The Battle of Mearns Academy

On Friday 21st June, UK Column News covered an exchange between a 17-year-old Scottish schoolboy called Murray Allan and a teacher called Neil Westland. This crystallised so much of what is wrong in contemporary, state-run, mass education.

This article analyses the dialogue line by line; and finds that it illustrates a broader intellectual battle. It is that wider struggle, for space to think and the right to speak, that has caused the video to go viral, being viewed so far by almost 400,000 people worldwide.


Westland, 00:06: You’re entitled to your opinion.

This opening line gets to the crux of the issue, but it is a falsehood for it to be a statement. Rather, it should have been phrased as a question. Does Murray Allan have the right to his own opinion? Do any of us? That is the question the Scottish state is about to answer.

Murray, 00:10: If I am, then why would you kick me out of class? It’s not very ‘inclusive’ of you!

Murray spots the falsehood and challenges it immediately. If he was entitled to his opinion, why was he removed from class for voicing it?

Westland, 00:14: Can I finish my sentence, please?

So that statement, superficially in defence of free speech, was incomplete. Was the next word going to be “but”? The teacher is angered by being caught in a lie and raises “manners” as a means of regaining control, demanding not to be interrupted.

Westland, 00:15: ‘Not very inclusive’? No, I’m sorry: what you were saying was not very inclusive, and this is an inclusive school.

Just fifteen seconds in and we have arrived at one of the core conflicts — the meaning of words. 

Murray is using the English language and logic to define his terms. Inclusive, in his reasoning, means “not excluding any section of society or any party involved in something” (Oxford English Dictionary). Therefore, as a member of the Mearns Academy society and party to the conversation, Murray wished that his views not be excluded.

What Murray did not realise was that Mr Westland was not speaking English. He was speaking a new language that sounds like English but is not; for short we can call it Newspeak. In George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, Newspeak is the language devised by the totalitarian government to replace English. In contemporary Scotland, the same definition applies.

Roger Scruton, also now made to sit in the (metaphorical) corridor, explained with wonderful precision the nature of this new language in its 21st-century form in his 2006 book, A Political Philosophy

Newspeak occurs whenever the main purpose of language — which is to describe reality — is replaced by the rival purpose of asserting power over it […] Newspeak sentences sound like assertions, but their underlying logic is the logic of a spell. They show the triumph of words over things, the futility of rational argument and also the danger of resistance.

Murray, 00:19: Yes? How is what I was saying not inclusive?

This is a request for the Newspeak re-definition of the word.

Westland, 00:21: Because what I was saying, from the website, is that there are more than two genders in this country, by law.

So "inclusive", in New-Scots-Speak, means “compliant with the state definitions”. On the surface, this seems insane and utterly unconnected with the original meaning. This is the beauty of Newspeak; it is why Scruton is correct to call it a spell. The wizard here is the teacher, Mr. Westland. The definition does not move a little; instead it is transformed utterly. The sheer arrogant scope of it almost invites a challenge, goading the listener. In doing this it exerts a strange power. If the speaker can change meanings, he must represent logos-like power.

The final linguistic blow on poor Murray is the phrase “by law”. What a coup de grâce! This brings with it all of the assembled authority of commandments thundered by God from a smoke-covered mountaintop, the authority of millennia of kings and judges and wise men; in short, the assembled wisdom of a people. Or at least, that is what the wizard wants Murray to believe.

Let us briefly cast off the spell and look at reality in the form of the current statutes concerning this matter:

The Gender Recognition Act 2004, clause 25 (Interpretation), states that “gender dysphoria” means the disorder variously referred to as gender dysphoria, gender identity disorder and transsexualism. This law, at least, seems to be on Murray's side.

The Equality Act 2010 lists protected characteristics as follows: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex and sexual orientation. The gender reassignment characteristic applies if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person's sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

This act defines the protected characteristic of sex as a reference to a man or to a woman. It does not mention other genders, and again supports the position held by Murray.

Before we leave the 2010 Equality Act, it should be noted that the protected characteristic of religion or belief is included. Religion in this act means any religion and a reference to religion includes a reference to a lack of religion. Belief means any religious or philosophical belief and a reference to belief includes a reference to a lack of belief. This is important, as will be clear a little later in the discussion.

It seems clear therefore that the law is with Murray, how then could the teacher get it so wrong? A clue is provided on the Scottish Government website, which states:

Review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

The Scottish Government is committed to reviewing and reforming gender recognition law so it is in line with international best practice for people who are transgender or intersex.

