In his first interview, Will Knowland tells Freddie Sayers about his departure from the school
When teacher Will Knowland was sacked by Eton for refusing to take down a lecture from his YouTube account “Knowland Knows”, his departure sparked furious debate. The provocative lecture, ‘The Patriarchy Paradox’, argued that the idea of a repressive patriarchy throughout history is a myth, that men have had it harder than women, and that traditional gender roles are not social constructions but the inevitable result of innate biological differences.
To its critics, the video was deemed offensive and sexist for espousing such a retrograde view of masculinity. But to Knowland and his supporters, whether the content was offensive or not was secondary to the video’s broader purpose: that these ideas, however provocative they may be, are fair game for discussion and debate.
That this incident occurred at the world’s most prestigious school — educator of over 20 British Prime Ministers (including the current one) and princes William and Harry — only served to give the controversy more attention.
It’s an intriguing case study of the interplay between elite institutions, competing visions of masculine virtue and the limits of acceptable ideas. Knowland argues that he was upholding Eton’s traditions, which he sees as being under threat:
He positions his lecture in the spirit of a liberal education, in which a full range of ideas should be discussed:
But was sacrificing a job that he held for nine years, to defend such a deliberately provocative and one-sided treatise, worth it?
As ever, we’ll leave you to decide whether is a point of principle you would defend. Many thanks to Will for his time.