The Matter of Enoch Burke

Not surprisingly, the right-wing press is attempting to portray the intransigent bigotry of the teacher Enoch Burke as some kind of heroic stand against “woke ideology”. I’ve lost track of the number of articles that claim that Mr Burke has been sent to prison for “refusing to use the pronoun they” or for his religious beliefs; he is some sort of Evangelical Christian with extreme political views on a range of subjects as do the other members of his family.

The facts of the matter are that Mr Burke was suspended (on full pay) pending a disciplinary hearing following a confrontation with his school’s principal. He was instructed not to attend the school during the disciplinary process (which is quite normal). Burke refused to comply so the school went to court to get a court order to keep him off the premises. He ignored the injunction so was arrested for contempt of court. He was then sent to Mountjoy Prison where he will remain until he purges his contempt.

The person you should have sympathy for in this case is not Mr Burke who deliberately provoked this incident by breaking the law in order to court controversy, and who deserves everything he has got as a consequence, but the kid at the centre of this case who has done nothing wrong at all. I hope they have plenty of support from their friends and family and the sensible teachers in their school.

24 Responses to “The Matter of Enoch Burke”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I agree that he should not have breached the court order. As regards the issue which led to it, this is primarily secular and not religious (which I say as an evangelical Christian), and I raise the questions which I think deserve to be addressed on the preceding thread but one.

    • telescoper Says:

      Is it impossible for a woman to have a beard?

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        It depends what one’s definition of ‘woman’ is. I don’t mean this as wordplay – please see my comments on the other thread.

      • I didn’t mean my reply as wordplay either. In your previous comment you seem to argue that a person with a beard must be a “he”. I dispute that.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I said that it depends what one’s definition of man and woman are. I still think this discussion is better had on the lower thread, where I set out my position in more detail, but let me ask you specifically what your definitions of man and woman are, please?

      • I haven’t seen any definition of “man” or “woman” that isn’t recursive so I think it’s preferable to allow people to choose which applies to them. I’m interested that the discussion of this refers almost always exclusively to the definition of a “woman”. You might equally ask what is the definition of a “man”. There are as many trans men as there are trans women. Indeed, according to the latest statistics in Ireland, where gender recognition is approached in a very enlightened way, there were more people changing from female to male (105) last year than from male to female (90).

        Attempts to reduce the question to the specific nature of a person’s genitalia seems to me to be inadequate (as there are people with both forms of sexual organs) not to mention downright creepy.

        I think the one aspect of the definition of “man” or “woman” that I think everyone agrees on is that they are both adults of the species.

        Oh and yes, trans women *are* women. Trans is an adjective. That’s how adjectives work. Tall women are also women, etc. Trans men are men too.

        Many much simpler things are difficult to define satisfactorily. For example, what is a chair?

      • Definitions: Woman: adult form of the body type that is, in evolutionary terms, built around the production of the larger gamete (namely the egg). Man: adult form of the body type built around producing the smaller gamete (sperm). Reproduction involves the two gamete types (there is no role for any third of fourth sex, hence sex is binary). Nothing about these definitions is recursive. This is all standard biology.

        Of course people should be allowed to live whatever “gender role” they wish, without hostility, but that doesn’t change the fact that sex is real, binary, and often important, and that in some situations there is a good case for segregation by sex (rather than gender).

      • How do intersex people fit into this classification?

      • Intersex people are 0.018% of the population. A small number of developmental abnormalities doesn’t negate the basic categorisation as above. Anyhow, being intersex is a different thing from being trans, so is not that relevant in this context.

      • They don’t fit the classification ergo the classification does not work. The fact that they constitute a small fraction of the population is irrelevant. They are human beings. There are over 10,000 such people in the UK. What do you propose to do with them?

        I agree that for the majority of people, their sex aligns the characteristics you describe, but there are exceptions of which intersex is one example. Ignoring the exceptions is fundamentally unscientific.

      • The classification works fine, but, yes, there are a small number of people for whom the classification doesn’t work. So what? And why would I need to “do” anything with them?

      • I see. It “works fine” except when it “doesn’t work”.

      • Yes, working for 99.982% of the population is doing pretty well. But as I say, the intersex issue is a diversion here, since it’s not that relevant to trans issues.

      • I think a gaping fundamental flaw in your reasoning is very relevant. It’s a pity you can’t or won’t recognize it. The question that started this thread was not about “trans issues” either.

      • I sticking with my clear-cut, straightforward, biology-based and non-recursive definition of “men” and “women”. A small number of developmental abnormalities that don’t fit the classification does not negate its validity. Nobody is asserting “… and every human, ever, can be assigned unambiguously to one of these categories”, that’s not a necessary feature of the concept “category”.

      • You have explained your position. I have explained mine. I don’t think we’re going to change each other’s opinion so I think we should stop now.

      • Also can you please explain to me what the frequently-used statement “sex is real” is supposed to mean?

      • Biologically real, as opposed to being a social construction (as some argue) and as opposed to being a matter of self-ID.

      • I think brains are biologically real too, as is what goes on inside them. I think societies and social relations are real too.

      • We need words that are based on appearance, because one often is asked to describe somebody to whom one hasn’t spoken, and it is too cumbersome to use the phrase “the person” evey time rather than “he or “she”. Also, the proportion of the human race who don’t fit the categories of XY/penis and XX/breasts is extremely small. They should be treated with courtesy but they are exceptions to a rule, raising the question: what is that rule?

        That is the ontological issue. Then there is the epistemological issue of what phenotypes to apply ‘man’ and ‘woman’ to. If you won’t give your definition of these words then it simply isn’t possible to answer your question of whether a woman can have a beard. it is ill-defined as any ill-defined problem in mathematics.

      • The gender-neutral pronoun “they” is available.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        “They” is a plural and sometimes it can be used when one person is involved if that person is seen in context as representative of a particular class of people, sometimes it can’t. I recently read “they” for one person used in the way you advocate recently, and it caused a confusing ambiguity in meaning in view of the rest of the sentence.

        I am wondering what these discussions look like in French and German and other languages in which inanimate objects have apparently arbitrary gender. (You certainly don’t say that inanimate objects have sex.)

      • Well, singular “they” has been around since 14th century and I feel it’s very useful. We can cope with the same word the 2nd person “you” for singular and plural so I don’t see why it can’t work in the third person too.

        Singular “they” is definitely preferable to demanding to see someone’s genitalia in order to decide which pronoun to use.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        There is also “one”. I accept that language evolves, but there will always be differences of opinion about usage while it does so, not only about the connection of epistemology to ontology but also matters of mutual comprehension and avoidance of ambiguity.

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