A transgender person has a gender identity that isn't the same as the sex the person was assigned at birth.

This is not in accordance with the law. Rather, it points to the new form into which the Government has decided to mould and shape the law. Although it is not the law, it is, nevertheless, Government policy. The error Neil Westland made in citing the law, when no law exists, is surprisingly common in contemporary Scotland, where "the law" and "policy" are fast becoming interchangeable concepts.

The Named Person scheme has been struck down by the UK Supreme Court as unlawful, but it continues in the policy realm, like the legislative undead. A zombie apocalypse for parents and families. Once policy is in place within the state apparatus, it gains the force of law, at least over those employed by the state. And no one checks. No one dare ask “What law?”

Now, getting back to the exchange, how does Murray respond to the wizard's redefinition of the term "inclusion"? 

Murray, 00:24: That’s your opinion.

Bravo, Murray; you just said, in effect, “Your spell is not working on me.”

Westland, 00:26: That is my opinion, and that is an opinion which is acceptable in the school. I’m afraid yours, where you are saying that there is no such thing as other than male or female, is not inclusive.

And the spell is repeated: "inclusive" means compliant with state diktat, and only compliance is pleasing to the state. The school here is clearly an agent of the state and involved in wizardry on an institutional level.

Murray, 00:37: Scientifically, there are just two genders, depending on …

Murray again returns to the world of facts and logic, appealing to the scientific fact that, down to a cellular level, people are either male or female. The wizard will not allow this, for he has no power in that realm.

Westland, 00:40: I get that you are choosing to make an issue of this. Because [when] I said, ‘Are you really going to [state] your [view]?’, that was your opportunity to keep quiet.

And right away he returns to the realm of power. He makes Murray an offer: to accept that the spell is all-powerful in the school. If Murray will silently comply, his own thoughts may be spared, for a little while at least. This is where Murray shows his quality.

Murray, 00:48: You made an issue with it on the website. You said, ‘Oh, this website doesn’t have more than two genders!’

Murray shows who the aggressor was — revealing once again, as he does so, that this is a power contest not a factual one. He says to the wizard: I see your spells, and they are nothing to me.

Westland, 00:51: Murray, you were clearly given an opportunity not to pursue it. You chose to do so.

Vox Day’s Rule 2  — Social Justice Warriors always double down — is in action here.

Murray, 00:57: Yes, because I think it’s silly.

This is magnificent by Murray. He uses two things the wizard cannot withstand in one short blast: “I think” — an expression of intellectual autonomy — and “It’s silly” — ridicule! 

The wizard must now retreat, running back to the issue of power. He again proclaims his power as an authority to enforce thought within the school, but his voice is noticeably weaker this time.

Westland, 00:59: Yes, that’s the key question: you chose to do so. 

Murray, 01:02: I think it’s silly to have anything other than two genders [on a website]. Anything else is a personal choice.

And Murray plants his flag on the newly-won ground of logic with a double-tap of ridicule. The wizard retreats further: he offers Murray not only his own private thoughts, but his own private residence, if Murray will just accept the wizard’s rule in the temple called 'school'.

Westland, 01:05: OK, could you please keep that opinion to your own house? Thank you. Not in this school.

Will Murray accept?

Murray, 01:12: So you get to put your opinion out in class, and mine has to stay in my own house?

No, he challenges once again the nature of the wizard’s authority. “You have no power here, 'Gandalf the Grey'; my thoughts are my own, and I can express them at home and in school.”

Westland, 01:15: No, I am not putting my opinion out; I am stating what is National School Authority policy. OK?

And with a flourish, the wizard reveals himself as Gandalf the White. It is not his own ideas he is putting forward, but those of the most high (meaning the Scottish Government). This is a full 180 degree reversal from the wizard's statement at 00:26: he is in full retreat and relying on the power of the “National School Authority”. The most interesting thing about the cited Authority is that it does not exist!

Murray, 01:25: Well, it’s not scientific whatsoever.

But Gandalf the White finds he has no power here either, and Murray continues to claim science, reason and reality as his realm.

Westland, 01:29: Not every policy is scientific, Murray!

The wizard admits the nature of the wizardry. The policy is not scientific; it has no factual basis. Its basis is power.

Murray, 01:36: And you can’t come out here and say that I’m not being inclusive when someone says something you disagree with and you kick them out …

Murray returns to his English-language (or Oldspeak) definition of inclusion.

Westland, 01:40: I didn’t say [that]; I said what you were saying was not being inclusive.

