Submitted by George Callaghan…
A teacher at Eton published an enthralling video critiquing feminism. This thought provoking, educative and carefully worded lecture led to him being sacked. The man took issue with the notion of patriarchy. That is the idea that gender roles are not rooted in biology but are oppressive social constructs. Different stereotypically masculine and feminine conduct is due to social conditioning and does not arise from our genes.
It is faintly amusing that when this teacher took issue with the idea that conditioning shapes people overmuch the school responded by trying to condition its pupils. The boys could not possibly be exposed to a subversive point of view. The school wanted them to be surrounded by full spectrum liberal-left indoctrination.
Mr Knowland was an English teacher at the world’s most illustrious school for several years. Eton College educates boys aged 13-18. Eton is located 18 miles west of London, United Kingdom. The 570 year old school has educated 20 British Prime Ministers (including Johnson and Cameron), one Thai Prime Minister, King Rama VII of Thailand and a constellation of writers from Orwell, Shelley to Callaghan.
It is flabbergasting that at Eton of all places a schoolmaster was summarily sacked for educating his pupils. The lecture was well buttressed with quotations from academics. These redactions demonstrated that the notion that it is a man’s world is false. Men are far more likely to commit suicide that women Females like longer. 95% of the prison population is male. Women win their children in custody battles over 90%+ of the time. Girls outperform boys in every subject except IT, Physics and Chemistry. The gender pay gap is closing. Women are paid less because they tend to go into less remunerative occupations. These jobs are less stressful and time consuming. We hear of male gain but never of male sacrifice. Men have to work for more years. Not as many women are politicians because fewer women want to be in politics.
The idea that sex and gender are social constructs is for the birds. Mr Knowland demonstrated irrefragably that important sex differences exist. These are physical. Moreover, the animal kingdom shows this to be true.
The radical left consists of casuists. They will argue that up is down. If a man says he is a woman then we are expected to agree with this flagrant falsehood. It is like an emperor’s new clothes situation. A toddler can tell you who is a boy or a girl. But a professor cannot. Woe betide any professional who tells the plain truth. For woke people objectivity does not exist. They often say ‘my truth is.’ Truth is impersonal. Something is either true or false.
The claim that patriarchy theory is specious is worth hearing. Perhaps this claim is dead wrong. It could be that patriarchy theory holds water. It is valuable to examine one’s beliefs and to challenge orthodoxies and pieties. It could be that you end up merely confirmed in your pre-conceived beliefs. But give an alternative viewpoint a chance. This elasticates the mind. We must engage in ratiocination to exercise our critical faculties. We need to stretch ourselves but encountering different opinions. Otherwise, we are locked inside an echo chamber.
The Head Master of Eton is Simon Henderson. Note that Eton is almost unique in spelling ‘Head Master’ not as a compound word. Mr Henderson attended Winchester College a longtime friendly rival of Eton. Wykehamists are known for their serious-mindedness and diligence. They are not noted for originality or audacity. But perhaps it is a psychological flaw to assume that there is a group character of those who happen to have attended the same school.
Henderson has been Magister Informator for five years. It would appear that he wishes to be a latter day woke Mr Gradgrind. But what he is ramming down the throats of his charges are not facts. They are highly contentious assertions. Ideology masquerading as science imperils young minds.
Eton is now committed to decolonising the curriculum. So many writers, thinkers and doers that are studied are pale, male and stale. That is because the UK and the West in general was overwhelmingly white until the late 20th century. Eton primarily studies the Occident but also studies the non-Western World. Aphra Benn was the first woman to publish a book in English in the 17th century. Prior to her very little writing by women was published in any language. If one is studying history or literature of a bygone era then necessarily all the protagonists and writers are ‘stale.’ But in looking more beyond the Western World perhaps Eton is right. It is meet to focus more on other mighty civilisations such as India and China especially as these are the coming superpowers. In this wise at least perhaps Mr Henderson is judicious.
Mr Henderson on the BLM bandwagon. Full disclosure: I am somewhat sympathetic to BLM. The gravamen of their case – that unarmed black people are sometimes murdered with impunity by police officers – is hard to quibble with. But should a school have a corporate view on a controversial political movement? It is not a suitable issue for a school to take sides on.
Mr Henderson appeared to equate racialism with imperialism. British Imperialism was in many ways an anti-racist force. It had been viciously racist in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. But the empire did more to extirpate this diabolical evil than any other power on earth. The empire did not divide and rule. It united and ruled through telegraphs, the postal service, telephones, roads, railways and ports. It was the British liberations of Africa and Asia. Eton was the nursery of so many governors-generals who were sent overseas to rule swart nations. Eton may be justifiably proud of all its sons did for the liberation and the education of the benighted. Eton should also be mindful that some of its old boys perpetrated acts that were turpitudinous.
