A former Eton teacher has come to the defence of an English tutor who was sacked from the £42,500-a-year-college over a controversial ‘gender roles’ lecture.
The teacher, who cannot be identified, today praised Will Knowland as ‘hard-working’ and said his sacking comes amid a ‘long-term shift at the school towards this Woke direction, which [headmaster] Simon Henderson has presided over’.
The unnamed teacher, who left the school on amicable terms, told MailOnline that the headmaster ‘moved to set up an equality, diversity and inclusion committee… [of whom] a small minority were most committed to Woke thinking.
‘They even discussed whether it was bad for boys to be exposed to Bible readings about the Virgin Mary in case it suggested women were only valued for their chastity.’
Mr Knowland was dismissed over a speech intended for one of the school’s ‘Perspectives’ classes – which are delivered to older students to help them think critically about issues of public debate.
He had wanted to deliver it as an online lecture to boys entitled the Patriarchy Paradox but was refused permission to screen it directly to pupils after concerns were raised about its content which included incorrect statistics about rape and suggesting women wanted to be ‘overwhelmed by the sheer power of masculinity’.
A former Eton teacher has come to the defence of an English tutor who was sacked from the £42,500-a-year-college over a controversial ‘gender roles’ lecture. The teacher, who cannot be identified, today praised Will Knowland (above) as ‘hard-working’ and said his sacking comes amid a ‘long-term shift at the school towards this Woke direction, which [headmaster] Simon Henderson has presided over’
The unnamed teacher, who left the school on amicable terms, told MailOnline that headmaster Simon Henderson (pictured) ‘moved to set up an equality, diversity and inclusion committee… [of whom] a small minority were most committed to Woke thinking’
Mr Knowland responded by posting the video on his personal YouTube site, and was fired after he repeatedly refused to take it down.
The unidentified teacher said: ‘I’m very upset about how Will has been treated. Mr Knowland was a very hard-working, consciousness beak who was regarded as a very good teacher.
‘He was most skilled with boys who were struggling academically. I never heard a bad word said about him.
‘I don’t agree with everything in the lecture but that’s not the point. He also misrepresents a couple of statistics. But I don’t think that’s a reason to fire someone. This wasn’t someone promoting jihad or anti-Semitism.
‘Most staff felt reasonably safe that they wouldn’t be fired under the previous head. That’s not the case under Henderson. There is an atmosphere or nervousness or fear where people say that someone had made one slip-up and had gone.’
Meanwhile, Eton’s Head Master has denied he wanted to ‘shut down debate’ at the school. In a letter to parents yesterday, he insisted that the importance of ‘independent thinking and intellectual freedom’ was ‘non-negotiable’ at Eton.
The unidentified teacher said: ‘I’m very upset about how Will has been treated. Mr Knowland was a very hard-working, consciousness beak who was regarded as a very good teacher. He was most skilled with boys who were struggling academically. I never heard a bad word said about him.’ (Above, Eton College)
However, the unidentified teacher told MailOnline: ‘From relatively early on, [Simon Henderson] started trying to cross the school in a different cultural and ideological direction.
‘He invited the journalist Laura Bates – a radical feminist – to speak to the boys and staff about feminism.
‘This was done under the auspices of training, which upset a lot of people because she didn’t just stick to fact, she went into ideas of radical feminist theory, like the patriarchy and toxic masculinity.
‘So those concepts were soaked up into the management speak of the school and presented as fact.
‘Henderson then moved to set up an equality, diversity and inclusion committee. In reality, it was a small minority that were most committed to Woke thinking.
How ‘Trendy Hendy’ is overseeing a woke revolution at Eton
Simon Henderson took over his role as Eton College headmaster five years ago and was nicknamed ‘Trendy Hendy’ by pupils.
He is said to have a habit of wearing chino trousers and open-necked shirts, overseeing what has been viewed as a cultural change at the famous school.
Mr Henderson once suggested he might get rid of Eton’s traditional tailcoats and is known to be interested by modern management techniques.
In 2016, he announced plans to split Eton’s deputy head-master role into two, creating one deputy head for ‘academic’ affairs and another for ‘pastoral’ matters.
He has also created a new role of ‘director of inclusion education’ to oversee diversity at Eton, and made a woman the Lower Master, or deputy head, for the first time.
A source has told the Daily Telegraph that Mr Henderson ‘feels strongly’ about changing perceptions of Eton as an ‘old fashioned pillar of social and male elitism’.
The school has pointed out that the decision to sack Mr Knowland was taken by a disciplinary panel that the headmaster doesn’t sit on.
‘I know for a fact that many of the most able female masters felt unrepresented by these people.
‘To give you an idea how mad some of these people were, they even discussed whether it was bad for boys to be exposed to Bible readings about the Virgin Mary in case it suggested women were only valued for their chastity.
