The dangerous rise of academic mobbing

From Socrates to Salman Rushdie heretical thinkers and writers have been persecuted by powerful authorities whether they were the church or the state. In the last few years a new form of persecution of dissident voices has appeared not from without but from within universities which are supposed to be bastions of free speech. That persecution comes not from government or bureaucracies but from academics themselves in alliance with students. Open letters, petitions and campaigns by academics and students to get academics removed from their posts are the new form of censorship. AFAF’s The Banned List gives many examples which, in 2019 alone, include Noah Carl, John Finnis, Jordan Peterson, Michelle Moore, Nina Power and the latest, Boris Johnson.

Our speaker, in conversation with Professor Dennis Hayes (Director, Academics for Academic Freedom), is Professor Nigel Biggar (Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, University of Oxford). In 2017 Professor Bigger was subject to an international campaign to close down his five-year ‘Ethics and Empire’ project which sought to have a balanced assessment of colonialism. Critics said he was an apologist for colonialism.

This is a Battle of Ideas Satellite event hosted by the East Midlands Salon and sponsored by the campaign group Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF). It is the first in a series of three on The Silencing of Speech.

All three Salons take place at the Brunswick Inn, Derby. For tickets and further details go to Eventbrite (£3 for each event).

Summer Salon Book Launches

Thursday 23 May is the East Midlands Book Launch of The Labour of Words in Higher Education: Is it time to reoccupy policy?  when Professor Sarah Hayes (University of Wolverhampton) will introduce her new book which analyses the rhetoric of McPolicy that is disempowering academics.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 23 May at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 on Eventbrite (We know it’s the European elections, so vote early and come along!).

Thursday 20 June is the East Midlands Book Launch of The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education Second Edition in the Routledge Education Classic Series when Professor Dennis Hayes (University of Derby) will discuss the continuing dangerous rise of therapy in education since his and Kathryn Ecclestone’s controversial and bestselling book first appeared in 2008. 

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 20 June at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 on Eventbrite.

A Parcel of Ribbons

At our next East Midlands Salon, Anne Powers will talk about the research that led to the publication of her book A Parcel of Ribbons:

Set among the sugar plantations of Jamaica and the balls and masquerades of Georgian London the story is told by the Lee family in their own words. In 1749 thirteen year-old Robert Cooper Lee sailed to Jamaica taking a parcel of ribbons for sale. When his family was left all but penniless, Robert and his brothers forged new lives in Jamaica, fathered children with women who were the descendants of slaves and supported their sister left behind in England. Robert returned to London with his family in 1771. A prominent attorney, respected throughout Jamaica and among the West Indian lobby in London, he had built a fortune that enabled his children to mix with royalty. This remarkable collection of letters tells a story of triumph against adversity, of a family that suffered sickness, bankruptcy, sudden death, a clandestine marriage and an elopement. Through it all the bonds of family endured.

Date, Time and Venue

Thursday 28 March, 19.00 in the Brunswick Inn, Derby

Free, but please register on Eventbrite.

Three Salons on the Enlightenment

The great German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, began his essay ‘What is Enlightenment?’ (1784) with this statement:

‘Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is therefore the motto of the enlightenment’.

Dare to know! is also the motto of the East Midlands Salon which is committed to promoting the Enlightenment values of reason and the pursuit of truth and human progress. In 2019 we begin with two Salons on the British Enlightenment with a focus on Derby and the Midlands. Our third Salon will be a contemporary discussion of the possibility of colonising space.

All three Salons will take place in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby at 7 PM. Tickets will be available on the door at £2 (a donation towards costs) or you can book the remaining two Salons for £3 on Eventbrite.

Dates and Topics

On Thursday 31 January — Professor Paul Elliott discussed the Derby Philosophers and the British Enlightenment ;

On Thursday 28 February — Professor Jonathan Powers will talk about the leading thinkers and scientists of the Enlightenment in the Midlands;

On Thursday 18 April – in the tradition of Enlightenment speculation, scientist and astronomer Dr Martin Braddock will probe ‘The next step: Space Exploration and Colonisation.’

