A video an English teacher at Eton, UK’s elite public school, had posted on YouTube as a lecture that he never managed to deliver to his students, has cost him his job amid accusations of sexism.
The head of the college, Lord Waldegrave spoke in favor of the move despite a petition signed by 1,000 students who want the teacher, Will Knowland, reinstated.
The row has turned into one about free speech and censorship and whether the decision to kick Knowland out because of his planned lecture actually means that Eton is suppressing voices deviating from what are pressured social norms.
But the college maintains that free speech is not what’s at stake here, and that they had no other way of dealing with the situation after Knowland, according to Waldegrave, refused six times to remove the lecture, The Patriarchy Paradox, where he wished to highlight “current radical feminist orthodoxy.”
In the end, the school removed him, a move that the teacher has appealed against, while Waldegrave has commented for the first time to defend Eton’s free speech and free debate tradition, ironically declaring that it will “never cancel debate” and mentioning that in the past, the college hosted figures with very different political and ideological views.
In a letter last week addressed to the Eton community, Knowland said that he didn’t necessarily agree with all the points he made in the video, uploaded in September, but wanted to present a counterpoint to what he calls “radical feminism” for debate. Some of the arguments he makes is that women and men are different psychologically and that not all the differences between them are socially constructed, while men have virtues like strength and courage that benefits women.
Eton, however, tried to say it was an issue of a violation of the Equality Act and the Education Regulations, and also the teacher’s lack of discipline when he refused to temporarily take the video down.
However, anonymous sources who spoke for the Daily Telegraph blamed new headmaster Simon Henderson of being behind the sacking, as he allegedly pushes an “aggressively woke” agenda and is working to change the image of Eton as a pillar of male elitism.