Referring to the Duke of Wellington’s famous, probably apocryphal, comment on Eton, Matthew Arnold wrote:
“Alas! disasters have been prepared in those playing-fields as well as victories; disasters due to inadequate mental training – to want of application, knowledge, intelligence, lucidity.”
George Orwell, himself an old Etonian, was equally scathing a century later in his essay The Lion and the Unicorn: “Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there.”
Though both writers had ideological reasons for attacking that smithy of British elites, and Arnold also personal ones (his father was the headmaster of Rugby), their comments sound nothing short of prophetic in light of Eton’s on-going farce.
Upholding its reputation as the breeding ground of leaders for over 600 years, Eton has trained 20 of our 55 prime ministers. However, the fact that its latest two alumni to occupy 10 Downing Street have been Cameron and Johnson makes one think that these days Eton doesn’t so much lead as follow.
The real lead comes from our toxic, destructive, schizophrenic modernity whose chief pastime is raping reality on the bed of ideology. Eton follows dutifully, as witnessed by the sacking of its English master, Will Knowland.
Mr Knowland is guilty of gross misconduct, as this transgression is nowadays defined. He dared to challenge the “current radical feminist orthodoxy” by delivering a video lecture on “The Patriarchy Paradox”.
There he presented a balanced argument saying that men and women are psychologically different, and not all the differences are socially constructed. Even in the absence of a balanced argument, this has to be obvious to anyone who has ever observed men and women, which is to say to everyone.
Anyone, from a physiologist to a psychologist to a zoologist to an anthropologist to a random man in the street, will know it to be true. The scientists may cite reams of experimental evidence, while the passers-by will rely on empirical observation, but neither will dispute the truth of this fact.
Yet in addition to his regrettably socialist essays, Orwell also wrote the novels 1984 and Animal Farm, in which he showed how truth is trampled underfoot in a society that develops socialism logically. (This proves yet again that the artist in a man can see things that the thinker doesn’t.)
Mr Knowland broached the subject with a sensitivity that’s beyond me, as I’m man enough to admit. Early on he warned that his narrative might hurt brittle sensibilities. Then, as if preparing his future defence in an inevitable employment tribunal, he cited over 40 references to scientific papers by Nobel laureates, books by other writers and even popular TV shows.
All to no avail: that bastion of the Tory establishment has already sunk into a putrid swamp inhabited by the creepy-crawlies of woke horror who survive by devouring truth. Mr Knowland was sacked, and his professional survival now depends on a tribunal verdict.
To their credit, some 800 Etonians past and present signed a petition demanding that Knowland be reinstated. After all, it’s not just his Eton job that’s at stake, but his future livelihood as well. If the tribunal finds for the school, Knowland may never see the inside of a classroom again.
However, the wording of the letter provides indirect proof that, even if Mr Knowland is reprieved, our culture is beyond salvation. “The common opinion,” write the petitioners, “is that Mr Knowland presented the ideas in his video with as much academic nuance and sensitivity as could reasonably be expected. His video is arguably a model for how to convey a contentious argument impeccably.” [My emphasis.]
If even at the supposedly best secondary school in Britain, some will say in the world, Mr Knowland’s argument is regarded as contentious, not only has our civilisation reached an impasse, but there’s no way back.
Contentious to what exactly? The effluvia exuded by illiterate ideologues seeking self-vindication in wholesale destruction? The hysterical shrieks of bra-burners? The innumerate arithmetic of the gender-benders identifying 74 different sexes?
Any school, never mind one that charges £42,500 a year, is duty-bound to ignore such annoying nuisances. Instead it should concentrate on teaching intellectual, moral and aesthetic truth, along with the methodology and corpus of knowledge required to arrive at such truth.
When even a timidly qualified attempt to do just that is regarded as contentious or, worse still, iniquitous, that educational establishment no longer educates. It brainwashes, dumbs down, indoctrinates and corrupts.
Yet things aren’t all bad. Eton’s exorbitant fees mean that many of its pupils are scions of Russian, Chinese and Arab villains. Since one can assume that upon matriculation they’ll spread the contagion contracted at Eton to their native lands, perhaps we are witnessing an exercise in biological warfare.
Provided we can square this with the Biological Weapons Convention, the effort is worthwhile. After all, how else can we stand up to hostile powers?