FOLLOWING last year’s decision by Edinburgh University to change the name of the David Hume building, due to his “racist” comments, cancel culture has reared its head again. This time it’s the headteacher of Howden Junior School who has caused controversy by changing the house names of his school to fit more comfortably with modern times.

The house names of the Yorkshire school that included Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake and Horatio Nelson were replaced by headteacher Lee Hill with those of Greta Thunberg, Marcus Rashford, Malala Yousafzai and Amanda Gorman.

In response, Piers Morgan on breakfast TV spat his dummy out, called Mr Hill “old tattoo boy” and demanded to know if Winston Churchill would be next on the list of cancellations.


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Mr Hill’s choice of house heroes is illustrative of the times because he has not chosen historical figures at all but plumped instead for individuals who have come to our attention only very recently. History, at least in terms of the house names, has in fact disappeared.

Demonstrating the trend for adults to claim to be educated by children, the headteacher, or should that be head-learner, claims that his decision to change the names was influenced by a past pupil who believed that the existing house names supported “institutional racism”. Logically enough, one of the house names, Greta Thunberg, is famed for educating the adult world about climate change at the age of 16.

We don’t need to concern ourselves too much with the fact that the four individuals now celebrated by this school fit comfortably with the perspectives or prejudices of the modern elites to still find something troubling about these presentist developments.

There is a superficiality to these changes, an unseriousness, even a philistine dimension to them – where a school founded in 1912, that I’m guessing has carried these house names for over a century – can suddenly be changed, just like that, and replaced with people who have hardly lived let alone had an impact on human history, and who have just come to our attention.

In case you don’t remember, Amanda Gorman is the African American poet who spoke at Joe Biden’s inauguration, one month ago. I must admit, I’d forgotten who she was. She’s 23 years old, as is Marcus Rashford whose saint-like status for school dinner changes was established six months ago. Human rights activist Malala Yousafzai has at least been known to us for more than a few months, but she is also 23.

The changing of house names in itself is insignificant. My school used the names of past royal families, from the Tudors to the Windsors, none of us cared. It’s what is being reflected in the change that is important.

What Lee Hill did is illustrative of a level of immaturity amongst the individuals who run many of our educational institutions today, who attempt to make things “relevant”, but who also demonstrate a certain knee-jerk reaction to anything that doesn’t fit with the modern zeitgeist.

It is difficult to imagine how Hill, or educators like him, can teach history in a meaningful way. The headteacher talks about “problematic” figures like Raleigh and about the “racism” and “oppression” of the times.#


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It may interest Mr Hill to know that the term racism meant nothing until the 20th century, while the idea of “oppression”, of equal rights and human universal values could only have a meaning after the Enlightenment, a moment in history influenced by the likes of David Hume.

To talk about and think about Walter Raleigh as an oppressive racist, a man born in 1552, is historically illiterate and embarrassing. Worse still it encourages a form of infantile narcissism amongst today’s children who come to learn that all of human history, indeed all past generations, are morally inferior to them and therefore irrelevant. To cancel history or to see it through the eyes of babes demonstrates a form of anti-humanism that would shock the Enlightened thinkers of the past – indeed it hints at the death of adult educators itself.

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