Project Fear again: SNP minister caught trying to frighten Dundee University professor

The national media today have been bringing to light a matter of real concern where an SNP government minister attempted to put the frighteners on a distinguished academic in relation to an address of his to a pro-UK event in Dundee.

The gagging attempt could be honestly construed as a distasteful form of blackmail through the improper exercise of power.

Sports Minister, Shona Robison, constituency MSP for Dundee City East, took it upon herself to email Dundee University authorities and, in her own words, questioned whether his appearance was ‘compatible’ with his academic work on the independence referendum.

Why was it any of her business?

This sort of action is familiar in the world where covert and coded pressure is brought to bear and to the shame of humanity, it is too often successful.

The hint of worse to come if the individual does not watch her or his step is usually enough to induce self-editing. If the, ironically, independent minded individual carries on regardless, the macchiavell in the shadows may give up and wait for a later moment of retribution – or may ratchet up the pressure. Universities need their funding and, as the truism says, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Academics difficult to sack may still be destroyed by the deliberate sabotage of their career.

The academic in question, historian, Professor Chris Whatley, who is personally in favour of Scotland remaining in the Union, is heading an objective academic initiative targeted on cranking up debate on independence and on analysing the core issues concerned.

The supportive open letter from three eminent academics

Professor Wharley has been supported in this incident by a trinity of eminent Scottish academics, Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at Aberdeen University; Susan Shaw, Emeritus Professor at Strathclyde University, with a specialism in the international food industry; and Ronald J Roberts, Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Aquaculture at Stirling University.

It may be no coincidence that all three are retired and are therefore beyond retribution for their action in writing an open letter in support of the intellectual freedoms of thought and expression.

They say: ‘It is unacceptable for a minister to question the integrity of a academic on the basis of his or her political views.

‘It would be a very dangerous road to go down if the views of academics were required to be in conformity with the government of the day.

‘Regardless of a person’s views on whether we should remain in the UK or go our separate ways, nobody should fear speaking out. This is especially true of academics. Professor Whatley is a respected academic of many years’ standing who also happens to support Scotland remaining in the UK.’

Professor Whatley’s intellectual independence

Professor Whatley is also author of The Scots and the Union, a controversial research indicating that Scotland may not have been sold out in the 1707 Treaty of Union after all but that the treaty was negotiated in good faith by parliamentarians who believed it to be the best course of action for Scotland.

Not unexpectedly this is seen as heresy by the nationalists, loath to lose the recruiting sergeant of the ‘parcel of rogues’ bought by ‘English gold’.

However, apart from Professor Whatley’s evidence – and he stresses that his book is intended to give rise to an evidenced debate on Scotland’s future and is not a political manifesto – there are other historical precedents to indicate the perils of reading into history the preferred positions of the current moment – whenever that moment may be.

The English were emotively blamed for years and without question for killing off the Irish gaelic; and for doing so deliberately as an an act of cultural imperialism designed to prevent recurring rebellion by dispossessing a people of the language that was the carrier of their heritage.

Late 20th century research by objective historians told a very different story.

The teaching and learning of gaelic was not forbidden in school in favour of English by the English political hegemony.

Teachers were pressured by gaelic speaking peasant parents to teach their children English – as the passport to work and potential prosperity.

Later generations might mourn the resulting broken heritage but peasants looking to the best economic support for their children’s future could not be said to have made the wrong decision in their moment.

History becomes fiction when events are not considered in their own context.

The measure of a confident Scotland will be its ability – or not – to look anew at a historical event and not to feel that they have lost anything if the interpretation they had previously accepted proves misleading.

A nation shaped on the basis of imagined past wrongs will be misdirected and malformed.

The measure of a confident government of Scotland will be one trusting its citizens to think, speak and debate as they will.

A nation micro-managed by monomania can only be made fearful by the whimsicality of such paranoia.

Hungry children once had their hands cut off for daring to steal apples to eat. The mindset that would see an academic losing his job for daring to think is no different – nor the need any the less.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Mince

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 13

    Graeme mccormick November 13, 2013 10:52 pm Reply
  • This reminds me of a previous witch hunt. What was it?

