• Frank Furedi
  • Frank Furedi
  • Sociologist, commentator and author
Article

El miedo a vivir con nosotros mismos o la sociedad medicalizada

The truth about Karl Marx

The cultural appropriation police are turning fried chicken, dreadlocks and prom dresses into a race

“La decadencia de Occidente” de Spengler: un siglo de pesimismo cultural

Loneliness can’t be ‘cured’. We must learn to find value in solitude

La apoteosis de la victimización

Orban’s victory: Another blow to the EU oligarchy

The myth of Cambridge Analytica’s power

A culture of bullying? Grow up

Italy has dealt a blow to the EU

Why the people must be sovereign

Stop this moral crusade against circumcision

Don’t blame the young for thinking JFK’s assassination sparked WWI - they’ve been tragically failed

Why they love baiting the Russian bear

My encounter with George Soros’s bright-eyed missionaries left me deeply disturbed

Turning the Army into a Safe Space

Switch off your kids’ phones and let them play outside

No patrimony

The fantasy of the ‘youthquake’

A liberal defence of populism

Turning childhood into a mental illness

The hidden history of identity politics

The meaninglessness of Charles Manson

The rise of duty-free politics

You can’t fine your way to free speech

The long plight of the right on campus

Why cheating has become the norm

Why I wrote a radical democratic defence of populism

Whiteness: a nonsense category

A radical life

Taking out a patent on culture

Exam stress is not a mental illness

Don’t play with fire

A culture war masquerading as a youthquake

Generational revenge: the politics of ageism

Populism on the ropes? Don’t be so sure

A revolt against deference

Masood’s motives? We may never know

Does Erdogan have a right to hold rallies in Europe?

Nincs szükség egy európai transznacionális birodalomra

The Therapeutic University

Universities blame others for plagiarism. They need to look at themselves

‘Just like Hitler’: The diminishing of the Holocaust

If you need a ‘detention director’ in your school you might be getting discipline wrong

There IS an alternative

RIP Zygmunt Bauman

Campuses are breaking apart into ‘safe spaces’

Why Millennials are so fragile

2016: A war of words against the people

Interview: ‘Despite fear, we should focus on the positives’

Standing up to the new school of anti-Semitism

Italian revolt

Populism: a defence

Fidel Castro: A tragic cold war figure

Free speech is at grave risk on university campuses

My Leonard Cohen

How Trump triumphed in the battle for legitimacy

Cast out for criticising PC: the 21st-century inquisition

The rise of safe space segregation

Bookish fools

Universities need to stop treating their students like children

Neem het maar aan van een Dylanfan: de Nobelprijs verdient hij niet

The Orwellian University

I love Dylan, but he shouldn’t get the Nobel Prize

Clownpocalypse: urban legends in the internet age

Workload is a problem in schools because of the ‘McDonaldisation’ of education

Too many academics are now censoring themselves

Walking out of consent classes… What’s wrong with ‘snowflake’ students these days?

Being mentally ill: the new normal?

Don’t turn university into a clinic

The vilification of controversy on college campuses

It will take more than boot camps to tackle terrorism

Exam stress? Here’s a cat you can cuddle

Parents are undermining teachers’ authority – and it’s causing havoc in schools

How ‘open borders’ became an illiberal cry

Tutoring subverts the meritocratic ethos associated with grammar schools in the 1960s

Terrorism is not a mental health issue

A project with no name

Brexit pity parties show how out of touch academia is

Revolt of the Others

‘Schools need to encourage students out of their comfort zone so they can adapt to university’

From Orlando to Yorkshire: the quest for meaning

The lone wolf: a terrorist in search of a cause

It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s a fight for democracy

Europe’s democratic legacy betrayed

‘Once you start asking pupils about their teachers, the profession will inevitably be undermined’

Project Fear: The exhaustion of the elites

Can humanity live without borders?

Boys have internalised the stereotype that they’re not supposed to like books or learning

Reclaiming Europe from the EU

The ages of distraction

The spectre of democracy

Paranoid parenting means university students are treated as kids

Don’t blame Corbyn for the rise of anti-Semitism

Son of Saul: Hope amid the Holocaust

When kids are getting arrested, our hypersensitivity about ‘threatening’ emojis is absurd

The crisis of attention

In praise of cultural appropriation

Stop medicalising pupils’ normal tensions and anxieties as mental health conditions

We need to talk about terrorism

Understandably, most adults react with unease and concern when they read that nearly 2,000 children in England and Wales have been referred to the government’s anti-radicalisation scheme, Channel. Some of the children participating in the programme have been obliged to watch beheading videos with their relatives in attendance. That more than a quarter of these children were under the age of 10 brings home how disturbing this development is.

