Assange's Union appearance sparked a no-platforming controversyars electronica

Tom Bennett, a school behaviour expert hired by the Department of Education to improve behavioural standards in UK schools, has criticised “classroom intolerance” which he believes has led to the rise of a “snowflake generation”.

Speaking at a conference on free speech, he said that debates on “controversial” topics such as atheism and abortion should be had in the classroom rather than being banned simply because they are offensive.

He said: “We need to help children develop to become more robust to understand ideas that are contrary to their own by role modelling.

“Sometimes we have children saying some extreme views. Children from very religious backgrounds saying things like homosexuals should be put in prison.

“That’s as extreme a view as you could get in a liberal democracy. Rather than just saying you’re not allowed to say that in the classroom, [I would] ask what other people think, why do they think it’s wrong and so on.”

He added that this is something currently lacking in primary and secondary education, in his view lending policies such as “no-platforming” and “safe spaces” greater popularity.

“Help them go to university and encourage children not to be scared that other people will disagree with them.

“[With] generation snowflake, sometimes, there is an element of truth that children are a little bit inoculated perhaps against the harsher realities of the world. And then when they go to university they might then encounter a truth that may overwhelm them.

“No wonder why they are seeking safe spaces, because they can’t handle that truth.”

No-platforming and safe spaces have become popular subject matters not just on university campuses in general, but at the University of Cambridge in particular.

Last year, CUSU LGBT+ and the Women’s Campaign opposed the invitation of Germaine Greer to speak at the Union, in line with many similar protests at other universities.

In October, disagreement with the Union’s invitation to Julian Assange led to a referendum over whether he should be allowed to speak.

However, speaking to Varsity, CUSU’s Women’s Officer Charlotte Chorley disagreed with the framing of policies such as no-platforming as an inhibition to free speech.

She said: “It is disingenuous to view no-platforming as a lack of engagement, or to frame it as the hypersensitivity of those who want to be sheltered from reality.

“No-platforming is, actually, an incredibly visceral engagement with reality.

“We live in a society where we are expected to listen to everything as if hearing such things, or arguing them, will somehow prove to us what we knew all along: that discrimination, hate and oppression run vividly throughout our daily lives.

“No-platforming is only ever invoked against those who already have the privilege of platforms; those speakers will still be able to receive airtime, attend events, and continue espousing their views.

“It is not an act of silencing, but rather a statement by those who do not receive that same privilege.”

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