Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Universities must promote free speech

Enough of safe spaces, no-platforming, and other pathetic leaning-over-backwards to placate the sensitive snow-flake generation.

Toughen up you brightest of the bright (allegedly)

Sir Michael Barber, the head of the new student watchdog has vowed to enforce free speech on campuses.

He says that students or academics who prevented discussion or debate out of fear of offending others were on a “slippery slope“. Universities, in his view, “should be places of intellectual and personal “discomfort”. Being comfortable was a step towards being “complacent” or “self-satisfied” whereas he thought more profound learning required discomfort.

The Office for Students  will adopt “the widest possible definition of freedom of speech – namely anything within the law” when it begins monitoring campuses in April.

He says he hopes they will never have to intervene (I think they’ll be busy) but if they do “it will be to widen freedom of speech rather than restrict it”

In defence of students he thought this generation “was demonstrably the best educated in history, hard-working, thoughtful, curious and ambitious“.  He then added “Then, just occasionally I read or hear something that suggests a potential threat to the freedom of speech that underpins such optimism”.

I think the problem is more widespread than he is prepared to admit. I anticipate some universities will be criticised and fined, if not suspended.

I have posted before about daft campuses.

 

 

 

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Brits are fatties – no getting away from it

  • Almost two out of three British adults are overweight.
  • We are the fattest country in western Europe.
  • Our obesity rates have doubled in the past 20 years.
  • We are the 6th heaviest developed country behind Mexico, the US, New Zealand, Finland, and Australia (some surprises there for me)

We also have high rates of teenage drunkedness (even though teenagers now drink less that previous generations), high cancer rates (and above average cancer deaths) and a shortage of doctors and nurses (18% lower than average for doctors and 12% lower for nurses), according to the OECD.

Our health overall is average for all the OECD countries but our obesity levels stand out. At least our child obesity rates have become stable at 24% unlike the rest of Europe where it is increasing. But that still means 1 in 4 children are very fat!

The worry is that it’s now becoming normal in Britain to be overweight. With Public Health officials being sensitive to medical staff actually telling parents their kids are fat.

The Obesity Health Alliance of doctors and charities said the results were shocking and the solution lies in stopping children becoming obese.

The National Obesity Forum chairman said “One could weep over the figures, the results of successive governments who have done nothing for 30 years”

Public Health England said “our plans to tackle obesity are among the most ambitious. We’re working to make food healthier and delivering campaigns encouraging people to choose healthier food and lead healthier lives. Change will not happen overnight

Perhaps if we called a spade and spade and named and shamed parents of obese kids we might get somewhere instead of pussyfooting around so as not to upset anybody. Letting your kids become obese is child abuse surely?


Top UK university upsets students by encouraging them to work hard

Top ranking Cambridge University has really gone floppy on its attitude to students having to work hard.

When Professor Eugene Terentjev, director of studies in the natural sciences, e-mailed his students about the need to work hard and party less if they wanted to succeed, saying the course required their full attention it created shock waves.

Students were said to be horrified saying his stance was “extremely damaging“. The vice-chancellor  at Buckingham University (VCs are those over-paid people we keep hearing about who seem to do very little) accused him of “frightening impressionable undergraduates“. And mental health campaigners said the message was “neither appropriate nor acceptable“.

You might think him a bit of a killjoy for saying they would need their full mental capacity for the course with not much time for fun “Physical science is a VERY hard subject, which requires ALL of your attention and your FULL brain capacity (and for a large fraction of you that will not be quite enough” but the reaction was way, way OTT.

He also had a dig at other universities where students drink a lot and have a good time, and even other courses at Cambridge saying that some of them sadly found that kind of behaviour acceptable. He did however finish by wishing them well and hoping they would succeed like previous students.

The mental health campaigning group Student Minds Cambridge was worried that the message could enforce feelings of “imposter syndrome” (where people don’t believe they are good enough and are there under false pretences).

The students’ union said it would have welcomed advice about work-life balance and ensuring you had enough rest between parties but didn’t like the message that having any kind of social life was unacceptable. It urged students adversely affected by the e-mail to seek counselling or see their GP. Definitely in snowflake territory if these so-called top students are so affected by an e-mail.

The university said that “the university believes that all first-year students in all disciplines, having undergone the thorough admissions process that Cambridge requires, have the capacity to succeed academically

That’s OK then. Stop worrying and do what you parents told you – work hard and don’t drink too much.


Pendle Forest Sculpture Trail

I’d set off expecting a mile walk along the trail. The teacher who told me about it forgot to mention you had to walk 2 miles from the car park in Barley just to get to the start point at Aitken Wood. NB The pamphlet advises you that you need 2-3 hours to get round.

Someone else told me it was a bit steep and I took this to mean the trek up past the reservoirs – not the actual trek up through the forest. There’ll have to be a cable car to get me up there again!

And as for the weather. Never mind Mist over Pendle, it was raining most of the afternoon. The proper wet stuff you get in Lancashire.