    Oh yes, the Elliot Bulmer affair.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 8

    Longshanks November 13, 2013 11:26 pm Reply
  • What on earth did this email say?
    It has been described as a “distasteful form of blackmail”, “a gagging attempt” and an “improper use of power” but only one word has been quoted which is “compatible”.
    Where can I see the email in its entirety so that I can judge for myself if it is questioning the profs integrity never mind threatening his job.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

    John November 13, 2013 11:40 pm Reply
    • You need to understand what we’ve called the subtle ‘covert coded pressures’ of this sort of thing.
      It could be innocuous but it isn’t – and those who receive such ‘enquiries’ understand the message as clearly as those who send them.
      Such questions raise doubts. Then the intent behind the question – which is never in doubt – raises fears in the recipient of the ‘what will happen if I pay no attention to this? variety.’
      This is the process that led to the Stow College authorities failing to support their Chair, Kirk Ramsay, when Education Secretary Michael Russell called for his head after Ransay used a pen recorder – in full view of the minister – to keep a record of an address for colleagues who could not be present at a key meeting.
      It is a year to the day today that a cluster of MSP’s called for an enquiry into Ramsay’s subsequent ‘resignation’ – and nothing has happened.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 18

      newsroom November 14, 2013 1:24 am Reply
      • Not much evidence of “subtle coded pressure” in FA – just a constant drip, drip of negativism, personal attacks and propaganda.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

        Kassandra November 14, 2013 2:35 pm Reply
        • Presumably that is a joke Kassandra?

          If not, go to newsnetscotland for the real McCoy as far as negativity, propaganda and personal attacks are concerned.

          FA is not a patch, and actually allows free speech as well! All are welcome to debate here.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

          Jamie Black November 14, 2013 5:27 pm Reply
  • The SNP are desperate. They’ll try anything to stop people putting their own arguments forward if it is against independence. I bet she wouldn’t have sent a similar message if Professor Wharley had been pro indy.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 19

    Lowry November 14, 2013 7:30 am Reply
    • you seem a bit confused, well very confused as what you are describing is better together’s only real tactic … shut down the conversation & spout lie after lie

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

      Iain November 14, 2013 2:50 pm Reply
  • Lowry,

    What about the ‘Better Together’ hounding of academic Elliot Bulmer when he wrote a pro- independence article for a newspaper?

    What short and selective memories some people have.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 22 Thumb down 12

    Longshanks November 14, 2013 8:38 am Reply
    • The situation with Mr Bulmer was that he was paid by the Yes Campaign to write an article for The Herald which was purported to be on behalf of the Constitution Commision, as opposed to representing his personal views. There is no similarity here. A better comparison would be the recent education debate on Newsnight Scotland where the Head of Edinburgh University was on the panel and was supporting independence. His views were welcomed by the SNP and there was no criticism from Better Together.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

      Digger November 14, 2013 9:24 am Reply
      • Any email hacking in the alleged ‘frightening’ ??

        [EDIT] it’s not certain there was any email

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

        Iain November 14, 2013 10:37 am Reply
      • The situation with Mr Bulmer was that he was paid by the Yes Campaign to write an article for The Herald which was purported to be on behalf of the Constitution Commision, as opposed to representing his personal views.

        Sorry, but you are wrong.

        The article identified Dr Bulmer as director of the Constitutional Commission, but did NOT state or suggest that he was speaking on its behalf.

        That suggestion came entirely from the headquarters of the ‘Better Together’ campaign.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

        Longshanks November 14, 2013 4:09 pm Reply
        • aye, Dr Bulmer wasn’t paid to write the article as such — he just received a token payment later after herald didn’t pay for article (against policy apparently) & that payment only became known after illegal email hacking

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

          Iain November 14, 2013 4:30 pm Reply
          • illegal hacking? That was a convenient excuse, i remember chuckling at that.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

            Jamie Black November 14, 2013 5:31 pm
          • It wasn’t an ‘excuse’, it was the channel by which the token payment to Bulmer was revealed.

            It is telling that this was apparently the worst ‘dirt’ the hackers could find.

