Imagine if radical left-wing students were only allowed to play for their college football teams if they first agreed to attend a class designed to expunge their edgy thinking. We would consider that outrageous, a return of McCarthyism, an intolerable assault on the right of students to think whatever they want. We’d call it thoughtpolicing.
So why is there so little uproar about Oxford University’s decision to make its rugby clubs undergo anti-sexism classes before being allowed to compete in major college tournaments?
Replace radical left-wing students with rugby-playing students, and Red thinking with laddish banter, and the nightmarish scenario described above is actually happening on a British campus: students are being forced into thought-washing before being allowed to represent their colleges in sports.
None of the rugby clubs at Oxford has been implicated in any crimes. But the university administration has nonetheless decided to make all of them sit through one-hour “anti-misogyny classes” in an attempt to “combat sexism on campus.” Any rugby-playing student who refuses to be lectured about the rottenness of sexist thinking will be forbidden from playing in this year’s Cuppers Final, an annual clash of Oxford’s various college rugby teams. That is, they’re being strong-armed to submit themselves to a moral clear-out of their minds.
Notably, the classes aren’t designed to alter any problematic behaviour—they’re explicitly about transforming how these students think and speak. As one news report says, it’s about educating these guys about the horribleness of their “jokes and songs,” which can be saucy and raucous and apparently make some women feel uncomfortable, and getting them to ditch their “lad banter”—the rude chit-chat rugby guys are famous for indulging in.
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