A headteacher in the London borough of Camden has come under fire by bloggers for reporting one of his students to police after reading the student’s blog, which criticised the school and revealed the student’s ‘enchantment’ with the philosophies of anarchism and individualism. The student, named Kinnan Zaloom, 19, operated the ‘Hampstead Trash’ blog as an outlet for his and his classmates’ dissatisfaction with the practices of the Hampstead School and the conduct of its employees, lambasting the school’s overspending on promotional material, lack of investment in musical instruments and gym equipment, insincere attempts to listen to pupils’ views about the school, and a failure to raise GCSE results to a higher level.
The headteacher, in addition to reporting Zaloom to the police, phoned Glasgow University, where the student had applied to study, in an attempt to dissuade them from accepting him.
While the headteacher’s actions may certainly be described as an overreaction, what is more worrying is his own justification for them.
Asked what had first inclined him to contact the police, Mr. Szemalikowski said “the fact that Kinnan has mentioned the ideologies of anarchism and individualism on this blog.” Digging himself even deeper, the headteacher added, “I must do something. In the last year he has become more and more enchanted by antiestablishment ways of thinking and has even said that there is an inherent risk that every government is corrupt.”
The inherent risk of corruption in every human government, despite likely being taught by the politics faculty at Glasgow University, is evidently off-limits for discussion by pupils at the Hampstead School. Kinnan Zaloom, as a result of his articles, has been banned from returning to the school grounds, and now that this scandal has gone public, I imagine that alumni of the Hampstead School will be hard put to enter the grounds of Glasgow University from now on. It is hard to see how a school with a new and painfully poor reputation such as this could ever hope to bring its students to success.
The Hampstead School, according to Zaloom’s blog, has for years played the school league tables and invested more of its funding in public relations than teaching, putting the reputation of the school before the success of its own students. The focus on collective achievement over achievement of the individual – which lies at the center of the headteacher’s philosophy – is a blight on any field or industry, but perhaps no more so than in education. In an economy filled with millions of different jobs and roles for millions of unique individuals with their own skills, characters, and aspirations, the job of educators is not to boost the rankings of their own institutions but to prepare their charges for the demands of an increasingly diverse world. Individuality is necessary for success, now more than ever, and Jacques Szemalikowski and others in his position would do well to recognise that.
Now that the head of the school has publicly admitted to phoning universities to discourage them from accepting Hampstead students he doesn’t like, it is time for the public to hold him accountable, before another student’s career is ruined by his ideological crusade.
“What worries me is if I had been a year younger they said they would have expelled me halfway through my A-levels,” writes Zaloom in a post. “That means they would have been prepared to ruin my education because they didn’t like my thoughts.”
The Hampstead School can be reached by telephone at: 020 7794 8133