About the Speakers

Professor Paul Elliott

Paul’s research interests and publications span history, cultural and historical geography, the history of education and the history of science. Paul has forged close working relationships with local government, heritage, professional, community and media organisations. He is a member of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Research and Publications Committee and on the editorial board of History: West Midlands magazine. His books include The Derby Philosophers: Science and Culture in British Urban Society 1700-1850 (2009), Enlightenment, Modernity and Science (2010) and The British Arboretum (2011) which are available from Amazon. The Independent newspaper recently describe Paul as: ‘One of the country’s leading historians of British Gardens’

Professor Jonathan Powers

Jonathan was the Academic Director of Derbyshire College of Higher Education and hence the first Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) of the University of Derby when, in 1992, it became the only such College to become a University at the same time as the former Polytechnics.

He is an outstanding scholar and philosopher, way back in 1983 his Philosophy and the New Physics was listed by Choice in the USA as one of the outstanding academic books of the year.

Since his retirement he has – among many other things – helped organise programmes of events and have given special lectures focussed on developing Derby’s awareness of its cultural history. Demand for transcripts of the unscripted lectures led him to recreate them as ‘mini-monographs’ with the profits going to local cultural charities. A full list can be found on the Quandary Books web site. A selection of his publications is also available at the City Art Gallery and Museum.

Dr Martin Braddock

Martin is a professional scientist and project manager working in the field of drug discovery and development with 32 years’ experience of working in academic institutes and large corporate organisations. He holds a BSc in Biochemistry and a PhD in Radiation Biology (from the Radiation Biology Unit, Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell Oxfordshire), is a former Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Oxford.

In 2009, Martin was awarded the title of Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology for outstanding contribution to Bioscience and in 2012 he was a recipient of an Alumnus Achievement Award from the University of Salford for distinction in science. He is currently on the editorial committee of eleven scientific journals. He has published widely and is author on over 140 peer-reviewed publications, is a member of several scientific advisory boards, a listed inventor on 8 patents and has given lectures all over the world.

He has a serious interest in astronomy and in 2015 was elected Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is passionate about all aspects of Astronomy, Cosmology and Astrobiology.

Martin is also an active committee member of the Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society, supporting this registered charity at public open events and regular society meetings.

Selected Readings

Immanuel Kant What is enlightenment?

Frank Furedi Towards Enlightenment

John Keane The 18th Century Enlightenment and the Problem of Public Misery

Goncalo Fonseca Enlightenment Then, Enlightenment Now

Stanford (University) The Dark Side of the Enlightenment (The Super Enlightenment)

Robert Wilde A Beginner’s Guide to the Enlightenment

Generation Wars: Myth Or Reality

“Is the ‘conversation between generations’ coming to an end? The knowledge and values that are the basis of social and civilised life are the inheritance of new generations but their transmission requires some interweaving between the generations. Today the reciprocal relationship between the old and young appears to be at breaking point.

The old argued for and voted for Brexit. Did they betray their children who, polls say, voted to remain? The consequence of Brexit, some commentators now argue is that there is a new generation war a ‘youthquake’ with young fighting the old. United for All Ages, a self-proclaimed ‘think and do tank’, argues that we need to rebuild a community which coheres across generations.

One of the divides in this seeming war comes from the fact that young people no longer expect to own a house and are said to be jealous of their parents’ affluence and privilege. Friction over home ownership has left some questioning whether millennials are simply waiting for their parents to die, hoping to save the membership of the EU in the process. But have the old really become selfish and the young cruel or is this all hyped up by remainers in the media? The seeming loss of traditional familial love has led to the suggestion by the Intergenerational Foundation that the solution is for the older generation to downsize their homes or to subdivide their properties to tackle the housing crisis. Can the ‘generation gap’ be closed by ‘shared spaces’ or is this another solution to a problem that could be easily overcome by simply building more affordable homes?

