Harvard professor Steven Pinker WITHDRAWS support for dismissed Eton tutor after admitting he hadn’t watched controversial ‘gender roles’ lecture before defending him
- Harvard professor Steven Pinker has withdrawn his support for Will Knowland
- Psychology expert rushed to defence of dismissed Eton English tutor last month
- But he admitted he had not initially watched Mr Knowland’s controversial video
- The YouTube ‘gender roles’ lecture contained incorrect statistics about rape
A Harvard professor last night withdrew his support for a dismissed Eton tutor after admitting he had not watched his controversial ‘gender roles’ lecture before rushing to his defence.
Steven Pinker, an expert in experimental cognitive psychology, said Will Knowland’s video ‘went well beyond citing science and instead was a polemical and tendentious defense of masculine virtues’.
He had been one of the first to champion the English teacher’s cause, writing to Eton College’s provost last month: ‘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.’
But Prof Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature, has now said that he ‘wouldn’t have given the full support’ to Mr Knowland he had indicated in his letter if he had first watched the lecture.
The Eton tutor was recently dismissed for refusing to remove a video published on his personal YouTube channel that denounced ‘radical feminist orthodoxy’ – which was intended for the £42,500-a-year school’s older pupils.
Some figures who initially backed Mr Knowland have since distanced themselves after learning more about the lecture, which included incorrect statistics about rape.
Steven Pinker, an expert in experimental cognitive psychology, has said that he ‘wouldn’t have given the full support’ to Will Knowland he had indicated if he had first watched his lecture
English teacher Will Knowland was dismissed for refusing to remove a video published on his YouTube channel that denounced ‘radical feminist orthodoxy’
He also approvingly quoted an article saying women wanted to be ‘overwhelmed by the sheer power of masculinity’.
Mr Knowland’s lecture was never actually delivered at Eton, but a video of the ‘Patriarchy Paradox’ was uploaded to his own YouTube page.
The move provoked a free speech row, with headmaster Simon Henderson accused of pushing the school in a ‘Woke direction’, and of presiding over a ‘progressive’ atmosphere akin to ‘religious fundamentalism’.
Mr Knowland has appealed the move and a disciplinary panel will consider his fate tomorrow – although the decision is not expected to be revealed until later this week.
Eton insists his sacking was a matter of internal discipline, and its headmaster has denied attempting to shut down debate.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Prof Pinker admitted last night: ‘I can understand the College’s concern with the way the argument was presented.
‘I do think that students should be exposed to controversial views. But the lecture I thought was not sound pedagogy and Eton was right to question it.’
It comes after the Free Speech Union warned that Mr Knowland’s dismissal could jeopardise the school’s legal status as a charity.
Eton is in the midst of a free-speech row after the dismissal of English tutor Will Knowland for refusing to remove a controversial ‘gender roles’ lecture from YouTube
The move provoked a free speech row, with headmaster Simon Henderson accused of pushing the school in a ‘Woke direction’, and of presiding over a ‘progressive’ atmosphere
In a letter seen by MailOnline, director-general Toby Young disputed the College’s claim that a failure to dismiss Mr Knowland for not removing his 30-minute YouTube video could expose Eton to potential liability under the Equality Act.
He accused the school of ‘overstating its legal risk in relation to the Equality Act’ to the exclusion of it primary duty as a charity to ‘provide a broad, open-minded, challenging education’.
And he questioned if Eton’s trustees are properly carrying out their legal duties and warns that the dismissal ‘promote[s] one particular political ideology over another’.
‘Promoting a specific point of view may be a way of furthering another charitable aim, but it would not be education,’ Mr Young wrote.
‘This would be highly troubling in any school, but for one with such a storied history and pre-eminent international reputation, it is potentially catastrophic.’
The letter states that the Free Speech Union will make a complaint to the Charity Commission requesting a statutory inquiry into the College, ‘in the event of Mr Knowland’s dismissal being affirmed on appeal’.
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 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 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.