De-Registration and the death of relativism


Recently the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal de-registered a teacher, making it impossible for them to work in this country.

We know very little about the individual, except that he has a strong Christian faith, teaches maths and is a man.

Why was he de-registered?

A student had decided to transition from female to male, and the teacher—because of his beliefs — refused to use their new pronouns or name. We don’t know too much about the student.

The Tribunal’s decision assumes transitioning in adolescence cannot be easy. Perhaps the teacher might have been more reasonable. The student offered a compromise: Don’t worry about the pronouns but use my new name.

Still, the teacher refused, saying he didn’t want the student (quoting from the full decision) to “go down the path of sin.”

Homosexuality and abortion were invoked as examples of the latter to the Tribunal.

The Tribunal asserts that while you may hold such views privately, expressing them publicly is “disgraceful.” Think what you like; guard what you say.

While “sin” may not have been the best response from the teacher, would denying their belief and dishonestly accepting the student’s new identity be any more productive?

No matter. Thanks to this ruling, it seems that relativism, the notion that you have your truth and I have mine, is officially dead.

Instead, two rights collide: the right to determine your gender and the right to refuse that determination on the grounds of religious faith. Only one can win, with significant collateral damage.

A commentator has suggested that this decision indicates that the Human Rights Act (which defends good conscience) is increasingly unfit for purpose.

In the same week the Teacher’s Council decision became public, the Broadcasting Standards Authority announced it could decline complaints relying on “transphobic tropes,” including the view that gender identity was a mechanism to exploit women.

Some arguments are no longer acceptable, even if made honestly.

Do you see a pattern developing?

Teacher de-registration can only occur for serious matters: forming an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student, sharing pornography or alcohol or drugs with them, etc.

Ultimately the Tribunal de-registered the teacher because of the “likelihood” of causing the student emotional harm and bringing the teaching profession into disrepute.

Likely harm was thus made equal to actual harm (sex, porn and drugs). In such an environment, proportion frays.

Let’s touch on a case against a teacher who wasn’t deregistered. This teacher lied about taking classes, faked grades, forged a Head of Department’s signature, and hired a gang member to kneecap her principal. No de-registration.

Given that there’s a clear want of balance about what arguments will be refused by the powerful, there’s also a risk that this unacceptability virus might infect our politics.

Relativism (which necessarily requires tolerance) means you should listen to what you may think are disgraceful arguments so that you may fillet them. You have the freedom to be critical. That’s indispensable for a worthwhile election.

Only, some freedoms are no longer free.

  • Tim Wilson is the Executive Director of the Maxim Institute.
  • First published by the Maxim Institute. Republished with permission.
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