Tuesday 9 January 2018

Has Toby Young been backed into a cave?

Politics. Half way through the last season of House of Cards, I said to my other half, “I just don’t think like this lot.” But who does really? I mean it’s all drama on the TV right?

I’m generally one for weighing information and thinking about things. Then finally saying my point. Isn’t that what most people do? Or not?  Take for example, Mr Toby Young.

Mr Young was recently appointed to and then, today, resigned from, the board of the new university regulator, the Office for Students. You may have heard of him due to accusations that Mr Young had made offensive comments on Twitter.

Others, have said what they think of Mr Young. Dawn Butler, Labour's shadow secretary for women and equalities claims he has left the university regulator with its "credibility in tatters".

The prime minister had said she was "not impressed" by Mr Young's language.

As a parent of young children with special educational needs (SEN), the main accusation about Mr Young that grabbed my attention was that he reportedly compared children with learning difficulties to ‘illiterate troglodytes’.

My eyes lit up – did Mr Young just compare kids, not unlike mine, to cave dwellers?

Well in a Spectator column in 2012 he called on the Government to repeal the Equalities Act, including, “Any exam that isn’t ‘accessible’ to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be ‘elitist’ and therefore forbidden by Harman’s Law.”

He has since said in his defence that "I'm (also) a defender of teaching children with disabilities in mainstream schools. I have an older brother with learning disabilities and I'm a patron of the residential care home he's lived in for 20 years."

If I formulated my opinion on these quotes, I could presume that having resigned from the OfS, Mr Young is out of the House of Cards but still patron of another dwelling, that which he considers to be a residential care cave? But this would be ill of me.

Mr Young has said that much of the criticism had been politically motivated. And whether this is the case or not, it seems his comments have come back to bite.

Today, Mr Young wrote in the Spectator again, saying, “Some of the things I said before I got involved in education, when I was a journalistic provocateur, were either ill-judged or just plain wrong – and I unreservedly apologise.”

Whether Mr Young’s ‘troglodyte’ comments were initially in some sort of defence of a real ideal of inclusion or not, I can agree that they were at very least ill-judged. I feel that many of my SEN parent friends have a much stronger opinion.  I did not delve into any other of Mr Young's comments that have offended.

Perhaps his resignation will, if nothing else, act as a warning to others. My children have been called naughty, a nuisance and poorly behaved by those with no understanding of their difficulties. Some people even seem afraid of them.  But we are past the point where a comment once said is dismissed.

Just as the cave paintings created by prehistoric troglodytes have survived thousands of years, so our history is being recorded, often now on a daily basis. In addition to the hurt comments may cause their consequences can be far reaching. Whatever our current vocation, whatever medium we use, perhaps we should all consider the language we use and what we say or it may, quite rightly, just come back to haunt us.


  1. I have to be honest and say I didn't read much about this, but it certainly sounds like he did the right thing when he resigned! #TriumphantTales

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