In The News : Health & Safety, Gender and Teaching

A teacher appears to have been sacked for not knowing enough about the subject he was teaching.

When that subject is safety, health and environmental management and is being taught to MSc students in a university, one can see why it’s quite a big problem.

Richard Milligan had been teaching the subject at the University of South Wales since 2014 before his departure.  Despite his experience, Milligan gave “seriously incorrect” advice on cooking oil, electrical safety and falling from a height.

He claimed that bleach was an acid, not an alkaline, and that “voltage” was named after Voltaire, the French philosopher, rather than Alessandro Volta, the Italian physicist.

The investigation found he suggested that oil could be heated to 360C when it could catch fire at 250C. He told students studying for an MSc in safety, health and environmental management that the “most important thing” they had to do in the workplace was to “keep your job and not be prosecuted”.

Oh, the irony.

Students have been offered compensation of various forms to cover extra learning.

A teacher not sacked, though, was the one who sent a student out of class for suggesting that male and female are the only two genders.

The student filmed the discussion afterwards with his landed him a three week suspension.

The video begins with the teacher explaining to the boy that there is more than one gender – an opinion “acceptable” to the school.

He goes on to say: “Unlike yours where you say there’s no such thing other than male or female – that’s not inclusive.”

He also says to the teenager: “You’re entitled to your opinion”, to which the boy responds: “If I am, then why did you kick me out of class? It’s not very inclusive.”

The teacher replies: “No, I’m sorry, what you were saying is not very inclusive. This is an inclusive school.”

Arguing his point the student later says: “I think it’s silly to have other than two genders” and that it’s “unscientific”.

He continues: “I’m simply saying there are two genders, male or female.

“Anything else is a personal identification.”

I think that where the student lost his argument was when he brought in science.  There was uproar in the scientific community when Donald Trump’s administration tried to define sex as binary because there is at least one shade of grey on that distinction based in biology.  Surely at that point (easy for me to say not in the heat of the argument) the teacher should have been in a position to do some teaching.

Aberdeenshire Council said in a statement: “As part of our Public Sector Equality Duty we aim to: eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity between those who have protected characteristics and those who don’t; and foster good relations between those who have protected characteristics and those who don’t.

“It is important to understand the context of any video clip taken without a person’s consent.

“In our schools, fostering good relations among different groups can be a real challenge but our aim is to support a fairer, inclusive environment for all.”

I once got asked by my Family Law lecturer to continue discussion on my point that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt or marry in his office rather than in the classroom.  He didn’t show up, but that could have been simply because he realised I was only playing Devil’s Advocate to a much more morally acceptable view point.

Of course, it goes without saying that our teachers should actually teach the right thing and that our places of learning should be inclusive.  However, to what point is it inclusive to not allow people to have opinions, or to correct a student when they are wrong as a matter of fact?

Leave A Comment?