We have come to a pretty pass when introducing one’s pupils to a just slightly contentious viewpoint is a sacking offence. What are we trying to accomplish with education? It is not simply forcefeeding facts. Or is it? Is it also obliging them to repeat liberal left preachments?
Preconceived ideas ought to be vigorously scrutinised. Opining should not be accepted as holy writ. Let us assume that Mr Henderson and those of his ilk are actuated by the noblest of motives. Perhaps they are guided by a desire to quell all disharmony and to right all inequities. It is odd then that they should choose to teach at a place of privilege. But even so they can tell themselves that they are ever striving for the betterment of their wards. They don their armour to do battle with the dark forces of racialism, sexism and homophobia. They may very well be honourably intentioned. William Blake observed, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’
The notion that society – particularly Western society – is one vast crime against the masses is troubling. The world as it is and the West should surely be robustly scrutinised. Stridently criticising the status quo must be permitted. But if someone even plays devil’s advocate he must not be dismissed. Moreover, presenting the straight white male as a pantomime villain does not assist pupils in developing their objectivity.
The most famous thing Voltaire never said comes into play: I disagree with what you say but defend to the death your right to say it. Do we believe in free speech or not? Incitement to violence, to racial hatred and to religious hatred is impermissible. But what this pedagogue did was to expose his pupils to a different way of thinking. That includes introducing boys and girls to dissentience. As Alexander Pope penned, ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing.’
The United Kingdom and many other Western countries are in the grip of liberal totalitarianism. This is non-violent. It does not consist of labour camps, torture chambers or killings fields no. But it involves sacking, no platforming, safe spaces, trigger warnings and censoring the curriculum. In the antique age Socrates was made to imbibe hemlock for urging the young to question the presuppositions of their society. Wokeness is the hemlock of our epoch.
We are going down a dangerous and retrograde road. How long until the book burnings? As Heinrich Heine said, ‘Where first you burn books later you burn people.’
It smacks of a staggering arrogance to claim that one’s views are so intellectually unassailable that they brook no examination. If ultra-feminists really had confidence that their beliefs are beyond refutation then they would welcome every attack on them. To have your beliefs stood up to exercises the mind. We need to elasticate our intellects. To be thwarted makes people strive to reappraise their beliefs and articulate the afresh with greater lucidity and cogency.
No belief is unopposable. Every point of view must be subject to rigorous examination. How on earth would we ever change our minds?
One of the most galling things about wokeness is its moral authoritarianism. Its advancement of the argument from authority is also troubling. We jeopardise our critical faculties if we submit to such a transparently specious argumentation. The powers that be demand the wholesale deglutition of the most arrant twaddle ‘because we say so.’ Someone who says this is utterly bereft of rational arguments. The stridency and intolerance of the fanatics who advance bogus woke notions is frightening.
Many beliefs are now dubbed ‘extremism’. I remind you what Barry Goldwater said in 1964. ‘Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.’ What if a statement is extremely true or a cause is extremely righteous? What was once considered beyond the pale can become mainstream. The abolition of servitude, racial equity, women’s right, same sex marriage and manhood suffrage were all considered ‘extreme’ within the last 200 years.
Simon Henderson is said to be mulling doing away with Eton’s iconic uniform. The black tailsuit dates back to the early 19th century. The school is in mourning for George III. The king died in 1820. It would be a pity do abolish school dress as it is called.
The Secretary of State for Education weighed in saying that Eton ought to go mixed. Eton is a fantastic place of education despite having no girls not because it has no girls. Being a mixed school would probably be a good thing. But it is inapposite for the Education Secretary to mouth off on this one. Nobody asked him. Never before has an Education Secretary ever voiced a view as to whether an independent school should go mixed or not. He ought to have kept his loud mouth shut. This is part of a broader problem. Time was that independent schools were genuinely independent. So long as the school did nothing criminous to its pupils then it could do as it wished. But since the 1980s the state has arrogated to itself ever greater superintendence over independent schools. Such schools are independent in financial matters and little else.
Many parents and Old Etonians are incensed at Mr Knowland’s sacking as well as the broader assault on freedom of expression at Eton. Some donors are now refusing to make bequests in Eton’s favour.
Some people are possessed of a worrying moral certitude as to their beliefs. Such zealous closed mindedness imperils academic freedom.
Let a thousand schools of thought contend.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.