Dealing with extremism before it gets started? Terror survivor's call for open speech on extremism.

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Excognito, Nov 8, 2017.

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  1. Interesting article on the BBC today: Terror survivor's call for open speech on extremism

    Bjorn Ihler read Anders Breivik's book only a week after jumping into lake Tyrifjorden in Norway to escape the terrorist's bullets.

    Bjorn was one of the survivors on Utoya island where Breivik killed 77 people in July 2011.

    What Bjorn found in the far-right "manifesto" surprised him.

    "His worldview was not purely driven by hatred," he says. "It was much more about fear of what was happening to his society.

    "This was a guy who grew up in the same city as me, we had similar backgrounds, we went to similar schools, but he saw the world in a completely different way."

    Since this experience, 26-year-old Bjorn devoted his life to trying to keep other young people from following a similar path to Breivik.

    He has scoured the internet and seeks out extremists and former extremists to understand how they came to their views.

    He claims the unusual and unenviable record of meeting more reformed extremists than anyone else.

    And he makes a couple of points that I have long thought:

    Not shutting down debate
    Bjorn's main recommendation for schools is that they teach students that people are allowed to hold very different ideas and opinions.

    "I would like to see a class teaching critical thinking or philosophy in every school," he says.

    At the same time, I have to laugh (in a rather unpleasant, squaddie bleak humour kind of way), as I'm pretty sure we'd soon find such subjects politicized and used for social indoctrination. Which leads on to the next point he makes:

    "Students need to learn to analyse the information they receive, and to understand that there are many ways to interpret information, rather than see the world as black and white."

    He is concerned that many education systems are "shutting down critical thinking and teaching propaganda".

    Bjorn says teachers should encourage students to share ideas in the classroom, however unpleasant some of the ideas might seem.

    He says the mentorship of his old philosophy teacher helped him get through a difficult year following the attack.

    "I was all over the place, I couldn't make sense of anything, so I decided to call my old high school philosophy teacher," he says.

    "He had taught me that people can see the world in different ways. If Breivik had had him as a teacher, I think things could have been very different."

    Against 'safe spaces'
    Bjorn says the trend towards safe spaces in educational institutions is "extremely destructive" because it means teachers are hesitant to allow discussion of sensitive subjects.

    "I've probably met more former extremists than anyone else, and one thing they all shared was that no one outside of their group would listen to them," he says.

    They never felt they were valued as human beings, they said no one would listen to their ideas.

    "The only way to stop people from believing these ideas is to build a culture in the classroom where they can be discussed, analysed and criticised."
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  2. Cold_Collation

    Cold_Collation LE Book Reviewer

    On some levels, I'm not convinced that this is new - marginalisation is often given as the reason for extremism.

    On the other hand, it's interesting the comment about safe spaces - I seem them as stifling debate and one could also see them as a set means of supporting but one (typically liberal-Leftist) agenda; step off-message and be told to shut up.
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  3. Critical thinking and not shutting down any debate are paramount in stopping the worrying trend we see in society and in particular places of learning.

    Education seems to be rife with ideologues who will not entertain anything they say is wrong and therefore anyone with a differing viewpoint is somehow the most vile extremist. It's worrying enough that this mind-set is so prevalent, but even more frightening is the fact that these people are not challenged and their behaviour is tolerated.

    What I see in mainstream media as the current zeitgeist is chilling.
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  4. Cold_Collation

    Cold_Collation LE Book Reviewer

    Indeed. I'd summarise it thus: we're seeing a divergence between teaching and learning.

    ...I bet many teachers couldn't tell you difference between the two.
  5. Properly taught, history was the way to develop analytical and critical skills. It identified the key pressures, it showed 'cause and effect' and to comprehend the decision making, it was necessary to understand some quite divergent mindsets.
    However, history is full of nasty, violent, sexist, racist and otherwise incorrect things so it has been exiled to the far end of the teaching scale, and taught in disconnected gobbets, in case it scares the yoof.

    Actually, kids LOVE the blood, guts and horror. It's the teachers who can't bear it.
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  6. Likewise the difference between intelligence and education .
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  7. That's why Horrible Histories (the original book and the subsequent T.V. series) was such a success. Kids and adults both loved reading and watching all the gory stuff they'd never see in the classrooms.
    • Like Like x 2