            You may find illegal hacking of peoples’ email accounts amusing Jamie, but I don’t think the police were chuckling.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

            Longshanks November 14, 2013 5:44 pm
  • I don’t need to understand the “covert coded pressures of this sort of thing”. I need to see what was actually written. It could be that she was out of order but why should I take the word of an obviously biased media. This has been reported as something sinister without actually printing what was said. I find that dubious, unprofessional and a little sinister.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

    John November 14, 2013 9:58 am Reply
    • Ms Robison herself has said that she was enquiring as to the ‘compatibility’ of Professor Whatley’s political position with his academic work.
      This information was not an ‘interpretation’ by the media. It was the Minister’s defence of her action – and it does arouse genuine concern.
      When a politician in a position of power in government makes such an enquiry of an organisation funded by the government, there is an implicit text which both sides understand and which rarely goes without some form of the desired response.
      We need culturally to be much less supine and much more courageous in responding to such improper tactics – and the public need to stand together in refusung to accept them – from any source at ay time.
      If some accept this sort of thing on an occasion where they see it as in the interests of ‘their’ side, they will have no cause for complaint later when it is done to ‘their’ side by its opponents.
      We have to understand and live by the principle of objective fairness.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9

      newsroom November 14, 2013 10:16 am Reply
      • When are you going to make a fuss about “improper attacks” from the “no” campaign newsie. I look forward to seeing such a thing – but I won’t be holding my breath. But by all means try to give us some “objective fairness” – if you understand what that means.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

        Kassandra November 14, 2013 2:38 pm Reply
      • We need culturally to be much less supine and much more courageous in responding to such improper tactics

        Oh come on. This site was one of the guilty parties in the attempt to make something out of nothing over the Elliot Bulmer article in the Herald.

        If you really hope to report the independence debate with any credibility then I suggest your ‘courageousness’ is in dire need of seasoning with some ‘impartiality’ – a concept that you seem to be unfamiliar with in this context.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

        Longshanks November 14, 2013 4:11 pm Reply
  • Newsroom the phrase “Project Fear” was reported gleefully by the BT staff to the Herald as their internal description of their primary function.
    The reality is that one or even sometimes two or three scare stories emerge almost every day from either the UK Government or the BT machine about Scottish Independence as they are scared stiff of the prospect (analagous to many a dog barking). This is the subversion of democratic debate you should be concerned about.
    The Yes Campaign and the Scottish Government on the other hand are not strategically engaged in a “project fear” as it would be counterproductive. However that does not mean legitimate questions can and should be asked of statements and assertions made that extol the very few virtues of remaining in the dysfunctional UK.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

    Ian Anderson November 14, 2013 10:45 am Reply
    • aye, what’s wrong with asking somebody thought to be neutral by heading the impartial 5 million questions project at Dundee University why he has been chairing the inaugural meeting of Better Together (aka Project Fear) in Dundee … seems he isn’t impartial himself!
      Seems a fair question to ask!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

      Iain November 14, 2013 11:00 am Reply
    • There’s fear and fear – and the reality is that they’re both at it, in their different ways.
      Shutting down opposition is fundamentally unhealthy – and there is a case to be made that the stalinist continuum of Thatcher and Blair neutered the nations organs of self belief. By the time we emerged from the long regimes of these two, we had been taught – through fear of retribution – not to object, protest or be a nuisance in any serious way – and both of them used law as their enforcer.
      This cultural reshaping has been profoundly destructive and has given greater licence to politicians than they can be trusted with.
      In terms of the narrower immediate issue:
      The pro-UK side ought not to be trying to frighten Scots into voting No.
      The pro-independence side ought not to be trying to lure Scots into a false sense of security in voting Yes.
      As far as For Argyll is concerned, hard evidence from our own independent research has brought us to a changed position – which is counter to an admitted predisposition.
      This does not mean that we do not respect the aspirations of the position we have moved away from – we do – but to dismiss genuine issues of concern and to disregard evidence itself runs fully against reason, which is the most enduring security we have.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

      newsroom November 14, 2013 11:01 am Reply
      • this Shona Robinson query seems just to be flagging up what would appear to be a conflict of interest.

