Is J. K. Rowling “Bigoted”? Classroom Discussion Suggests Tide is Turning

Much has been made of this video as an example of a great teacher showing his students how to think critically. The instructor was celebrated in the conservative blogosphere and among the twitterati as “what pupils in schools need most;” he even landed an interview with Piers Morgan.

Only those who believe that classrooms, to include seemingly open discussions like the one in the video above, are places where ‘real learning’ happens or can happen fail to see what is painfully obvious to a homeschooling parent or to readers of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. The student whose viewpoint is transformed in the exchange offered his ‘woke’ opinion about Rowling’s supposed transphobia because he thought it was the accepted view of everyone conversant with social media trends; as soon as he realized the teacher is not on board, he has an epiphany and accepts the teacher’s view. If the teacher had been a “critical thinker” who thought that Rowling was “murdering people!” because of her gender critical views, the student would have been won over or re-established in that received opinion.

We’re a long way from “critical thinking” in either case. The student, frankly, is just a toady or he could have found the arguments of the Rowling Revilers in which they make their case that the author is indeed a danger to those people who identify with a gender that is not their biological sex.

That being said, I still find the video of the hipster Socratic teacher taking a seemingly neutral view of this controversy and all but siding with Rowling’s defenders in the end a very encouraging sign.

Not about the possibility of effective classroom learning today, alas. If the teacher were truly about fostering examination of evidence, of course, he would have insisted on finding the best possible arguments from the Neo-Harry Haters and examining them along with Rowling’s views and those of her defenders. As it is, he allows the student-sycophant to change his views to align with what he thinks his teacher’s are or with the ‘critical thinking metamorphosis’ that he is selling.

What is encouraging is that the teacher did not fear being cancelled by angry students for not being on board and cheerleading anyone afflicted with the delusions of gender dysphoria. Check out this 2019 Atlantic piece about what happened to Camille Paglia when the students at her university decided she need to be cast into the outer darkness and about the fear with which this transgender feminist’s colleagues were possessed in speaking out in her defense.

Those days are not totally behind us, of course; the internet puritans and thought police never rest on this subject. We are, however, turning a corner if men like this do not object to being filmed while teaching students not to accept the narrative that Rowling is a transphobe.

I haven’t watched the Piers Morgan interview and confess to being curious if the man wasn’t careful to distance himself from the ranks of #IStandWithJKRowling. Regardless, I think his five minutes of fame and the conjunction of “critical thinking” and the position that Rowling is not bigoted has to be considered a win in the ongoing war for public acceptance of her positions.


  1. I hadn’t watched the video before (read your post first) and I was expecting to agree with your take. I very often DO feel that some of the “viral moments” that circulate online are overhyped or not what they’re cracked up to be.

    Then I watched it, and… I respectfully disagree with you. By insisting on specifics, focusing on JKR’s exact words, and asking the student to disregard his general sense of “what people think,” I do find this to be a real exercise in critical thinking. And I think that’s true even if the teacher is personally pro-Rowling and not neutral on the topic.

    Could the teacher have been equally persuasive—by means of honest critical thinking—in guiding the student toward an anti-Rowling view, based on that tweet? I’m trying to imagine how that would go. (It’s an interesting thought experiment.)

    Perhaps he’d say: “Rowling focuses on this individual who lost her job, but isn’t that just a distraction? Do you think maybe she’s just appealing to your sympathies to deflect from the transphobic undercurrents in her tweet?” Or: “Don’t you think she’s being disingenuous by claiming she simply wants to acknowledge that ‘sex is real?’ Isn’t that just innocent-sounding cover for hostility to trans people?”

    Seriously… I’m imagining this as best I can. And my imagined dialogue depends a lot on reading things into the tweet that JKR didn’t actually say… whereas the actual exchange focused squarely on her actual words. I don’t think they’re equivalent, or that the student could’ve just as easily been brought to an anti-Rowling view by the same method.

  2. All good points, especially the conclusions you make from your thought experiment! Thank you for writing!

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