The term ‘youthquake’ – the Oxford Dictionary’s ‘word of the year’ in 2017 – is clever but does it have any substance? Does it describe a new era of politics where the older generations simply cannot understand the principles and values of the young in the 21st Century or do we just need to talk to each other?”

Our second Battle of Ideas satellite panel debate will see Dr Jennie Bristow (Canterbury Christ Church University), James Keith (East Midlands Salon), Anna Keenan (Student at Bilborough Sixth Form College) and Father Daniel Joseph, discuss whether there truly is a generation war? Dr Nicholas Joseph (Associate Lecturer, University of Derby) will chair and ensure peace.

Time, Date and Venue

7 PM on 23 October at the Hallmark Hotel Derby Midland

Tickets £5 from Eventbrite.




The Military: Muscle or Mindfulness?

Our first Battle of Ideas Satellite of 2018 will be a panel discussion. Speakers include journalist Charlie Peters, former soldier and now a post-graduate student, Beveley Henshaw, researcher into the effects of military intervention, Dr Vanessa Pupavac and military historian Professor Keith McLay.  Chair: Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler (East Midlands Salon)

“Be a tinker or a tailor, but not a soldier or a sailor. The British armed forces are experiencing a debilitating recruitment problem. It seems that no one wants to ‘be the best’ anymore. The British Army values selfless commitment, courage, discipline and level-headedness in the face of adversity, yet these are values that no longer appeal to millennials. This leaves the forces with a dilemma: do they adapt to a more politically correct culture to fill the ranks with sensitive, emotional individuals and compromise on these traditional values or try to emphasise the ‘masculine’ ideals essential for soldiering?

Market research in May 2017 found that millennials viewed the Army as an elitist and non-inclusive organisation that privileged white males. As a result, earlier this year the Army launched a new recruitment campaign, answering questions like ‘Can I be gay in the Army?’ and ‘What if I get emotional in the army?’. Many civilians have welcomed the new campaign for its positivity in appealing to all walks of society. Some feel this campaign moves some way towards building social cohesion, at a time of increasing discussion about misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia and hate crimes. Calls have been made to change the Army’s logo and the motto of ‘Be the Best’ in order to move away from this elitist and non-inclusive image.

 However, many serving and past soldiers are outraged and remain staunch supporters of the army culture, arguing that removing the ‘be the best’ ethos would undermine the military. Political correctness has seeped into the Army with rules such as banning shouting at recruits. While some would argue that shouting at recruits is cruel, many soldiers would argue that potential soldiers could not cope on a battlefield with screaming casualties and prolonged gunfire without this conditioning and desensitisation. The very function of the armed forces is, after all, to fight.

What does this debate about the military say about Britain today? The military was once a great institution, but the values it represents are in decline in wider society. Is it time for this institution, or at least its traditional values, to fall? What would that mean for the United Kingdom socially, economically and politically?”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 4 October 2018 at 7 PM in the Hallmark Hotel Derby Midland, Derby. Tickets (£5) available on Eventbrite.

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That Existential Leap: a crime story

At the nest East Midlands Salon, Dolan Cummings will be ‘in conversation’ with Dennis Hayes about his new crime novel That Existential Leap. Purchase a copy from Amazon UK.

“Part bildungsroman and part psychological thriller, That Existential Leap is a novel of ideas about the struggle for self-realisation and belonging in the postmodern West. Claudette Dasgupta is a thoughtful but unremarkable American teenager unenthusiastic about the prospect of college and a conventional life. When she meets the heroically mysterious Siegfried at the New York Public Library, she barely hesitates to throw in her lot with him, but soon finds an unscripted life is scarier, and harder, than she could have imagined. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Siegfried’s home town Glasgow, unconventional police detective Alexander investigates his disappearance. Alexander is soon caught up in still more unworldly affairs as his work spirals out of control and his personal life unravels. As the two stories wrap around one another, encompassing the worlds of crime and gangsterism, the law and police work, music and the supernatural, Dolan Cummings’ novel explores the terrifying uncertainty at the core of all human relationships.”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 21 June at & PM in The Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