        False sense of security is of course remaining chained to the sinking Westminster … bigger risk is staying ‘together’

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 6

        Iain November 14, 2013 11:09 am Reply
    • Ian Anderson – can you support your claim of the BT campaign calling thmselves Project Fear. In your own time. Not asking for hearsay, rumour but something to support this claim. As far as i’m aware, this is incorrect and has never been accepted by BT.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 12

      Jamie Black November 14, 2013 11:31 am Reply
    • Iain is quite right. The FM has just confirmed at FMQ that Ms Robison’s communication revolved around the use of words like neutral and impartial and academic debate in promoting the 5 Million Questions Project that the Professor is leading.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

      Ian Anderson November 14, 2013 12:32 pm Reply
      • manufactured hysteria about this phonecall (not email it seems?) smacks a bit like the typical shoot down of conversation about independence by project fear … as in when anyone queries better together they get attacked.
        I notice the Alistair Carmichael moaning again, this time that people are supporting independence on social media (the online 75%+) are continuing … time his post vanished (as he wants) & he left to become MP for Portsmouth as he seems to care more about people down there than in Scotland re: building ships.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

        Iain November 14, 2013 2:03 pm Reply
        • As far as I’m concerned, we should care equally about those in Portsmouth and why that would be used as a point against Mr Carmichael, I do not know.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

          Jamie Black November 14, 2013 5:23 pm Reply
          • based on following … and more
            Lies that Portsmouth could build frigates when there aren’t the facilities to do so without investing heavily with non-existent funds!

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

            Iain November 14, 2013 6:02 pm
          • Why this is such difficult issue to Nationalists to comprehend is beyond me.

            If Scotland were to break away, there is little that would compel a UK government of any colour to decide that it would order ships in Scotland rather than going to tender.
            In fact, quite the contrary – it would be politically unsavoury.

            There are a few options – build them in Scotland in likely incur the wrath of the electorate. Put them out to tender – and let the cheapest win. Never done before, but given the breakup, an option to consider.

            Or the final – build them in Portsmouth. Iain, the investment would come from a commitment from the UK government to order x number of ships from BAE. There will be a tipping point at which BAE would invest into Portsmouth.

            All of the above are possible.

            Why are the SNP and Yes people determined that the orders are in the bag. Never mind the fact that many of these people regard the orders as ‘scraps’ when they are ordered as part of the UK, and ‘vital’ when ordered when we are independent….

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

            Jamie Black November 14, 2013 7:21 pm
          • Contract is not with Scotland, it’s with BAE Systems who has already heavily invested in Govan/Scotstoun & won’t be shifting … believe I’m correct in saying the partially revived & soon to close again Portsmouth yard within a RN base hasn’t built a whole ship since 1967 — skills aren’t there & neither is investment to re-tool & expand (expansion would probably involve knocking down a few museums) — so it’s build in Scotland which IS within the rules or build somewhere like India with long delay by which time type 26’s would be archaic!

            PS .. I consider myself an Internationalist as narrow nationalism isn’t for me!

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

            Iain November 14, 2013 7:36 pm
          • Iain
            You need to do a little more research re your statements about shipbuilding at Portsmouth as your statements are somewhat out of line with the facts.

            As it appears easier to ‘thumbs down’ than get the facts the Portsmouth Shipyard, which is actually the newest facility in the country, has built:
            HMS Clyde
            Al-Shamikh (Royal Navy of Oman)
            Al-Rahmani (Royal Navy of Oman)
            Al-Rasikh (Royal Navy of Oman)
            Amazonas (Brazilian Navy although order by Government of Trinidad & Tobago)

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

            awsnews November 14, 2013 8:59 pm
          • still true that you couldn’t build a frigate at Portsmouth … smaller patrol boats maybe but not ships/frigates

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

            Iain November 14, 2013 10:38 pm
    • only 2 no votes on Bute … well done Bute!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

      Iain November 14, 2013 6:03 pm Reply
  • Who, on the ‘Better Together’ side, needs to go to a meeting?

    Who wants to go out on the streets to be confronted by some of the desperate people for independence and who are rude and aggressive?

    Most folk that I know are reserved, gentle and hard working people who have made up their minds and just want to get on with their lives – not get into bun fights with other local people who may have a different view.