‘Bear in mind it is a Church of England school. Thankfully that was shot down. [The unidentified teacher believes this happened in 2017.]
He continued: ‘There’s a long-term shift at the school towards this Woke direction, which Henderson has presided over.
‘The conservative commentators are not wrong to say that this is the tip of an iceberg in an institutional, cultural shift that has come from the top without the consent of the majority of staff or parents.
‘This is coming from a minority in a position of leadership.
‘Henderson is obviously Left-wing and came in saying he wanted to drag the school into the 21st century. But I don’t think he is an ideologue himself; he just believes that this is how society is going, so everyone has to move along with this.’
With regard to the Perspectives lecture series, he added: ‘It is called Perspectives, and is for the lower sixth, or year 12. It’s been around for years and years, and it’s a long-standing part of the Eton curriculum which all boys have to do.
‘It’s a series of lectures that are given by internal and external figures, and members of staff can agree to give a lecture. The topic has to be signed off by the head of the lecture series.
‘They were supposed to be articulating a partisan point of view on a topic of the view – not neutral classroom teaching. That is made very clear to the boys at the start.
‘It is subsequently debated and discussed in seminars attended by teachers. So it seems clear that Will was articulating a point of view.
‘If someone had produced a lecture on the same topic and articulating the opposite view, I don’t think he would have been treated in this way.
‘As a final point, he was told he couldn’t use it as a part of the lecture series. Will said, “OK but I’ve already put it on my YouTube”. And then he was told he would have to take it down from there as well.
Speaking further about the Mr Henderson, the unidentified teacher added: ‘After various of these incidents, Henderson knew he was unpopular – and he was unpopular with the parents. It was widely spoken about that he might go on more than one occasion.
‘This was not just among conservative, or longer-serving staff. On average, I’d say Eton teachers are centre left.
‘The school has always been run in a collegiate way, and he adopted a more dictatorial approach.
A petition from current pupils protesting against the sacking of Mr Knowland has hit nearly 2,500 signatures – up from 1,000 on Tuesday
‘He had a reputation at his previous school of being an axeman and he brought that approach to Eton.
‘Those decisions had a very strongly alienating effect on the common room and the masters. Within a year or two of him arriving, morale was very low among the staff.’
It comes as Old Etonians slammed the ‘woke agenda’ at the elite school on Thursday – with around 2,500 people signing a pupil petition calling for Will Knowland to be reinstated.
Mr Knowland has appealed the decision, and a disciplinary panel at the school is considering his fate, although the decision is not expected to be announced for several days.
Many pupils are demanding Mr Knowland’s reinstatement, including a boy who was sent home after writing to Mr Henderson demanding that the head resign.
But other figures, including Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, who initially supported Mr Knowland, have distanced themselves after being told the actual content of his lecture.
Video lesson about death of ‘chivalry and honour’ that got English teacher sacked and sparked freedom of speech row
A video of the lecture made by an Eton College teacher at the centre of a freedom of speech row has been posted on YouTube.
English teacher Will Knowland had wanted to deliver a questionable lecture to boys in which he cited incorrect statistics about rape and approvingly quoted an article saying women wanted to be ‘overwhelmed by the sheer power of masculinity’.
In the lecture, named ‘The Patriarchy Paradox’, he claimed the male role as a ‘protector’ benefits society as a whole – including women.
And he warned that ‘shaping men and women to be more similar actually exaggerates their differences’ – which he described as the Patriarchy Paradox.
He says that a world without men would be ‘awful’ for women and complains that chivalry and honour – which he labelled as good male qualities – are being driven down by terms such as ‘toxic masculinity’.
The virtual lecture, which was never actually shown to students at the £42,500-a-year- school in Berkshire, resulted in Mr Knowland being sacked from his job.
Mr Knowland’s lecture The Patriarchy Paradox explores the conflict between the concepts of sex and gender.
He argues that the ‘shaping of men and women to be more similar actually exaggerates their differences’.
Will Knowland (above) had wanted to deliver a questionable lecture to boys in which he cited incorrect statistics about rape and approvingly quoted an article saying women wanted to be ‘overwhelmed by the sheer power of masculinity’
Mr Knowland argues that the idea of patriarchy – a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership – could be equally grounded in biology, rather than something that is constructed socially.
And he says some women may actually chose the traditional gender roles because it benefits them.
Mr Knowland points out that male roles in the animal kingdom, including those of the lion, are primarily to provide protection.
As a result, he says men have traditionally been the sex to fight wars – pointing to the difference in the development of male and female bodies in adolescence.
He points to a cage-fighting match-up involving transgender fighter Fallon Fox, who broke the skull of female opponent Tamika Brent when the pair fought in the Octagon.
He says: ‘If it is not fair to pit men and women in sports, then it is not fair to pit men against women on the battlefield.’
He says men’s lives are also more expendable because women are the ones who are able to give birth. However he says that a world without men would be ‘awful’ for women.