‘Good Girl’, ‘Atta Boy’, expressions of encouragement commonly directed at students in the classroom. But what if these simple comments of admiration and praise could cost you your job?


 

This happened to Joshua Sutcliffe, a 27-year-old maths tutor from Oxfordshire, who simply said ‘Well done girls’ and now faces misconduct charges for ‘misgendering’. Despite being a Christian and having strong beliefs on the matter, Sutcliffe apologised about the situation when the pupil pointed it out. Regardless of this, the parents still pressed charges.

Is it fair that a teacher should suppress their religious beliefs in order to accommodate the preferences of students and still be charged?

When Sutcliffe spoke to the Oxford Mail, he said: ‘Teaching is my passion, I love to teach. It was a big decision [to speak publicly] but I value my faith above the job’. (Oxford Mail, 2017)

Oxfordshire Teacher Suspended After Misidentifying Student's Gender

Joshua Sutcliffe suspended for ‘misgendering’ pupil (Image: Joshua Sutcliffe)

This doesn’t seem fair at all. Freedom of speech is a right that should be given to everyone but it seems that consequently speech has been censored, restricted and limited for fear of offence. People are being encouraged to use gender-neutral terms such as ‘they’, ‘their’ and discouraged from referring to boys as ‘boys’ and girls as ‘girls’. If political correctness is enforced at the cost of one’s ‘religious correctness’ then is it really correct? Being told how to address a body of people which contradicts your personal, cultural and religious values is certainly not free speech.

Although I am sensitive to the fact that people are free to identify as whomever they please, I also believe that it should not be forced upon the rest of the population to adopt the same views, or for it to be a crime to practice a faith in one’s daily life. Just because a societal view has been altered does not mean that people have to drastically change their personal views to make others feel more at ease.

If anything, opposing views should be encouraged in order to reflect the world beyond school corridors, so as to expose students to the vast rainbow of views and opinions that they will inevitably have to face. It teaches an important lesson to students: that not everyone will agree with them.

According to Facebook, there are over 71 different genders. How can we keep up with such a fast-paced world? So much progress has been made toward equality in the last couple of decades, from women achieving the vote in the UK in the early eighteenth century to the abolition of slavery in the UK in 1833. These are good things since equality is finally within reach. But when the lines become blurred it is obvious that some political views are no longer a choice, as they are being enforced in institutions across the globe.

Yes, it is good that children are learning about such topics as gender identity to make them more aware of the world around them. But when it discounts all other views on the matter, this is when the line is crossed. It doesn’t give the chance for students to choose their own stance on the topic.

Everyone is entitled to be respected in their identity. We need to be able to talk openly about such issues whilst still acknowledging that everyone has a right to their own opinion. Being millennials means that although we are gradually exploring this exciting new age, we are still programmed by traditional values and attitudes whether we like it or not. It therefore certainly should not be expected that every person on the planet should just hop on the bandwagon immediately.

There is such a wide spectrum of views and it is impossible to adopt them all without encountering contradictions with one’s personal beliefs, so one should not be ridiculed for this.

The whole ordeal involving Sutcliffe should be a reminder to all that to stand firm in one’s personal beliefs is courageous and should be encouraged, especially when the vast majority are against it.