In June 2023, a story spread like butter on hot toast among the right-wing press. A pupil at an East Sussex secondary school allegedly “identified as a cat”. When they were questioned by another pupil, the teacher branded the challenger’s views as “despicable”.
The fallout prompted comments from the prime minister, whose spokesperson said teachers should “not be teaching contested opinions as fact or shutting down valid discussions and debates”, and from Keir Starmer, whose spokesperson said, “I think children should be told to identify as children.”
The minister for women and equalities, Kemi Badenoch, even asked Ofsted to carry out a snap inspection of the school at the centre of the controversy. It subsequently found that “the concerns… that led to this inspection do not reflect pupils’ normal experiences at school”. The college insisted that no children at the school identify as animals. You might have thought that this would be enough – instead, the story continued to reverberate around Whitehall and various papers for weeks.
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Questions about the teacher’s handling of the situation aside, variations of the ‘girl who identifies as a cat’ story have been around since at least August 2022. Typically, the student is a girl, and the school punishes students who challenge her. I personally don’t know any cat-students, and neither do any of my teacher friends.
There’s this stereotype of the incompetent, ‘woke’ teacher. Supposedly, public institutions are overrun with lefties who obstruct the democratically elected government at every turn. It is certainly interesting that the story ran a week before a two-day strike by NEU members. Apparently we hate facts and love ideology. We’re teaching your children, treating your illnesses and drafting your laws, but our rigid adherence to the woke dogma is responsible for our inefficiency.