    I find the lack of attendance it quite reassuring.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 11

    Lowry November 14, 2013 6:48 pm Reply
    • Thats all right – complacency is just what’s needed from Project Fear.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

      Kassandra November 14, 2013 7:01 pm Reply
      • I don’t think there is any complacency at all. Those who have made up their minds probably don’t feel the need to attend a public meeting. Those who are undecided will watch and listen to media debates and discuss it amongst friends, family and colleagues.
        The only people who seem to want to go to meetings are the SNP. Constantly backslapping and cheering each other but apparently unable to increase the level of support.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 11

        Lowry November 14, 2013 7:42 pm Reply
        • If this is true then I can’t help wondering why ‘Better Together’ hold these meetings. It seems a bit masochistic.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

          Longshanks November 14, 2013 9:15 pm Reply
          • Well, Longshanks, there are always some people who just love organising them and going to them.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

            Lowry November 14, 2013 10:38 pm
  • As a now retired teacher, I was surprised that an academic was publicly proclaiming support for any political campaign. It is common knowledge amongst all teachers in Scotland that we retain our personal opinions as private. Whilst we can teach factual data we have to let the children make their own decisions. We don’t go into teaching in order that the next generation cannot have any freedom of thought whatsoever. Perhaps there are some who lean to a communistic or fascist agenda who are in favour. I wonder what their responses would be for academics who support terrorism !

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

    Lesley November 14, 2013 7:52 pm Reply
    • No academic should TEACH a personal bias.
      In university teaching, where all students are adults and informed debate is one of the engines of intellectual development, a university teacher is free, if he/she wishes, to be open about the personal position to which evidence has led, to show that evidence and to be open to contrary evidence put forward.
      In this case, as a historian – an evidence-based subject – Professor Whatley, on published evidence and in his objective work, appears to be doing all of that.
      It would be disturbing if an academic simply adopted a position on prejudice rather than evidence – and even more disturbing if they taught on that basis.
      Having said that, ‘morality’ as well as reason, has a part to play in the adoption and advancing of a position – as in matters like human rights, torture and the protection of the vulnerable
      Little in life is fully straightforward. In the end, it’s down to the striving to be just rather than the striving to win.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

      newsroom November 15, 2013 9:07 am Reply
    • University academics are not school teachers. Their role is far wider and is fundamentally different, as are their terms of employment. Those are crucial points which appear to have flown right over the head of Shona Robison, a former community education teacher, and led her into this fix.

      If Robison tried to gag, or have disciplined, Whatley by emailing his Principal in a fit of of faux-righteous indignation, then she has been both cack-handed and naive in the extreme. I hope she was given short shrift.

      In the first place, academics should be free to say whatever they like because that’s a very significant part of what they’re paid to do, over and above their role in providing balanced, informed undergraduate teaching. As with independence of the justiciary, academic freedom is a crucial pillar of an open society; politicians forget that at OUR peril. Quis custodiet, and all that?

      Secondly, our universities are not government institutions; they are independent bodies, each separately constituted under their distinct individual Royal Charters, and which, for the present, happen to receive some, but not all, of their student fee income from an agency of the state. Whatley is NOT a servant of the state (whereas school teachers are). Any attempt by a politician to gag or influence the views of individual members of academic staff in this way is liable to stir up a nest of hornets whose target will be singularly clear.

      Newsroom’s comments re the Stalinist continuum laid down by Thatcher and Blair couldn’t be more apt. If academics are not free to speak, who is? (Although, thanks to education minister Keith Joseph’s legacy, that Stalinist continuum and fear of retribution now pervades academia all too easily.)

      Having said all of that, there is something very fishy going on here and Robison, instead of shooting at an open goal, has somehow contrived to turn the tables on herself.

      The real issue is that the University of Dundee has provided a home, and funding, for an organisation calling itself “5 Million Questions” which it describes as follows:

      “In what is an impassioned and partisan debate the objective neutrality of academia is ideally placed as a forum for illuminating discussion. Indeed, at the University of Dundee, we see such a role as the duty of our institution at this pivotal and exciting moment.

