It was always heading to be a massive request to shift an institution these as Eton College or university – with its 580-yr record, its wealth, electricity, privilege and funereal tailcoats – into the 21st century. But that was Simon Henderson’s pitch when he used to be headmaster.
The pitch will have to have gone down effectively with the job interview panel since in 2015, at the age of 39, Henderson turned Eton’s youngest ever head. His ambition was to modernise, to make the special Berkshire school far more progressive, far more inclusive and far more suitable, as he explained in an job interview with the Guardian.
He talked about wellbeing, psychological health and fitness and psychological intelligence. In a subsequent job interview, Henderson mentioned the value of “gender intelligence” and permit slip that the current education and learning offer at Eton involved LGBT awareness and talks by the founder of the Every day Sexism project, Laura Bates.
5 many years later Henderson finds himself caught in what has been explained as a struggle for the soul of Eton, preventing off a revolt amid people who say the school is becoming taken in an “aggressively woke” route although other folks praise his enlargement of the bursary scheme, his social conscience and enlightened attitudes.
The school, which has educated twenty long run prime ministers – which include Boris Johnson – and rates yearly fees of £42,500, is reported to be “in meltdown”, with grievances, petitions and open up letters traveling all over, aided and abetted by thorough each day coverage in the Day-to-day Telegraph.
The row began with the suspension and subsequent dismissal of Will Knowland, a well known English trainer, who has been accused of gross misconduct immediately after he allegedly refused to get rid of a lecture video clip about gender roles from his private YouTube channel.
Knowland explained to the Telegraph that the video clip, entitled The Patriarchy Complicated, was due to be revealed as section of the school’s Views study course, taken by older college students to really encourage significant wondering. It was, he reported, made to make college students aware “of a distinctive stage of watch to the current radical feminist orthodoxy, which insists that there’s something basically toxic about masculinity.”
The 30-minute video clip, which usually takes the type of a polemic narrated by Knowland and illustrated with film clips, cartoons and animal imagery, appears to argue that biological differences in between men and girls ascertain gender roles. It consists of feedback these as “biologically speaking the notion that men exert electricity about girls is nonsense”, “male aggression is a biological fact” and “a planet devoid of men would be awful for women”.
There’s a violent clip from the Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas, and a section on rape, in which Knowland states: “Rape is not a distinctive claim for male oppression of girls since male-on-male rape in jails dwarfs male-on-female rape exterior them.”
The video clip was uploaded on the school intranet and shared with fellow academics, one particular of whom complained. It was removed from the school web-site and hardly ever revealed to college students, but it remains on his Knowland Knows YouTube channel, wherever its viewing figures have rocketed to 76,000-moreover.
The college sought legal advice and was explained to that the lecture was not only in breach of equality laws, but also contravened a range of the school’s legal and regulatory obligations. “The school created the realistic request that the trainer get rid of the video clip pending even more dialogue, but regardless of many requests and then guidance he persistently refused to do so,” a spokesperson reported.
For quite a few at Eton and over and above it has grow to be a struggle in opposition to terminate tradition, in defence of independence of speech. Henderson has insisted neither he nor the college want to shut down debate, although Eton’s provost, William Waldegrave, has insisted it is a make a difference of interior discipline.
A petition protesting in opposition to Knowland’s dismissal has gathered far more than two,000 signatures, and a preventing fund has lifted virtually £55,000 to choose the situation to an employment tribunal if he loses his appeal following Tuesday.
But the row has opened up deep-seated fissures in the broader school group, wherever quite a few oppose the progressive route in which the school is becoming taken by its headmaster, regarded to his detractors as “trendy Hendy”.
This 7 days Dr Luke Martin, a theology master at the school, resigned from his article in charge of the Views study course in protest in opposition to the dismissal and took challenge with the promotion of a “so-known as progressive ideology” at the school, which he likened to religious fundamentalism.
Right after a 7 days of bruising media coverage, Henderson’s supporters are starting to discuss out. “Honestly, of the parents I have spoken to there is too much to handle assist for Simon Henderson,” reported one particular mother with two sons at the school. “Yes, he’s striving to make Eton a far more tolerant, inclusive location and that’s what most of the parents want.”
The science author and Aged Etonian Michael Bond believes there’s a silent vast majority who assist Henderson, and explained people defending Knowland as “the death rattle of the aged regime” who are terrified of their developing irrelevance. “Simon Henderson is aware of how Eton should really in good shape in with the planet over and above its partitions,” Bond reported. “He wishes to be in move with the planet and not mirror an outdated, offensive-to-quite a few school of considered which this video clip signifies.”