Eton and the patriarchy

Eton and the patriarchy

Britain’s most famous school has dismissed a teacher for spreading “dangerous ideas”, said Jenni Russell in The Times. Will Knowland, an English teacher at Eton College, had intended to deliver an online lecture to older students as part of a series called Perspectives, which encourages critical thinking: his talk, entitled The Patriarchy Paradox, criticised what he called “the current radical feminist orthodoxy”. 

However, Eton’s head master, Simon Henderson, told Knowland to remove it from the school intranet and YouTube. He kept the YouTube version and was sacked for gross misconduct. Pending an appeal, the father of five will lose both his job and his tied home. Whether or not you agree with his arguments, it’s shocking that Eton, famous for its “fearless intellectual exploration”, is trampling on the freedom to think. But perhaps it’s not surprising, said Toby Young in The Spectator. Henderson, nicknamed “trendy Hendy”, is on a mission to remake the school in his progressive, “woke” image. He has promised to “decolonise” its curriculum, and has appointed a director of inclusion education who said she’d like to see the Black Lives Matter flag flying over the College gateway. Many people – particularly Old Etonians – have stepped up to defend Knowland. I wonder how many of them actually watched his video, said Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. 

It’s a “stream of untreated misogyny” and “extremist claptrap”. He says that women are manipulative and moany; that they gossip, and can’t do things like “deep-sea fishing” or herding large animals. He makes a series of utterly dubious claims: that male-on-male rape in prisons dwarfs the male-on-female kind; that men don’t “exert power over women”. It makes you wonder: “What on earth was this man doing teaching at Eton?” If there’s one thing the school’s “entitled alpha males don’t need to be taught, it’s how to be more entitled and alpha male”. Henderson had no choice but to sack him, said Charles Moore in The Spectator. Eton’s position is that the lecture was not only wrong, but that it also breached the Equality Act 2010. Even if you disagree with that law, as I do, Henderson had every right to ask Knowland to take it down, and to sack him for misconduct when he refused. Still, there is something rather absurd about our elite schools’ enthusiastic embrace of “progressive groupthink”, said David Goodhart on UnHerd. 

Perhaps their teachers and pupils feel they will get a free pass for their massive financial advantages “if they shout loudly enough about how they are challenging all other kinds”. Indeed, said Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph. The genius of Eton, as of the British establishment in general, lies in its ability to move with the times, and so “capture” them. “If the communists had won the Cold War, I’ve no doubt the school would have survived and the Politburo would be stuffed with charming Old Etonians.”