The ugly nature of the transgender debate – and the viciousness of those who seek to silence others who disagree with them – has arrived in the playground. At a private girls’ school, a sixth form student was surrounded by a mob of dozens of fellow pupils who spat and screamed at her. Her ‘crime’? Questioning a visiting politician’s views about trans rights during a debate and making the point that ‘sex exists’. That girl has now left school and is studying at home. Schools should be places where children can develop their own ideas and debate them. So what has gone so badly wrong?
Only a few years ago, there was an A-Level, which I used to teach, in critical thinking. I taught my students to analyse arguments, identify flaws, assess the credibility of sources and develop arguments of their own. But inexplicably the government binned the course in 2016. That decision could not have come too soon for the purveyors of transgender ideology.
The argument that we all have an innate gender identity that determines whether we are men or women – or perhaps something else – irrespective of our biological sex has taken root in society. Schools are not immune to this radical change in thinking. Ten years ago, the various claims made within the trans debate might have generated excellent source material for critical thinking lessons. Today, few people dare speak out on this subject. Those who do face a similar fate to the sixth form student: targeted for expressing what they think in public. Even asking questions can be dangerous.
The school in question, which has not been named, is reportedly registered as a Stonewall ‘Champion’. Perhaps a better term would be ‘Conformity Champion’? Because when the girl told the visiting member of the House of Lords that she respectfully disagreed with her, she faced the wrath of her fellow students.
JK Rowling has now stepped into the row, describing the events as an ‘outbreak of quasi-religious fanaticism.’ She’s right. This is an ideology that demands adherence and punishes heresy. Its priestly class are often trans people who, it is assumed, have some special knowledge about gender identity. Actually we don’t. But the true faithful will not listen to reason from apostates like me.
According to the girl’s account, the unnamed peer went on to tell her that trans people ‘don’t have basic human rights’ in Britain. If that is indeed what was said, we should all be concerned: it’s just not true. We have exactly the same rights as everyone else, and a few more besides. But creating victims of us suits the narrative: if trans people are the most oppressed then we must not be challenged, and our purported allies and supporters must not be challenged either.
Here lies the problem. All ideas should be open to challenge and dismissed if they are found wanting. Otherwise nonsense will propagate. Another member of the Lords, Claire Fox, told The Spectator:
‘What a shame that when one sixth former demonstrated her intellectual maturity and bravely queried the consensus, it was she who was punished, demonised and isolated. Senior teaching staff should have congratulated her for critical thinking. Sadly, trans ideology is not susceptible to rigorous educational scrutiny and even worse, creates group think which is the enemy of education.’Baroness Fox of Buckley
As teachers it is surely our duty to defend reason and protect those who question and challenge people’s views. Transgender ideology is not sacred, whatever ‘training providers’ might have us believe. We don’t need an A-Level in critical thinking to recognise that what happened at that private school last year was an outrage. Teachers like me need to wake up. Because if we don’t stand up for education – and for pupils who say what they think – who will?
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 18 May 2022: A private girls’ school is the latest transgender battleground.