Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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When Eton goes woke, what is left?

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WHEN revolutions exploded across Europe in early 1848, Metternich, the conservative foreign minister of Austria, is reputed to have said: ‘We had planned for everything except for a liberal pope.’ He resigned and by late April was in exile at 42 Brunswick Terrace, Brighton.

Those brave souls currently holding the line against our woke revolution might echo Metternich by observing: ‘We have planned for everything except for a woke headmaster of Eton College.’

Daily Telegraph ‘exclusive’ has reported: ‘Eton College has dismissed one of its masters amid a free speech row prompted by a lecture which questioned “current radical feminist orthodoxy”.’

An un-transmitted video lecture by English teacher Will Knowland has, it seems, triggered his sacking after nine years at the school.

Entitled ‘The Patriarchy Paradox’, the lecture was intended to encourage critical debate about issues in the news. It was to be part of a course on ‘Perspectives’ for older pupils. The teacher uploaded the lecture to the school’s intranet as part of the school’s online learning programme, but permission has not been granted for it to be shown.

The issue addressed was ‘radical feminist orthodoxy’. Schools have a legal obligation to promote so-called ‘British Values’ including a balanced curriculum.  According to the teacher he was endeavouring to meet this obligation by balancing the notion that masculinity is ‘fundamentally toxic’.

The headmaster was, evidently, not amused. He felt ‘that some of the ideas put forward in my lecture – such as the view that men and women differ psychologically and not all of those differences are socially constructed – were too dangerous for the boys to be exposed to’. Knowland was perceived as a counter-revolutionary before being awarded the Order of the Boot.

He has a wife and five children to support and now faces the prospect of being made homeless. An appeal will be made, of course, and, if necessary, he can take the school to an employment tribunal. The road ahead, however, looks bleak. Counter-revolutionaries have no place in modern education.

And where does the ignominious row leave Eton College, if not in disrepute? Simon Henderson, Eton’s youngest head when he was appointed five years ago at the age of 39, describes himself as a ‘normal sort of guy’; presumably, then, a typical product of an education at Winchester and Oxford. He boasts plenty of liberal credentials and seems proud to recognise that Eton has an ‘intelligence’ deficit.

This latest row offers compelling evidence that he is correct.

Like Metternich, the few anti-woke counter-revolutionaries in the world of education have, indeed, planned for everything, but not for this turn of events. When Eton falls, what is left? Long live the revolution?

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Chris McGovernhttp://www.cre.org.uk
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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