In yesterday’s Conservative Woman, Andrew Tettenborn offered some advice to Eton College as it plans teaching about ‘the problems of sexual equality’. He warned the school not to rely ‘on the incomplete, distorted and at times frankly naive approach to the subject’ adopted by certain experts it intends to use. How right he is and how easily even the most prestigious of organisations can fall into that trap!
Many readers will be puzzled, though, as to why Eton is going along this path at all. The answer, it seems, is that the school has an ‘intelligence’ deficit. That, at least, is the opinion of Simon Henderson, the school’s headteacher and the youngest ever. He took over the reins in 2015 at the age of 39. I wonder if the governing body that appointed him is part of the ‘intelligence’ problem he has discovered.
Mr Henderson has told The Guardian that pupils at Eton need to up their game in the grey matter stakes:
‘I’m very keen that we are very aware that as an all-boys school there’s a responsibility for young men to be gender-intelligent.’
This, apparently, includes a willingness to accommodate transgender pupils at Eton if ‘we thought this was appropriate for their particular circumstances’.
This gender-intelligent stance should open the door to children labelled as ‘female’ wishing to apply for entry to the all-boys’ school. Whether in good faith or in bad, they need only declare themselves to be ‘male’. The right to choose one’s gender is now widely accepted in our educational, religious and political establishments. So, no lack of intelligence on Simon’s part when it comes to staying in tune with the siren song of political correctness.
It would be wrong, however, to conclude that Eton is trailblazing in this area. Indeed, it has been something of a slow starter. Brighton College, for example, has already given the green light to a non-gender-biased uniform. A belief that ‘boys’ should be free to wear skirts is de rigueur at the College.
Nor are girls’ schools excluded from this new Age of Enlightenment. London’s esteemed St Paul’s Girls’ has introduced a ‘gender identity protocol’ which allows pupils to use boys’ names and to wear boys’ clothes. Pupils may identify as female, male or gender neutral. ‘We are moving to the point where your gender is a choice,’ announced Clarissa Farr, its headteacher, in true Enlightenment mode. Meanwhile the Girls’ Schools Association has called on its members to use only gender-neutral words such as ‘pupils’, ‘people’ or ‘students’ in place of ‘girls’.
What we are witnessing, of course, is a social revolution. All revolutions, though, need enforcing. As a child of the original Enlightenment, Maximilien de Robespierre showed how it could be done. In our more sensitive times, ‘terror’ comes in a more disguised form – the order of the boot. This is the fate that might now await teacher Joshua Sutcliffe of Cherwell Comprehensive School in Oxfordshire. He has been suspended for saying ‘Well done, girls’ to a group of female pupils that included one child who identifies as male. Mr Sutcliffe, a devout Christian, made an immediate apology for what he described as a slip of the tongue. He has fallen prey to political correctness.
It is to be hoped that the head of Eton will avoid such heavy-handed policing and enforcement of gender intelligence at his school. He has, after all, described himself as ‘a normal sort of guy’ – his own public school education and Oxbridge background notwithstanding. His gender-intelligence initiative at Eton is, certainly, part of the ‘new norm’ in education. Sadly, it is now producing casualties of battle. Mr Sutcliffe is unlikely to be the last.
The Conservative Party has embraced the current frenzy of political correctness with enthusiasm, but the Tories remain hugely unpopular in the educational world. Through toeing the Blob’s philosophical line the party clings to a vain hope that its position is recoverable. In the short term, at least, it is not. The battle for hearts and minds in schools has been lost to Jeremy Corbyn, to Momentum and to Labour.
At some future moment, perhaps 20 or 30 years down the line, there is likely to be a reaction against much of the social and educational revolution of this age. A detoxification process will be needed. How will our times be explained away? As a child in Germany in the 1930s Alfons Heck, too, suffered from a process of indoctrination and brainwashing, becoming a Hitler Youth officer. His defence of how it happened offers a clue to what our current younger generation might be saying in the 2040s.
‘My defence . . . is that even at sixteen, few of my comrades had any inkling that they were pawns of an evil empire. Bombarded by incessant indoctrination from kindergarten on, and surrounded by adults who were either captivated themselves or lacked the suicidal courage to tell the truth, they never had the luxury of any choice. To expect a child to be that discerning was ridiculous!’ (The Burden of Hitler’s Legacy, 1988)