      Five Million Questions is funded by the University of Dundee as a knowledge exchange programme that shall engage with the wider public as to the questions they wish to have answered. In return we shall seek to inform the debate as to the consequences that will result from the referendum and its result.”

      Why then, appoint (or did he self-appoint?) an acknowledged and avowed unionist historian as Chair of the organisation’s Steering Committee? It’s self-evident that his professional unionist views are based on his own perception of objectivity. What, in his mind, passes for “neutrality”? I would be equally suspicious were a nationalist historian to be given this role. Or a Marxist economist, or a libertarian philosopher. Neutral? I’ve never met a neutral academic yet and since the possession of innate scepticism is implicit in their job descriptions, that should surprise no one. This, however, I could live with.

      But more important, and much less acceptable, look at who we have as DIRECTOR of the 5 Million Questions project: one Michael J Marra. Whilst Marra has recently become an employee of the University (but probably NOT a member of academic staff wherein is supposed to preside objectivity), his background is hardly one of political neutrality. Marra was senior political adviser to former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray and to the then deputy, Johann Lamont, and was “speech writer” for Labour’s 2011 Scottish Parliamentary Election campaign. Only a month ago, Marra withdrew from the running for Labour’s candidacy in the forthcoming Dunfermline by-election, whilst in 2011 he stood for Labour against John Swinney in North Tayside.

      This is the real story. Professors Shaw, Pennington and Roberts, and especially, Ms Robison, please take note!

      Robison asked the wrong question, and her position, if as widely reported, is worse than risable, it’s despicable. Whatley is entitled to say whatever he likes. The University of Dundee, however, which SHOULD be neutral, has exposed itself to criticism by giving 5 Million Questions its money, its imprimatur and the hallmark of “objective academic neutrality”. Its Director, Marra, was, until very recently, indubitably non-neutral, in fact he was as partisan as it’s possible to be, and is he, in any case, appointed to an academic post? Objective? Leopard? Spots? I dare say Mr Marra’s recent Twitter broadcasts will reveal one way or the other, if anyone can be bothered to check. And, of course, Whatley, its Chair, has a very distinct, albeit academically legitimate, non-neutral position vis a vis the Union.

      This is a predictably dirty political mess which the University would have been well advised to stay clear of. Instead, it has jeopardised its own institutional neutrality. That presupposes that the University of Dundee is, in fact, neutral in this matter.

      We all believe that justice must be seen to be done; that judges must be utterly beyond reproach. By the same token, so must the institutional neutrality of our universities be explicit and beyond reproach. Only by having free and truly neutral universities can we protect freedom of academic thought and speech. To that end, Messrs Whatley and (especially) Marra should have recused themselves from running this “neutral” programme from the outset. Or has their university become so inured to postmodernist obscurantism that definitions such as true, fair, objective, neutral, are degraded to meaning, “what we can get away with”?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

      pm November 15, 2013 11:26 am Reply
      • Thank you for your reply. I had presumed that all who were involved in the education of our youngsters were given the same yardstick and for this I apologise.
        I have many problems with the word ‘neutral’ and wonder if it is possible to be so. As for all the different interpretations of so called facts and statistics I am left completely bamboozled.
        I have tried my best whilst teaching Religious Education and Current Affairs to compare different view points and love it when the children start arguing the toss. If they are involved, they are, at the very least, thinking for themselves.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

        Lesley November 15, 2013 6:33 pm Reply
        • If you’re getting kids ‘arguing the toss’ that is the best evidence you can have of the calibre of the job you are doing.
          This is good to hear – and exemplary foundation building.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

          newsroom November 15, 2013 8:21 pm Reply
          • Unfortunately, both in England and Scotland, we are given standard lesson plans for all subjects in primary education. I have no idea what happens in secondary education but would love to know more. I can understand that with having so many subjects to teach at primary level that a great effort is being made to assist teachers in saving time in the preparation of lessons. I have used them myself.
            However, there are many lesson plans that I just could not follow. As one example, the reading of a few verses aloud of Genesis then having the children discuss ! How on earth can children have anything to say without knowledge of the myths that went before the Bible or the Big Bang Theory ?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

            Lesley November 16, 2013 7:56 pm

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