An English school master was dismissed from his position at an all-boys boarding school in England after he refused to take down a controversial Youtube video lecture discussing gender roles and the differences between the sexes.
School master Will Knowland has taught at Eton College in Berkshire, England for nine years. The prestigious £42,500-a-year school was attended by Princes William and Harry, as well as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former PM David Cameron.
This year, Knowland has been teaching a course for older boys addressing and critiquing topics that are widely debated in culture.
In September, Knowland uploaded a lecture titled “The Patriarchy Paradox” to Youtube. Flying in the face of “current radical feminist orthodoxy”, Knowland makes the argument that science has widely proven that men and women are intrinsically different from one another.
The video discusses whether masculine traits such as strength and courage are actually of value to society, and whether radical feminist theories against “toxic masculinity” actually do damage to the masculine qualities of chivalry and honor. Knowland makes the case that masculinity is beneficial to women and that gender roles are more biological than they are the product of an unequal society structure.
After attorneys advised the school that the lecture violates the Equalities Act, the school requested Knowland to remove the video from the internet. After refusing on the principle of free speech, Knowland was fired.
“The head master felt that some of the ideas put forward in my lecture – such as the view that men and women differ psychologically and not all of those differences are socially construed – were too dangerous for the boys to be exposed to,” Knowland explained.
“I explained to the head master that I wasn’t endorsing all the ideas in my lecture, but I wanted the boys to be made aware of a different point of view to the current radical feminist orthodoxy, which insists that there’s something fundamentally toxic about masculinity. In my lecture, I pointed out that, historically, masculine qualities like strength, courage and tenacity have often been as beneficial to women as they have been to men.”
But the school contends that Knowland’s dismissal was a matter of discipline unrelated to free speech. They argue that because the video violates the Equalities Act, they had “no other choice than to ask for it to be taken down.”
When Knowland refused their request, “an internal disciplinary process began and the disciplinary panel determined that the master’s actions represented gross misconduct which should result in dismissal.”
Knowland is appealing the school’s charge of gross misconduct. If unsuccessful, he plans to proceed to an employment tribunal, a legal route in the United Kingdom for employees who feel they were treated unfairly.
“Eton will never cancel debate,” said Provost Lord Waldegrave in defense of the school’s decision. “Everyone accepts, including the teacher concerned, that such freedom cannot be absolute.”
According to Waldegrave, Knowland was let go for his refusal to submit to “internal discipline.”
Knowland has received a swell of support from students and their families. A petition has been passed among the student body, with over 1,000 students signing it in his support.
And last week, Harvard University professor Steven Pinker wrote a letter to Provost Waldegrave in Knowland’s defense, calling Knowland’s dismissal “an assault on the values that every educational institution should hold dear.”
“In the name of honest and rigorous discussion of ideas, and respect for the ability of Eton students to evaluate and debate them, I urge you not to fire Mr. Knowland.”
In a letter in his own defense, Knowland wrote that, “Freedom of speech is the bedrock of any hope for a future based on pluralism and diversity. As one of the world’s leading schools, we need to uphold it.”