Since last July, the government’s anti-radicalisation policy, Prevent, has placed schools under a legal obligation to report suspicions of extremist behaviour to the police. It is therefore likely that the numbers of children referred to de-radicalisation schemes like Channel will expand, and that the ‘war on terror’ will become an inescapable presence in educational institutions.

There are, of course, some very compelling arguments against the government’s Prevent strategy in schools. The policy is likely to politicise the classroom, making Muslim students feel apprehensive and inciting a backlash against the values that the programme purports to promote. However, criticism of Prevent is often motivated by the ambivalence and reluctance that adults feel towards discussing terrorism with children. Yet regardless of where one stands in relation to Prevent, society has got to face up to the fact that terrorism has become a regular topic of discussion among children and teenagers.

As I write these lines, I receive reports that pupils at 14 schools in Britain and six in Paris have been evacuated after a series of bomb scares. Terrorism, it seems, has become a fact of life for schoolchildren.

When children tell me that they sometimes feel scared that the terrorists will ‘get them’, I react with scepticism. But when the mother of 11-year-old Tom from Faversham, where I live, needs to have a 20-minute conversation with her son to reassure him that everyone is safe in this small Kentish town, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that many children have become sensitive to a new threat facing them.

While canvassing a group of parents for their stories of their children’s reactions to terrorist incidents, I got a mixed response. Some claimed that their children are happily oblivious to this issue. Others were not sure how to interpret the reactions of their children. One mother indicated that her daughter was worried about her dad, who works in London, thinking he may get caught up in a terrorist attack. ‘Maybe she is just missing her dad’, she told me. Other parents had no doubt that their kids were worried about travelling to London because they were worried about bomb attacks.

Some of the stories I was told were quite specific, reflecting the way that terrorism – particularly after the Paris attacks – has affected children. One mother said: ‘My 13-year-old is at an all-girls school [in London] and is really worried about it, not wanting to get the Tube or go to shopping centres. Flying over Christmas seemed to really worry her, too. It seems a lot of the girls got very upset about the Paris attacks, and there was all sorts of stuff on Instagram about how London was going to be the next to be attacked.’

Several parents who I talked to confirmed that their children were also worried about travelling on the Tube. Other parents indicated that for a period of time their kids were reluctant to go to the Westfield shopping mall in case they became ‘sitting ducks’ for a random shooter. One father reported that his teenage son and his girlfriend abandoned a planned trip to the city centre on New Year’s Eve, on the grounds that it was better to be safe than sorry.

After listening to these children and their parents I drew the conclusion that the issue facing school pupils is not one of physical safety, but rather a new feeling of insecurity which they are nervous of discussing. Several children indicated to me that they often have problems talking about terrorism, for fear that their views may ‘offend’ someone. They had all heard of Islamophobia and consequently assumed that they had little choice but to watch their words. It is likely that many Muslim children face an opposite but similar predicament. One Muslim girl confided that she keeps her thoughts to herself in order to avoid being misunderstood. After the Paris shooting, a Muslim boy told the son of a friend that he felt ashamed of being a Muslim, but felt unable to talk about his reaction in case it was misinterpreted.

The fact that there is so little public discussion about how children and young people in general react to and deal with the issue of terrorism is testimony to the failure of adult society to take seriously its responsibility for socialising the young. There are some serious problems with the Prevent strategy, but probably its greatest defect is that it promotes technical and security-related solutions rather than facing up to the challenge of educating and socialising young people.

The one place where children have an opportunity to discuss their concerns and reactions to terrorism is in their classroom. Unfortunately, many schools have not risen to this challenge. Many teachers feel confused about how to engage their pupils on the subject of terrorism. In many cases, teachers avoid having these discussions altogether. In other instances, they just go through the motions. Instead of being open spaces allowing for the conduct of free discussion, classrooms are often characterised by silence and evasion on this subject. This is why so many children feel that they have to watch their words and keep their views and feelings to themselves.

This all leads back to Prevent. It is having a chilling effect on classroom discussion, and that is something of a national tragedy. The real problem at stake is not the so-called radicalisation of small groups of teenagers, but the failure to provide millions of young people with the understanding and clarity they need to engage with the current conflict in a confident manner. Schools need to provide their pupils with a positive vision of what their society is all about. Education and debate is the means through which we can achieve this objective. We owe it to young people to provide them with a forum for informed and open discussion on this very difficult topic.

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