Abigail

BY FRANK HAVILAND

Society’s foremost duty must be to protect the innocent and the vulnerable. In the age of perpetual victimhood however, the lines are so blurred we no longer get it right. Instead the indefensible is now defended: treacherous politicians who slander their own voters; middle-class deadbeats who spend their gap-year with ISIS; and child rapists, traumatised by the unwelcome advances of Tommy Robinson’s camera.

Abigail Ward, a 16-year-old from East Sussex, should have spent last week eagerly anticipating her GCSE results. Instead she spent it persona non grata, splashed across the nation’s broadsheets. While her cohorts were deciding what to make of their unwritten stories, Abigail had already been blackballed. Thanks to the machinations of an overzealous OCR examiner, buoyed no doubt by years of blind obedience from paperclips, it was decided Abigail had no right to a story at all. Her crime? Possession of an unlicensed opinion.

Despite sitting her Religious Studies exam in June, Abigail was disqualified for making ‘obscene racial comments’. What diabolical remarks were these you may ask? They were in reference to halal slaughter, which Abigail finds ‘absolutely disgusting’. An open and shut case then, hang the bitch.

We shouldn’t need to go down this road, but in case you’re interested Abigail is of course right. Slitting an animal’s throat while it remains conscious cannot be viewed as anything other than barbaric, no matter which god you invoke. If compassion doesn’t persuade you, science ought to: animals who are not stunned feel the pain of slaughter.

But what do facts matter? In the post-truth age, where men are women, terrorists are victims and children declared transgender practically in utero, it’s the virtue signal that counts. Abigail missed a trick here. Had she opined, ‘Patriarchy, patriarchy, wherefore aren’t thou?’ presumably she’d have been awarded the Victoria Cross, alongside the compulsory A*.

As the ranks of those queuing to lecture us swells beyond the customary media hacks and royal nonentities, what else would examiners care to disqualify 16-year-olds for? Brexiteer sympathies? Aversion to transgender bathrooms? Daring to question the mantra diversity is our strength?

This is not the first time education has been caught with its hand in the till: whether it’s schools suspending pupils who refuse to pretend there are more than 2 genders or toddlers being branded racist for disliking spicy food, the pedagogical point is the same – students are no longer permitted to think for themselves.

You have to ask then, what exactly is the purpose of education? Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always assumed it begins with the transfer of knowledge, and hopefully ends with the establishment of critical thinking. Seeing as liberals no longer believe in objective truth however, and as they’re clearly discouraging independent thought, the only conclusion you can draw is that the sole purpose of education is now inculcation. On those grounds certainly, Abigail performed poorly.

It’s also worth mentioning, it is now practically impossible to actually ‘fail’ an examination. With successive governments ‘raising standards’ (obviously, by lowering them), the GCSE is such a watered-down piss of a test, that spelling your name correctly and sleeping through it merits a pass grade.

But disqualification – that’s another, far more sinister issue entirely. Not content with the public flogging of a burgeoning, healthy mind, the anonymous examiner clearly intended to go further. The tacit acceptance that not just ideas, but also the people who hold them may be unceremoniously removed from the public sphere, provided the authorities can agree on the technicalities, is nothing short of evil.

Whether it’s right-wing personalities kicked off social media, the constant no-platforming witnessed at our universities, or the dismissal of anyone daring to question the liberal orthodoxy, such as James Damore, we are being conditioned to accept the actual deletion of people who refuse to stick to the hymn sheet.

Consider the terribly muted response of Abigail’s school, her parents, and even usually sharp commentators like Brendan O’Neil; all of whom chose to play along, merely highlighting the fact that Abigail’s comments weren’t directed at Muslims per se, but rather halal slaughter. They’ve missed the crucial point – so what if it had been? The harrowing and inescapable conclusion being, they consider it fine to erase a young woman, if it could be proved she held anti-Islamic opinions.

The examination hall is not trial by ordeal. An examiner’s role must surely be restricted to checking the factual contents of a student’s output, and weighing the potency of their conclusions. On the latter part at least, Abigail appears to have passed with flying colours.

It ill behoves education to cordon off the boundaries of acceptable opinion. If even the schoolroom is no longer a safe space to explore ideas, then there are no safe spaces. Islam is not alone, but merely the largest tranche of that which must not be questioned. Tomorrow it will be refusing to worship Greta Thunberg, believing penises are masculine, or racism for thinking Meghan Markle is the worst hole Harry has ever dug for himself.

Personally, I’d give Miss Ward an A*. She had the guts to write what she thought, knowing it would be frowned upon. That used to be called integrity. Sadly those who mess with such illicit substances are now required to face the music publicly. Meanwhile, the anonymous examiner presumably resides safely in post.

Thankfully the school appealed, and the decision was overturned – but that’s not the point. What if it hadn’t been? What if they hadn’t complained? What if Miss Ward had simply accepted her fate? Fortunately for Abigail she won the battle, but as a society we’re markedly losing the war.

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