And the wizard repeats the incantation, but with less assurance. He tries to split his attack on Murray’s statements from criticism of Murray personally, as an appearance of reasonableness. This is of course false as the whole exchange is an attack on Murray personally, and in particular upon his beliefs and intellect.

Murray, 01:44: You kicked me out of class. If you wanted to have a discussion about it, we could have had a discussion. You don’t have to kick me out of class and waste thirty minutes of my time, when I could have been down revising or doing something else. Instead, I state something I believe in and you kick me out of class for thirty minutes, waiting in the corridor.

Murray here cites his belief. Now, had the wizard known the law, he would have realised he had lost, because belief is a protected characteristic. By discriminating against Murray on the basis of his belief, the teacher is in contravention of the Equality Act 2010. He does not realise this, however, and digs deeper instead.

Westland, 01:57: Take this somewhere else, Murray. You can make an official complaint. Please do!

Now this is a twist. Why does the wizard request an official complaint? It is because that would show his compliance to his masters. It would protect him from suspicion of thought-crime. This is a very Orwellian moment.

Murray, 01:59: I’m not going to make an official complaint.

Murray is not fooled; he realises that official complaints are a waste of time, as it is officialdom that is the enemy of free speech and independent thought. In later years he may learn that official complaint processes serve two purposes: to slow down and exhaust those with a legitimate need for remedy, and to reveal to the officials the extent of the evidence available to the complainant.

Westland, 02:01: Why not?

Murray, 02:02: I just think it’s silly.

And returning to the thing the devil hates most — mockery — Murray shores up his defences one more time.

Westland, 02:03: I know what you think, and I know what The Authority thinks.

Can an authority, a collective group, actually think? Can it still do this even if it does not exist? Not in the real world, but of course the wizard is not IN the real world.

Westland, 02:05: I know that The Authority’s point of view is very clear, very clear, that we make no discrimination on the basis of various …

I’m betting the next word was not going to be “beliefs”, even though that is a statutory requirement for the teacher.

Murray, 02:13: I wasn’t making discrimination; I’m simply saying there are two genders, male and female. Anything else is a personal identification.

Again the point here is that no one was being attacked by Murray. The attack was ON Murray; on his beliefs.

Westland, 02:21: I’m sorry, but you chose to make an issue of making a point which is contrary to policy. Right?

Slick wizardry here: the suggestion is now that Murray’s sin was not the belief in scientific orthodoxy or evidence-based reality. Instead, it was in exercising choice. Choices, and the use of personal autonomy to make them for oneself, are here held up by the wizard as evidence of thought-crime. Note also the concession that Murray's actions are not against the law, but "contrary to policy".

How will Murray respond?

Murray, 02:27: You made the issue, when you complained about the website, sir, and I responded to it by saying that there are only two genders. I never made the issue.

Murray here deflects by saying: if choices are bad, why did you choose wizard? You are convicted by your own words.

Westland, 02:34: OK, I am not going here [as a topic]. You can choose, but you’re making bad choices.

And Murray wins the right to choose: the wizard must allow him this and must content himself to label those choices “bad”.

Murray, 02:39: I’m ‘making bad choices’? OK. Well, can I take my bag over to the research area and start revising, then?

Murray tests the wizard; does he really have the right to make choices? What if he picks an unarguably good choice as defined by the school — revising for exams?

Westland, 02:43: No. You can stay here.

No, says the wizard. None of his words are true. None of his speech describes reality. Murray was wise to test him.

Murray, 02:46: OK, I’ll stay here. Thanks for wasting my time.

Murray accepts the teacher's authority, but rejects his wizardry. The teacher’s refusal of a good choice is now wasting Murray’s time and thus reveals Westland’s actions to be in flagrant opposition to the stated aims of schooling. How does Westland respond?

Westland, 02:51: Murray, I am not allowed to tell you how much of my time you have wasted.

By abandoning civility and good manners and fleeing the room.

Murray, you utter, utter hero. You defeated the wizard! 

This exchange shows how Newspeak seeks to gain power over people. Every time a man or woman accepts a ridiculous proposition, every time they remain silent in the face of the linguistic wizardry that reverses truth, inverts logic and turns black into white, a little bit of their mind, their soul and their spirit is broken. But this realisation offers us a means of resistance. For every word spoken in truth, and every falsehood exposed, heals us. And as we grow stronger, we grow more formidable. And the wizards flee in confusion.

If we determine to never miss an opportunity of telling the truth, then, by that means alone, we join the resistance to evil; it is as simple as that.

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).