243 students have signed an open letter condemning the external pressure that led to the banning Breitbart Senior Editor and ex-pupil at the school, Milo Yiannopoulos from his former secondary school, Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys.
“Our goal is not to support Milo, but to pursue the truth and interrogate rhetoric” opened the letter representing 221 students in the school’s mixed-gender sixth form, which was forwarded to Breitbart Tech.
“What we wanted from the talk was to hear all opinions, whether they are for or against Milo, and to leave with a greater understanding of his politics and the political movement he represents. If we do not, as a society, give the unpopular opinions a chance to be expressed, we are no better than the authoritarians that our liberal democratic society despises.”
“We are capable of analysing an argument and we do not need to be protected from so-called ‘indoctrination'” it continued. “The majority of us have been exposed to Milo’s content before, and are well aware of the incendiary nature of his work. We wished to examine the issues behind the rhetoric and gain a deeper understanding of them.”
“At a time when undergraduates from the UK and the US have consistently protested and banned Milo, the Sixth Form students of our institution sought to host an event where his arguments could be laid out in the open, to stand or fall on their own merits, and to be challenged with reason and civil debate rather than hysterics and censorship” they explained.
“The young men and women of our Sixth Form have been implicitly and explicitly told by outsiders that we are at risk from meme political ideas. By doing this, not only are we more driven to prove our intellectual maturity, but the disengagement of 16-18 year olds and young people from politics is more entrenched, despite a concerted effort by successive governments to be more inclusive of young people in the political discourse.”
It is our understanding that the decision to cancel the event was taken so as to ensure the safety of students. We recognise that the Department of Education have a duty of care, and that our school would have only taken this measure if the threat to our personal safety was credible. The students of our sixth form are further alarmed that extreme individuals and groups with no affiliation to the school have been able to stifle the intellectual process. It is not right that people outside of our community should dictate our activities.
By attempting to silence him, those who disagree with Milo have vindicated him by giving him national press coverage and reinforcing his accusation that our society is against free speech.
Varied and controversial speakers are not alien to our sixth form. From Natalie Bennet and Douglas Carswell to Orlando Figes and A.C. Grayling, free marketeers to out-and-out Stalinists, we have invited individuals with a myriad of opinions on a range of issues to speak and debate with out students. At no point have these events been mandatory. As such, it is not for anyone but ourselves to say whether or not we can handle having our own convictions challenged.
The letter also featured questions attached, which were prepared by students to challenge Yiannopoulos at the talk, and debate various different topics, including men’s rights, the US presidential election, feminism, Islam, and climate change.
Nearly 5o university academics from Kent and its surroundings also penned an open letter this week, falsely accusing Yiannopoulos of being a “white supremacist”, “hardline misogynist”, “xenophobe”, and spokesperson for the alt-right.
“We strongly disagree with the idea of exposing teenage pupils to a speaker such as Milo, who has the capacity to be highly persuasive, mesmerizing and inflammatory” wrote the academics, some of whom are listed as retired, before undermining the students by arguing “how can we then expect Sixth Form students to be able to critically deconstruct it?”
Yiannopoulos’ talk at the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys was involuntarily cancelled this week, after the school received advice from “the Department For Education’s counter extremism unit.”
“Who even knew the DoE had a “counter-extremism” unit? And that it wasn’t set up to combat terrorism but rather to punish gays with the wrong opinions?” said Yiannopoulos in a statement. “Perhaps if I’d called my talk “MUSLIMS ARE AWESOME!” the National Union Of Teachers (NUT) and Department of Education would have been cool with me speaking.”
In a statement to the Sun newspaper, MILO also condemned British Prime Minister Theresa May for allowing the counter-extremism unit to intervene.
“Everybody’s worst fears that Theresa May is a total fascist have been confirmed by her sinister counter extremist goons.”