of the educated individual? Is the identity of the educated person really open to all, as supporters of liberal education have claimed in the past? Or is such an identity a mask that hides oppressive power relations as many of today’s student campaigns allege?

Speaker:  Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert (University of Cambridge) 

Date, Time and Venue:  

Thursday 23 March 2017 at 7 PM in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby

Entry £3 waged/£2 unwaged

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The dual crisis of migration

“…the fate of migrants is becoming securitised and weaponised. When the European Parliament voted to interrupt Turkey’s EU membership ascension process and plans for visa-free travel, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened the EU that he would not stop migrants travelling to Europe ‘Listen to me: these border gates will be opened if you go any further’ (BBC, 25 November 2016).”

Following on from our discussion of the rise of anti-democacy after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, at our next Salon Dr Mladen Pupavac and Dr Vanessa Pupavac, from the School of Politics and International Relations at The University of Nottingham, will introduce a discussion on migration based on their joint research.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 2 March at 7 PM in the Parlour of The Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Admission: £3/£2 unwaged – a donation to help with costs.

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The dangerous rise of anti-democracy

“The spread of discontent, disengagement and disaffection across Western societies has revealed the yawning chasm between power and the people…The reaction against this discontent has brought the historical fear and loathing of the masses bubbling back to the surface. Demos-phobia is back in fashion” (Mick Hume)

In the first East Midlands Salon of 2017 Tom Slater, deputy editor of Spiked and the co-ordinator of the Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR), will lead a discussion on the anti-democratic turn that is increasingly apparent among politicians, businessmen and women, journalists, academics and the what is still called the ‘left’. The Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump and the rise of new populist movements has struck fear into the hearts of the political classes. Their hatred of ordinary people – the ignorant uneducated masses – has become vitriolic.

Our question is: “How do we reclaim the belief in democracy when so many fear that dark forces of ignorance, xenophobia and racism are on the rise?”

Chair: Christopher Lynch  

Date, Time and Venue: Tuesday 31 January 2017 at 7PM in the Parlour of The Brunswick Inn, 1 Railway Terrace, Derby, DE1 2RU (Derby CAMRA Pub of the Year 2016)

Entry: £3 (waged) £2 (unwaged) – a contribution towards costs.

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The future of free speech: will tackling ‘radicalisation’ mean the death of debate?

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The government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy sees the sudden psychological ‘radicalisation’ of vulnerable children and young people as the cause of today’s apparently meaningless acts of terrorism. It has turned teachers and lecturers into spies looking out for signs of ‘radicalisation’ including signs of unusual behaviour and mental illness. ‘Prevent’ has many critics who often condemn it as ‘Islamophobic’ for targeting Muslims, while its supporters claim that the aim is to prevent terrorism in all its forms including that of extreme right or ‘Fascist’ groups and that of individual fanatics.

But is the idea behind ‘Prevent’ ineffective because it is essentially passive? Watching, waiting and hoping are hardly inspiring activities.  The celebration of freedoms, of fun and the enjoyment of life are what will challenge the tendency to nihilistic, misanthropic and often self-hating acts of violence. Instead of active assertion of values, lecturers and teachers are required to create an Orwellian climate of suspicion and fear. Some even welcome their community safety roles and go about seeking out supposed signs of radicalisation.

A duty to report suspicions to the police and other authorities leaves teachers and lecturers in a morally shameful state. Their only weapon in response to the challenge of narcissistic and nihilistic extremism is to use the one ability that any teacher or lecturer worthy of the name has, the ability to discuss and debate every issue, however ‘sensitive’ or ‘offensive’ it may be. That includes the necessity to debate ‘Prevent’ and its implications without looking constantly over your shoulder.

Teachers and lecturers have a choice, either they can live in fear and spread fear, or they can speak up and say what they think and encourage pupils and students to speak freely.

At this Battle of Ideas satellite we will uphold the motto of the Institute of Ideas: ‘Free Speech Allowed!’ and let nothing prevent people from speaking up. Come along and keep debate alive.

Date, Time and Venue: Tuesday 8 November at 7 PM, in the Hallmark Midland Hotel, Derby. Tickets £5 (waged) £3 (unwaged) available on Eventbrite.

Speakers:

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Knowledge versus Skills: the great education debate 2016

callaghanDo we want children to learn ‘the best that has been known and thought in the world’ or do we want them to have the skills necessary for work and life in the 21st Century? Why impose an elite, Victorian curriculum on children today? Children need to be empowered to unleash their creativity and to develop the soft skills for a new world and a new workplace. Do really need latter day Gradgrinds pouring ‘facts’ into empty vessels and then examining them? Shouldn’t we look after the whole child and ensure they do not grow up unhappy with potential mental illness but become rounded personalities who can make a positive contribution to society? Our Salon on 18 October 2016 marks the 40th Anniversary of the ‘Great Debate’ on education launched by then Prime Minister Jim Callaghan in a speech at Ruskin College Oxford on 18 October 1976. In that debate Callaghan invited business to suggest how education could re-vitalise the economy. The consequence was the introduction of instrumental and short-term schemes that didn’t train or educate young people. On the 18 October 2016 the East Midlands Salon (sponsored by SCETT) launches a new ‘Great Debate’: In 2016 do we need young people who have what might be called ‘old fashioned’ knowledge or ‘modern day’ skills?

