- Former Eton pupils include Princes William and Harry and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
If you wanted to sum up the upper echelons of the British establishment in one word, you may well choose ‘Eton’.
The world famous ‘public school’ – which in Britain actually means private, fee-paying school – has educated the wealthy elite for centuries.
Ex Eton College pupils include Princes William and Harry and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Eton even educated fictional spy James Bond before expelling him.
But now it has expelled one of its teachers – after he posted a highly controversial talk about gender on YouTube.
In the talk, teacher Will Knowland told pupils that ‘nobody wants to watch films’ about transgender characters. He illustrated his point about trans people with a cartoon of a Superman character with breasts.
Moreover he quoted an article claiming women want to be ‘overwhelmed by the sheer power of masculinity’ when it comes to sex.
He planned to play Eton pupils a clip from gangster film Goodfellas – rated 18. In it, a woman comments that her boyfriend’s brutality ‘turns her on’.
He uploaded the talk to his personal YouTube channel because he wasn’t able to give it in person due to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Stand for freedom’
Knowland says Eton College headmaster Simon Henderson sacked him because of the contents of his talk. Moreover, he says he is ‘making a stand for freedom’.
However, Eton College – located a short walk from Windsor Castle – disputes his version.
The school says Henderson didn’t wish to silence debate. However, the school was concerned the lecture – titled The Patriarchy Paradox – broke equality law and regulations governing independent schools.
The headmaster apparently asked Knowland to take the video down six times while they worked on a solution. However, Knowland refused and the school dismissed him for gross misconduct.
Knowland disputes that and has raised over £45,000 to fund an employment tribunal.
Meanwhile the Daily Mail reports that 1,000 past and present pupils at the school – which charges £42,500 a year – have signed a petition calling for Eton to reinstate him.
Facts and thinking
Knowland’s talk was allegedly intended to encourage students to develop their critical thinking.
Nevertheless, many of his claims have no basis in fact.
For example, Knowland allegedly claimed in the talk that women had always had the right to vote.
In fact women had to fight hard to achieve suffrage – taking on the British establishment which Eton represents. For example, William Gladstone and Lord Curzon – both Eton alumni – were prominent opponents.
British women didn’t win the right to vote until 1918 – and even then suffrage wasn’t universal.
Subsequently, Knowland has made other factually incorrect comments about gender.
In particular, he has claimed that half of rape claims are fictitious. However expert analysis and studies indicate that claim is entirely false.