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Open University apologises for textbook calling homosexuality a ‘social problem’ like drug-taking

Nick Duffy February 11, 2018
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Open University has apologised for a textbook that listed homosexuality as a “social problem” alongside drug-taking and rape.

Open University undergraduate textbook ‘Chidren’s Literature: Approaches and Territories’, published in 1998, had included the shocking claim.

The book included a text by cultural studies and children’s literature academic Nicholas Tucker, who had reflected on changes in children’s books over time.

He wrote at the time: “Many of the social problems formerly unspoken about in front of children started appearing in the works of some children’s authors.

“Homosexuality, child abuse, incest, rape, drug-taking, alcoholism: it was all there in the older ranges of children’s literature during and after the 1970s.”

The passage led to complaints on social media.

A student wrote: “Feeling sick to my stomach having just read this passage written by Nicholas Tucker in an Open University reader.

“How dare you refer to homosexuality as a social problem. And how dare you list it with child abuse, incest, rape, drug taking and alcoholism.”

After the complaint was raised, Open University has now apologised and agreed to remove the reference to homosexuality from the online version of the text and all future versions.

In a statement to the Mail on Sunday, it said: “We agreed that the wording in the text, which listed homosexuality as a ‘social problem’ similar to child abuse or drug-taking, was inappropriate.

“We have contacted the author who is supportive of the action we propose.”

Mr Tucker, 81, said he supports the change.

He told the newspaper: “I am sorry if it offended anybody and I am happy for it to be amended. It was written around 1998, a very long time ago.”

Mail readers promptly derided anyone offended by the comparison between homosexuality and child abuse as “pathetic snowflakes”.

The government recently threatened to fine universities found to have “restricted free speech” by blocking anti-LGBT speakers.

Then- universities minister Jo Johnson handed the new Office for Students powers to fine and sanction universities if they prevent events from going ahead due to controversial speakers.

He said: “The Office for Students will have a range of remedies at its disposal which do include fines at the more extreme end of the spectrum. I think it is important that we look at the cases mentioned.

“These are speakers who have been potentially banned or harried under no-platforming or safe spaces decisions. On all reasonable definitions, they are advocates of openness and liberal values and should be welcomed on our campuses.”

Johnson also claimed that some universities had lists of “trigger words” which were used to determine whether speakers could appear and whether books should appear in libraries.

The minister expressly singled out controversies over speakers with anti-LGBT views, including author Germaine Greer.

The feminist author has faced protests at events for her avowedly anti-trans beliefs, having called for women’s colleges to eject transgender students.

Greer also claimed: “Just because you lop off your d**k and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a f***ing woman”.

She has never been prevented from speaking by a university.

But Johnson said new rules were needed and branded any attempts to stop her from speaking “preposterous”.

He said: “She has every right, if invited, to give views on difficult and awkward subjects… no-platforming and safe spaces shouldn’t be used to shut down legitimate free speech.”

He also alluded to similar controversies in the US.

American universities faced pressure to cancel speeches by hero of the far-right Milo Yiannopoulos after he made remarks deemed racist and transphobic.

After one university ignored warnings and pushed ahead with the event, Yiannopoulos used his speech to single out and bully a transgender student on-stage.

More: Education, Gay, LGBT, open university, textbook, University

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