Dozens of Old Etonians threaten to withhold £2million in donations from Eton College and call for headteacher to quit after English tutor was sacked in ‘toxic masculinity’ lecture row
- Lord Bellingham said 45 Old Etonians are furious with dismissal of Will Knowland
- Tory called for headmaster Simon Henderson to resign over free speech row
- English tutor Mr Knowland was dismissed for ‘gender roles’ YouTube lecture
- Mr Henderson is accused of pushing ‘woke’ agenda and suppressing free speech
Scores of Old Etonians are threatening to withhold £2million in funding from the elite school unless the headmaster who approved the dismissal of a popular English tutor resigns amid a free speech row.
Tory peer Lord Bellingham, a former pupil at the £42,500-a-year Berkshire college, warned a dining club of 45 alumni are incensed by headmaster Simon Henderson’s sacking of teacher Will Knowland.
School chiefs dismissed Mr Knowland after he refused to take down an online lecture tackling radical feminism and the concept of ‘toxic masculinity’ from his personal YouTube channel.
The move sparked outrage among students who launched a petition for Mr Knowland’d reinstatement, and plunged the private school – which is closed due to a coronavirus outbreak – into chaos.
Under-fire headmaster Mr Henderson has been accused of suppressing free speech and implementing a progressive ‘woke’ agenda.
In a letter to Eton College, Lord Bellingham said Mr Henderson’s ‘woeful handling of this issue’ has further damaged his ‘very shaky’ authority and inflicted ‘very severe reputational damage’ on the school.
Tory peer Lord Bellingham (left), an Old Etonian, warned a dining club of 45 alumni are incensed by headmaster Simon Henderson (right) for sacking teacher Will Knowland
School chiefs dismissed Will Knowland over an online lecture tackling radical feminism and the concept of ‘toxic masculinity’ which he refused to take down from his YouTube channel
Though he stressed he personally disagreed with the content of Mr Knowland’s lecture, which included incorrect statistics about rape, he believed the dismissal was a suppression of free speech.
The Conservative peer also accused the headmaster of ‘looking like a small and mean-minded individual’ and suggested ‘the only decent course of action is for him to resign’.
He added that dozens of Old Etonians are going to put plans to donate £2million to the school on hold ‘so long as Simon Henderson remains in post’.
In the letter seen by the Times, Lord Bellingham also criticised Eton’s claim that the lecture could have breached equalities legislation.
‘Having served on the relevant Commons standing committee, I happen to know quite a lot about the Equality Act and the different education regulations,’ he told the college.
‘In the highly unlikely event of the case ever getting to court, Will Knowland would have been able to launch a robust defence, but is it not sad and pathetic that the head master and provost took such a risk-averse stance?
‘Would it not have been brave and honourable to have stood four-square behind Will Knowland and made it crystal clear they would not be bullied into supporting censorship?’
In a letter to Eton, Lord Bellingham said Mr Henderson’s ‘woeful handling of this issue’ has damaged his ‘very shaky’ authority and inflicted ‘severe reputational damage’ on the school
Mr Knowland lost his appeal over his dismissal after the governing body upheld the decision to sack him. He told MailOnline he was ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ over the verdict and claimed he thought it was inevitable the appeal hearing would find against him
A spokesperson for Eton College told MailOnline: ‘We are sorry some Old Etonians have taken this position, but the school must act in the best interest of current pupils and staff and this includes complying with regulations which Mr Knowland’s video breached.
‘Many other Old Etonians have sent the school strong messages of support, telling us that we have done the right thing.’
Earlier this month Mr Knowland lost his appeal over his dismissal after the governing body upheld the decision to sack him.
He told MailOnline that he was ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ over the verdict and claimed that he thought it was inevitable the appeal hearing would ultimately find against him.
‘They were backed into a corner really and they were never going to go anywhere else. It’s one of those things,’ Mr Knowland added.
Mr Henderson told parents in a letter that Mr Knowland’s sacking was ‘regrettable’ and called on staff to ‘continue positive dialogue between those who hold opposing views’.
Toby Young’s Free Speech Union described the ruling as a ‘betrayal’ of the school’s history and vowed to take the fight to Parliament.
How ‘Trendy Hendy’ is overseeing a woke revolution at Eton
Headmaster Simon Henderson transformed Britain’s most famous school into a place which reflects right-on preoccupations befitting his nickname ‘Trendy Hendy’
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 headmaster 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 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.
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.
Will Knowland, an English teacher, 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’.
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.
Mr Knowland, an English teacher, 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’
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.
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