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Sri Lanka: Ladies’ College Colombo & The Handmaid’s Tale – Wiles of Principals & Whines of Teachers

December 6, 2021: Ladies’ College Colombo is a girls’ school in the heart of Colombo, situated on Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha, formally known as Flower Road. It was founded in 1900 on behalf of the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) by Lilian Nixon. It’s motto is Haec Victoria Nostra Fides, that is 1 John 5:4, indicating the conviction of the founders at least that keeping the Lord’s commandments and overcoming the world is a victory for its affiliates. The principal of Ladies’ College is Eesha Speldewinde, the successor to Lilian Nixon, Gwen Opie, Rita Opie, Mabel E Simon and Olive Hitchcock. Then the teacher of English Literature Farah Macan Markar unilaterally decided to teach “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Hitchcock to her class.

The lewd and lurid content of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is described here: The repugnant and depressing undercurrent pervading this novel is not easily described, but may be experienced if, fearless of nausea, one attempts to wade through its filthy pages. What parents could do when faced with a situation where schools contrive to impose indignity upon their children selection of and exposure to perverse and depreciative texts and then laud their own attempts to sully the innocence of children is described here:

It is worthwhile examining means by which these superior beings, the school authorities, justify their unholy choices. In the case of Farah Macan Markar and “The Handmaid’s Tale”, a girl who did not wish to degrade herself in vile literature but preferred to engage in more joyful and beautiful works wrote to her teacher thus: “Hi miss, for A2 can we do something like poisonwood bible or dracula/ persuasion / oliver twist instead of handmaiden?

Handmaiden seems to be very graphic and vulgar, with filthy words in it. Probably the ideas and themes are not very edifying for any of us, specially 17 year olds. Also, instead of Indian ink can we do the experiment with an air pump, please? Thank you, miss.” Farah Macan Markar, according to the principal Eesha Speldewinde asserted, referring to this quoted message, that the girl had been rude. That the above request was rude.

Mrs. Markar responded to the girl as follows: “Im [sic] sorry [Name]. But as a teacher i [sic] have already decided and prepared very hard with a lot of work for teaching the texts i [sic] mentioned. I believe both the texts are excellent and we can learn a lot from them if you look at the core issues discussed. Further i [sic] cannot cater to individual preferences. If you are uncomfortable, you can opt not to do literature for A levels. However, it would be a pity for you have a lot of potential to do well.” This bundle of arrogance can be broken down in order to derive lessons.

Farah Macan Markar asserts that she alone decides what the students engage with. This is contrary to the objectives of the syllabus which provides an extensive choice of texts for students. Secondly Markar boldly suggests that the girl ceases her education in English Literature. If Markar’s threat of having to drop the subject is insufficient to evoke submission then the girl’s only option is – in discomfort, to expose herself to the graphic pornography, explicit obscenity, gore and sickly pathos of “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

Faced with the highhandedness, stubbornness and arrogance of Farah Macan Markar, the girl’s father wrote to her, pointing out objectively why the novel is highly objectionable, especially considering young girls in their formative years. It was consequently indicated that the confrontation with these objective facts in the form of a polite letter and the pointing out that she was well aware of such facts if she has prepared to teach it, was harassment of the poor Farah. Obtaining no response from this teacher, the father connected with section heads, PTA representatives and the principal. The principal of Ladies College Colombo cordially invited him to a discussion.

The naïve father went along hopefully believing that an amicable logical objective and open discussion with Eesha Speldewinde would be sufficient to resolve the problem, particularly since an alternative novel from the choice provided in the syllabus could easily be taken on instead of the nauseous and salacious “The Handmaid’s Tale”. When the father arrived in anticipation of the one-on-one with principal, he found that Eesha Speldewinde had assembled a panel of people who were either in her payroll or under her influence. They were gathered into her office prior to the entry of the father and conducted their pre-conference to align themselves on their collective position which was to extol the glories of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, to assert that it would be good for his daughter, to convince the father that he would be depriving his daughter of worthwhile education by preventing her exposure to filth, and that they were not going to change Farah’s selection of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. So much for open discussion, and Solzhenitsyn’s descriptions of interrogations in the Gulag may have come to mind.

