Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Article excerpt

Silencing students

Sir: The Stepford Students (22 November) are nothing new. The NUS-inspired 'No Platform' policy has been used to ban anything that student radicals don't like since at least the 1970s -- usually Christians, pro-life groups or Israel sympathisers.

It should not be in the power of the narrow-minded activists of the student union to prevent individual students or groups from exercising their right to free speech and freedom of association. All students should have equal access to university-funded facilities, regardless of their beliefs. The student union should be seen largely as a social club with no powers to ban anything unless there has been genuinely bad behaviour, at which point it is the role of the university disciplinary committee to step in.

John-Paul Marney

Glasgow

Joan and my father

Sir: I fear Richard Ingrams exaggerates when he claims that 'no one would have heard of Brendan Behan if it weren't for Joan Littlewood' (Letters, 15 November). My father's talent was already widely acknowledged by the time his play The Hostage was produced at Stratford East.

But I do agree that the description of Joan as 'thuggish' is very wide of the mark. She was certainly a tough nut, but one with immense charm. She was actually rather a shy person, whose gruffness could be mistaken for rudeness. When I was a child hanging around backstage at the Theatre Royal, she showed me nothing but kindness, and I remember her fondly.

Blanaid Behan

Witney

The art of wonder

Sir: Harry Mount is right in lamenting 'the death of serious public culture' ('Signs of contempt', 15 November) whenever he visits a heritage property or exhibition. My recent museum visits with my children convinced me that museums are actually bad for their health. When museums emulate theme parks, with kids' menus and tacky trinkets, children see them as intrinsically infantile.

I once accompanied a class of Spanish ten-year-olds on a tour of the Joan Miró museum in Barcelona, followed by the city's Picasso museum. What a light-bulb moment; by first seeing Picasso's later work and then his conventional early work, the kids understood the subversive power of art and why Picasso was so feared by Franco.

By all means give children grisly details of the ancient Egyptian embalming process or explain how medieval people went to the loo, but be honest with young visitors about what museums are for, so that children keep their sense of wonderment into adulthood. Above all, send kids away with a hunger for more, not just a doughnut and a fridge magnet.

Kathy Walton

Chorleywood, Herts

The mark of equality

Sir: Dr Carl Gray in his recent letter about Mrs Alexander's hymn 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' has made the classic mistake of misplacing a comma (Letters, 22 November). …

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