Published: 09:50, 21 November 2017
A Kent grammar school has revealed plans to offer classes in which sixth form pupils can debate texts including Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
Simon Langton Boys’ in Canterbury says it is creating a course called The Unsafe Space as “an antidote to the poison of political correctness”.
Pupils will be invited to examine “the most beautifully disturbed and disturbing ideas, all of them presented without trigger warnings”.
School head teacher Matthew Baxter says Mein Kampf - which outlined Adolf Hitler’s political ideology - will not be studied, but incorporated in the “wider debate”.
Lectures scheduled as part of the course include the subjects “women versus feminism” and “not all cultures are created equal”.
Pupils were told about the optional classes in a PowerPoint presentation given yesterday by the school’s director of humanities, Prof James Soderholm.
He revealed the first session would be devoted to a controversial memo circulated by the fired Google employee James Damore, which claimed that women were innately less capable as engineers.
Prof Soderholm’s comments have come under fire from some pupils.
Sarah Cundy, 18, told The Guardian: “When he was talking about doing this, he said we’ll look at the memo and highlight the pros and cons of his argument.
“To hear a teacher say there are any pros at all in the argument did make me feel pretty uncomfortable.
“I think female and minority students are going to face more issues. I think there will be a rise in sexism, which I would say is already an issue at the school – especially with it being an all-boys school except sixth form.”
Connie Kissock, also 18, added: “As a female student, when I hear male teachers promoting anti-feminist ideas it makes me worry, particularly in an all-male environment. Especially among younger students, it can seem like a joke but end up being taken further.”
"We are not interested in fomenting xenophobia, racism or sexism. We are interested in evaluating arguments, not putting stilts under postures" - Prof James Soderholm
The name of the scheme is a play on the phrase “safe space” - an area in which someone can feel confident they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.
Prof Soderholm told the Guardian: “The Unsafe Space is a much-needed forum for debate about a host of issues seen from both sides of the ideological spectrum.
“We are not interested in fomenting xenophobia, racism or sexism. We are interested in evaluating arguments, not putting stilts under postures.”
Mr Baxter says the course is designed to enable pupils preparing for university to discuss ideas outside of the conventional curriculum.
He said: “These are topics which sixth form students routinely discuss in their own time and ones which they should be able to discuss with adults in a school which encourages 'free speech' in all the highest academic traditions of such a phrase.
“This does not mean that inappropriate language is permitted – as this is checked and modelled when students are much younger.”
Last year, the school was criticised for inviting right-wing controversialist and former pupil Milo Yiannopoulos to speak to pupils.
The event, which was also organised by Prof Soderholm, was cancelled following threats of demonstrations at the school.
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