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. The lecture was well buttressed with quotations from academics. It is flabbergasting that at Eton of all places a schoolmaster was summarily sacked for educating his pupils.
The claim that patriarchy theory is specious is worth hearing. Perhaps this claim is dead wrong. It could be that patriarchy theory holds water. But 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.
We have come to a pretty pass when introducing one’s pupils to a 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 pupils to repeat liberal left preachments? 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. Yet some people are possessed of a worrying moral certitude as to their beliefs and seek to gag all alternatives. Such zealous closed-mindedness impedes academic freedom.
The most famous thing Voltaire never said comes into play: I disapprove of what you say, but I will 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.
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. This dogma seeps into classrooms, staffrooms and senior common rooms, silencing rational voices with its doctrinaire pronouncements. It thrives on the fallacy of bifurcation,
“if you are not with us, you are against us”.
We are going down a dangerous and retrograde road. How long until the book burnings? Not long, since the Netherlands and Belgium have started already. 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 them afresh with greater lucidity and cogency.
No belief is unopposable. Every point of view must be subject to rigorous examination. Else how on earth would we ever change our minds?
Many beliefs are now dubbed ‘extremism’. 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 rights, same sex-marriage and manhood suffrage were all considered ‘extreme’ within the last 200 years.
Let a thousand schools of thought contend.
It is said that the only thing permanent is change. In these blog posts I reflect on how schools and universities transform education by inventing social trends and then embracing them whilst breaking with the past.
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