Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury, has a history of controversy. Milo Yiannopoulos, former senior editor of Breitbart News, was once a student there. The school came under fire this past year when Milo was invited back to lead in discussions and talk with the student body.
The most recent debate to involve the school revolves around a new program dubbed ‘unsafe spaces.’ The school has asked students to study the book Mein Kampf, and has added other non-politically correct discussion topics. Adolf Hitler’s two part manifesto was authored with the purpose to invigorate the German people after their defeat in the Great War, as well to address what he called, “the Jewish Question”.
The book, written while Hitler was prison, was originally supposed to be a pamphlet outlining the ideals of his new political party. As Hitler was dictating his book, his ramblings got out of hand and the pamphlet turned into a very large and obtuse declaration.
The text used to be a source of discussion and philosophy, as scholars would look upon it in an attempt to prevent a repeat of history. However, in today’s political climate, the politically correct (PC) culture has gotten so out of control that the book itself has now become taboo. Perhaps that’s why a resurgence of Hitler-like tactics have emerged.
By reading the book, the school is hoping that the students will gain an appreciation that not all cultures are inherently equal. The school wishes for the high school students, ages 16-18, to scrutinize the most brutish and disturbing thoughts of the 20th century, all without a trigger warning.
Many students have already taken to phoning The Guardian to complain about the new course. One student told the news outlet the professor in charge of the class added letters to the LGBT acronym to be more inclusive and not subjugate students to binary genders. The action was viewed as insensitive mocking rather than being an open-minded gesture.
In the first session of the coursework, Professor Soderholm had the class read the infamous Google memo written former employee, James Damore. In the memo which circulated the internet a few months ago, Damore wrote about the effects of being hired based upon merit verses diversity.
Professor James Soderholm, the director of humanities for the boy’s school wants the students to see both the pros and cons of these contentious materials. Head teacher, Matthew Baxter, said the course encourages free speech and will most certainly help the students as they prepare for university. Defending the course material, Baxter cites the absolute need for free speech and the utmost academic atmosphere.
Although adult topics are scrutinized and discussed, inappropriate language is not tolerated. What is and is not suitable language is built and demonstrated at much younger ages. Some speech has become so dangerous that former student Milo had his guest lectures revoked.
In 2016, facing intense criticism from the public, the school had shut down the planned lecture of Milo Yiannopoulos. Milo, a young Jewish male with a black boyfriend, has been ridiculed as a Nazi and provocateur. Due to safety concerns the counter-terrorism office of the Department of Education had to get involved.
The school notes that after announcing the lecture, 220 students had signed up for the event and most of the opposition came directly from community members with no connection to Simon Langton. Disappointed about the turn of events the school has doubled down on their commitment to free speech and open debate.
By giving students the assignment of reading provocative materials like Mein Kampf, the ‘unsafe spaces’ may help the community realize that censorship of ideas is far more detrimental to the psyche and development of society.
Once the students complete their readings and analyze the work, new and powerful insights can be gained. An understanding of a person’s background and the cultural climate in which they lived adds a new perspective to personal and historical context.
What is written on the internet or spoon fed in history books may not always be so black and white. The revising and white washing of events have a long history in the western world. But, too much editorializing can lead to a false narrative and force history to repeat itself. Skepticism is the foundation of scientific inquiry and nothing should be taken without a grain of salt.