Katharine Birbalsingh, the headmistress of London’s Michaela Community School & Sixth Form, also known as “Britain’s Strictest School,” didn’t expected to have the police called on her over a few photographs on Twitter.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what occurred. After Birbalsingh posted a few photos of Canadian academic and public intellectual Dr. Jordan Peterson’s visit to her school, the Twitter mob’s response was unusually extreme. One user allegedly reported Birbalsingh to the local police for a “hate crime,” while others called for her immediate expulsion as headmistress, and others still called for an “immediate inspection” by local education authorities.
Dr. Jordan Peterson became a more popular figure in the last few years after publishing lectures from his psychology courses and authoring programs, and televised interviews in which Dr. Peterson was accused of everything from sexism to fascism for suggesting self-responsibility was essential for personal and community success and that hierarchical structures naturally occur. His books 12 Rules for Life and 12 More Rules for Life address these claims in more detail.
“Jordan Peterson did not question my intellect,” Birbalsingh said in a tweet. “He ate at a table entirely of ethnic minority kids. He told me they were clever, careful, polite and he loved talking with them. Meanwhile there are dozens of tweets claiming I am too stupid to do my job but they are the good guys.”
“Lots of people on here…think Jordan Peterson is a threat to kids,” Birbalsingh added. “What’s he going to do?? Most of us in the school are brown and black. He was [very] polite and respectful. It is on Twitter where the insults come.”
Birbalsingh is a respected and well-known educator in the non-American English-speaking world, and You Magazine referred to the Michaela Community School as “one of the UK’s biggest educational success stories.” As such, she is no stranger to attention and controversy.
“What actually helps people is a lot more complex than what looks good,” Birbalsingh told the magazine. “In fact, it is often the opposite of what looks good.”
But Birbalsingh says she has never been the target of this much hostility and vitriol. In her words, she thought “too highly” of her critics. Beyond the real-life actions, hundreds of Twitter users have accused her of racism, dereliction of duty, sympathizing with the Putin regime, and myriad other social ills and frailties.
Nevertheless, there is little indication that Birbalsingh will buckle or break. Her tweets since the incident have frequently decried the harmful effects of cancel culture, and she has anonymously posted numerous direct messages supporting her. But more than anything else, the same reasons that drove Birbalsingh to become an educator in the first place are likely the same ones driving her now.
“It’s so hard to make change that I think some people give up – some people feel really downtrodden,” Birbalsingh told You Magazine. “But I think my naivety keeps me believing that it is possible. It keeps me loving the kids and loving my job. Because I do – I love the kids and I love my job and knowing what we’re doing it for: to make the world into a better place.