The story of the Pendle Witches has long been familiar round these parts and the sculpture trail is an excellent way to get involved with local history.

The sculpture trail is very well done. A combination of sculptures and plaques produced by four artists: Phillipe Handford, Steve Blaylock, Martyn Bednarczuk, and Sarah McDade.

I was in the company of two coach loads of primary school children who swarmed over everything making it almost impossible to get clear photographs and the wet overcast weather didn’t help either.

However here are a few of the sculptures starting with one of  a witch-finder based on the local magistrate Roger Nowell who started the investigation and subsequent prosecutions. He’s shown with papers with Alice Nutter’s name on the top.

There are also bats, an owl, a spider’s web and a copse of broomsticks among other interesting sculptures made from wood, ceramic and steel, plus ten ceramic plaques which symbolise the ten people prosecuted as witches back in 1612.

There is even a symbolic Quaker tree which represents where the Quaker movement started when George Fox had a religious vision on top of Pendle Hill in 1652.

Statue based on local magistrate & witch finder Roger Nowell

Bats

Spider’s web strung between trees

An owl in flight

Look closely and you’ll see broomsticks growing

 

 

 

 


At last government proposes getting tough on universities for smothering free speech!

Universities will be told by the government that they must uphold free speech and clamp down on student unions that “no platform” controversial speakers.

According to the Times, this could include powers to fine, suspend or deregister universities if they do not meet a statutory duty to commit to free speech in their governance documents, ensuring it is upheld by staff, student unions and student societies.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, set out plans to challenge the culture of so-called safe spaces in universities and punish universities that fail to protect freedom of speech on campuses.

In recent years student unions and campaigners have banned, or attempted to ban, a number of high-profile people from speaking at universities because of their controversial opinions. In one of the most infamous cases, feminist writer Germaine Greer risked being unable to give a lecture after Rachael Melhuish, women’s officer at Cardiff University, called for her to be no-platformed for her “transphobic” views. Greer eventually spoke under tight security.

Speaking about Greer’s situation, Johnson said it was “preposterous” for her to be banned from speaking in campuses. “She has every right, if invited, to give views on difficult and awkward subjects,” he said. “No-platforming and safe spaces shouldn’t be used to shut down legitimate free speech”.

Our young people and students need to accept the legitimacy of healthy, vigorous debate in which people can disagree with one another. That’s how ideas get tested, prejudices exposed and society advances. Universities mustn’t be places in which free speech is stifled.”

Nick Lowles, director of Hope Not Hate, LGBT activist Peter Tatchell and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, have faced being barred from speaking. The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been no-platformed by the NUS for several years.

Johnson said that free speech was one of the foundations on which the UK’s higher education tradition was built. “It goes to the heart of our democratic values and is a principle universities hold dear,” he said. He also told the Times: “Freedom of speech is a fundamentally British value which is undermined by a reluctance of institutions to embrace healthy vigorous debate. Our universities must open minds, not close them”.

Johnson said: “I want the OfS to work with universities to encourage a culture of openness and debate and ensure that those with different backgrounds or perspectives can flourish in a higher education environment.”

The scary thing about this whole no platform/safe space nonsense is that students want itA survey last year found that most university students (63%) are in favour of the National Union of Students (NUS) having a “no platforming” policy.

An Analysis by Spiked magazine, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, found that more than nine in 10 UK universities are restrictive of free speech. It’s just not acceptable. How can we prepare young people for the real world if they are over-protected at university?

Sir Michael Barber, chair of the OfS, said: “Ensuring freedom of speech and learning how to disagree with diverse opinions and differing views of the world is a fundamental aspect of learning at university. The OfS will promote it vigorously.

If this does get the go-ahead it might kill off this “snowflake” culture which has arisen and which helps nobody least of all students who should developing resilience. 

Just this week it’s been revealed that Cambridge University lecturers believe that the works of Shakespeare are too grisly for its English undergraduates and have issued timetables with trigger warnings and red triangles. The university says it’s not official policy and is at the lecturers’ discretion. Well it shouldn’t be.

Oxford law students are also given trigger warnings about violent cases. Glasgow medical students can skip lectures about how to break bad news to families.

Poor sensitive things – and that includes the wimpish lecturers  feeding these totally unnecessary demands. Let’s hope that when things change those highly paid (many would say overpaid) vice-chancellors might actually earn their money and stamp out this nonsense.

Sources: Guardian, Telegraph, Times


Another supermarket helping people on autism spectrum

I’ve already posted about what my local Tesco store is doing to help people with this disorder and I noticed that the Rawtenstall branch of ASDA, in association with the National Autistic Society is doing its bit as well.

The Meet Jenny  activity was inspired by the way her 4-year old boy was helped by using symbols and pictures. So her little helper activity is a velcro-backed visual shopping list showing a range of items. It helps people with autism to avoid being overloaded with information.