About Dolan

Dolan Cummings works as a freelance copywriter and speechwriter. He is originally from Glasgow and now lives in London. He is an Associate Fellow of the Academy of Ideas and one of the organisers of its annual Battle of Ideas festival in London. He has edited two collections of essays: The Changing Role of the Public Intellectual (Routledge 2005) and Debating Humanism (Imprint Academic 2006). That Existential Leap: a crime story (Zero Books 2017) is his first novel. His personal website can be found at

The Moral Case For Abortion

At our next Salon, Ann Furedi, the CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), will discuss her  book The Moral Case for Abortion which is about to appear in a second edition.

“This thought-provoking book sets out the ethical arguments for a woman’s right to choose. Drawing on the traditions of sociological thinking and moral philosophy, it maintains that there is a strong moral case for recognizing autonomy in personal decision-making about reproductive intentions. More than this, it argues that to prevent a woman from making her own choice to continue or end her pregnancy is to undermine the essence of her humanity. The author, a provider of abortion services in the UK, asserts that true respect for human life and true regard for individual conscience demand that we respect a woman’s right to decide, and that support for a woman’s right to a termination has moral foundations and ethical integrity. This fresh perspective on abortion will interest both pro- and anti-choice individuals and organizations, along with academics in the fields of gender studies, philosophy, ethics and religion”.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 31 May at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn Derby. Tickets £3.50 on Eventbrite.



The Equal Opportunities Revolution

James Heartfield is a public intellectual. He is the author of many important books including The ‘Death of the Subject’ ExplainedThe British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society: A History and Who’s Afraid of the Easter Rising? At the next East Midlands Salon he will introduce his latest book, The Equal Opportunities Revolution, which explains why bosses took equal opportunities on board just as they were tearing up union rights at work. In the book he asks why greater rights led to greater inequality, and why advances in race and sex equality ran alongside social inequality. He then shows how the equal opportunities revolution became the general model for workplace relations in the decades that followed, and how it did not challenge, but rather perfected the liberalisation of labour law. The right won the economic war, the left won the culture war – and his book explains how.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 22 March 2018 at 7 PM in The Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets (£3.50) Available on Eventbrite. Continue reading

China’s Urban Revolution: understanding Chinese eco-cities

If you are interested in global developments our February Salon, introduced by author Austin Williams, is not to be missed. His new book has been described as “terrific” (Spiked) while Asian Affairs said that “Among the myriad of books on a rising China, China’s Urban Revolution sits among the most valuable”. Here is a brief overview:

“By 2025, China will have built fifteen new ‘supercities’ each with 25 million inhabitants. It will have created 250 ‘Eco-cities’ as well: clean, green, car-free, people-friendly, high-tech urban centres. From the edge of an impending eco-catastrophe, we are arguably witnessing history’s greatest environmental turnaround – an urban experiment that may provide valuable lessons for cities worldwide.

Whether or not we choose to believe the hype – there is little doubt that this is an experiment that needs unpicking, understanding, and learning from. Austin Williams, The Architectural Review‘s China correspondent, explores the progress and perils of China’s vast eco-city program, describing the complexities which emerge in the race to balance the environment with industrialisation, quality with quantity, and the liberty of the individual with the authority of the Chinese state. Lifting the lid on the economic and social realities of the Chinese blueprint for eco-modernisation, Williams tells the story of China’s rise, and reveals the pragmatic, political and economic motives that lurk behind the successes and failures of its eco-cities.

Will these new kinds of urban developments be good, humane, healthy places? Can China find a ‘third way’ in which humanity, nature, economic growth and sustainability are reconciled? And what lessons can we learn for our own vision of the urban future?”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 22 February 2018 at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets available on Eventbrite  Continue reading