Speakers at this Battle of Ideas Satellite  are:

Professor Michael Young (Author of Bringing Knowledge Back In)

Katie Ivens (Director, Real Action)

Professor Dennis Hayes (Co-author of The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education)

Chair: Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler (Programme Leader for Education Studies, University of Derby)

Date and Time: Tuesday 18 October 2016 7 PM

Venue: Hallmark Midland Hotel, Derby

Tickets £5 (£3 Unwaged) available from Eventbrite.

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The autumn programme 2016

ArgumentThe East Midlands Salon is taking a summer break but will be back in the autumn with a whole new programme. We begin with a special event in September:

Wednesday 28 September – What is the role of a Salon in the 21st Century?

Speakers will include Simon Belt (convenor of the Manchester Salon) on salon organisation and Dennis Hayes on the origins of the Salon – from his talk on ‘Sex and the Salon’. This is an informal discussion for supporter of the Salons and is by invitation only. If you would like to attend please email the Salon.

And in October we have our Battle of Ideas Satellite event:

Tuesday 18 October 2016 at 6.30 PM in the Hallmark Midland Hotel, Derby – Knowledge versus Skills: the great education debate 2016

Speakers at this ‘round table’ include the distinguished sociologist of education, Professor Michael Young and Katie Ivens, Director of the education charity Real Action.

Tuesday 8 November at 7 PM will be a post-Battle of Ideas satellite, sponsored by Academics For Academic Freedom- The future for free speech – will tackling ‘radicalisation’ mean the death of debate?

Speakers include, Abdullah Muhammed (Chaplain, University of Derby), Dr Roba Al-Ghabra (Solicitor with civil liberties lawyers Birnberg Peirce).

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Every Cook Can Govern: the life, work and impact of C.L.R. James

c-l-r-james-3Our unique June Salon is the Midlands’ premiere of Every Cook Can Govern, the first feature-length documentary to explore the life, writings and politics of the great Trinidad-born revolutionary C.L.R. James who died in Brixton in 1989.

This historical tour-de-force interweaves never before seen footage of C.L.R. James with unique testimony from those he knew, alongside interviews with the world’s most eminent scholars of James’ life, work and politics. Through a challenging overview of his life and his thoughts on colonialism to cricket, from Marxism to the movies, from reading to revolution, what emerges in this film is an understanding of what it meant to be an uncompromising revolutionary in the 20th Century.

Every Cook Can Govern marks the culmination of a three year multimedia project arranged by the education charity WORLDwrite and its Citizen TV station WORLDbytes. Its unique production history – crowd-funded, crowd-featured and crowd-filmed – does credit to James’ conviction that every cook can govern. The film brings to life James’ thought and shows what it means to be uncompromising in one’s principles to the very end and to fearlessly question received wisdom and the world around us.

Ceri Dingle, the producer and Director of WORLDwrite, will introduce the film. We hope you can join us.

Date, Time and  Venue:  Tuesday 21 June at 17.30 at One Friar Gate Square, Derby, DE1 1DZ.

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The morality of tourism

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From the 1960s, tourism was encouraged as an unquestionable good. With the arrival of package holidays and charter flights, tourism could at last be enjoyed by the masses. The UN even declared 1967 ‘International Years of the Tourist’, and recognised tourism was as ‘a basic and most desirable human activity, deserving the praise and encouragement of all people’s and all governments’.

Today, however, tourism is no longer seen in such a positive light. Since the 1990s there’s been growing criticism of the tourist industry, and tourists themselves. Mass tourism is deemed to have wrought damage to the environment and host societies, while many tourists are seen as caring little for the countries they travel to. To remedy this, new forms of tourism have developed that proclaim themselves to be ‘ethical’ or ‘responsible; that can help make a positive difference to the world, or at least minimise our negative impact.

However, in recent years responsible tourism has also face criticism. On the one hand, ethical tourists are often regarded as naïve, patronising and more interested in salving their own guilty Western consciences than genuinely helping people. On the other, some argue that such tourism constitutes a burden that actually hinders progress and development in countries that need it the most. It is also claimed that, while such tourism may have the language of responsibility, it is really about restricting travel for the masses and keeping it for the privileged ‘ethical’ few.

So is tourism an innocent pleasure, or is there a need to curb the excesses of the holiday industry, and even holiday makers themselves? Should holidays be solely about enjoyment, or do we have a responsibility to the places we visit to ‘tread lightly’ or even ‘put something back’? What is ‘ethical tourism’ and who does it benefit?

Our speaker for this topical Salon is Dr Jim Butcher, reader in the geography of tourism at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Date, time and venue: Tuesday 24 May at 7 PM in the Hallmark Midland Hotel, Derby.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite

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Parenting, neuroscience and the state

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David Cameron argues he wants parents to see parenting classes as ‘aspirational’. He and others involved in policy making across the political spectrum argue there is a pressing need for more and more such early intervention in the lives of children, starting in-utero. This is where the opportunity exists to make lives better, or impair them for good, they say, claiming neuroscience tells us this is true. In this talk Dr Ellie Lee (Reader in Social Policy at the University of Kent and director of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies) will argue against the rise of ‘neuroparenting’ and explain why it degrades both family autonomy and tarnishes science.

Date, Time and Venue: Tuesday 22 March at 7 PM in the Hallmark Midland Hotel, Derby

Tickets available on Eventbrite.

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