As the discussion was enacted as the authorities had planned, it was revealed that all but one had not even read the novel. The one who allegedly had read it was unable to remember its salient features, and the following judgements were proclaimed by the Ladies College Collective:

Mrs. Deepika Dassenaike the vice-principal and long-standing principal-in-waiting asserted that she is a teacher of English and that “Othello” of Shakespeare is worse than “The Handmaid’s Tale” in lewdness. Apart from exposing her ignorance and incompetence, it reveals a strategy of lies and deception used to fool unsuspecting parents. The average Sri Lankan parent is not a connoisseur of Shakespeare but does know that the Bard is commended and appreciated and was even in their grandparents’ time. Then if Othello is “worse”, then “The Handmaid’s Tale” cannot be foul. O foolish parent, to think that Atwood can be bad for your child! No, it is good, and you are bad to deprive your child of educating herself in it. Deepika Dassenaike went on to lecture loudly and extensively about the sins of society and submerging oneself in the sins of this novel will strengthen girls to overcome such sins, if that makes sense to the foolish parent. Deepika Dassenaike was more interested in writing a letter to the father, who was sitting in front of her in the same room, to compel him to apologise to the teacher for objecting to her selection, rather than to address the problem at hand.

A stooge placed in between managed a few non-sensical words against the father, just sufficient perhaps to earn her bonus. Eesha Speldewinde reflecting on experience explained to the father that the penis sucking introduced via “The Handmaid’s Tale” to teenage girls who may never before have contemplated conceptualising such unnatural behaviour, would be in their best interests since they will be grateful to Ladies’ College In future for thus preparing them for future requests for such activity.

The father brought up the list of far more wholesome alternative novels that the syllabus offers. Deepika Dassenaike objected to the teaching of “The Poisonwood Bible” supposing that it will shake the faith of Christian students, and that Ladies’ College is a missionary school. When queried regarding the potential harm psychologically and spiritually from “The Handmaid's Tale”, Deepika asserted that careful handling by a competent teacher will ensure that students will not be harmed by it. However, she was unwilling to accept the careful handling argument when applied to “The Poisonwood Bible”! A retired teacher brought in to strengthen the assembled panel asserted that “Mrs Dalloway” will be boring and difficult for the students, and therefore could not be selected. However, the difficulties regarding “The Handmaid’s Tale” were repulsed saying that it is a novel found in the syllabus, and that that suggests that the students are capable of engaging in it. The father pointed out – to no avail, that “Mrs Dalloway” is also found in the syllabus and by the proffered logic students are capable of engaging in it also, but to no avail. It was a group of women frozen in their pre-agreed position and deaf to reason, logic, common sense.

It was futile that the father communicated to Eesha Speldewinde that that flirting with evil is not the remedy for strengthening character, and that the purpose of education is to engage the student in what is good, true and excellent since there is sufficient ugliness in the world as it is. Justifying the presentation of depravity as a part of education on the basis that children are already exposed to worldliness or will shortly become exposed to it is a despairing and desperate point of view. Rather, youth need to be armed with beauty so that they recognize the filth and shun it when they come face to face with it. He further elaborated that “dark and distasteful themes may need to be introduced gently in unobjectionable ways where and when appropriate, and young people’s personalities need to be fortified prudently and not with shock. Human beings have a proclivity to concupiscence and seeking what is good is prudent while it would be presumptuous to assume that voluntary engagement with evil can leave one unscathed – especially a child in her formative years. I believe Socrates knew this before us – ‘The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful.’ cf. Republic (Book III, 403c)”

Do find out what your children learn in school. Do not fear to stand up and fight against what may harm them. Be prepared for the wiles and manipulations – and most of all, never give up!

Essay by: "A Caring Parent and a Doctor" & In-the-field Contributor to Extremely American


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