What is the summary of Chapter 20 of To Sir With Love?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Headmaster arranges for a newspaper to visit the school, with the idea that it would provide a means for him to present his views and policies at Greenslade's to the wider public. The staff, all except Mr. Braithwaite, is enthusiastic about the project. Mr. Braithwaite objects because he feels he will be singled out as an oddity, to be used as proof that racism is on the wane in England because of his presence as a black teacher at a white school. As he expects, the reporters request to interview him personally, but he declines.

When the newspaper article resulting from the visit is published, Mr. Florian and the staff are dismayed, because the school is presented in the worst possible light. The students are made to look "sleazy and uncouth," and the boys are pictured "with cigarettes hanging from their mouths and wearing expressions of bored depravity." Mr. Florian is especially nonplussed, because he feels responsible for what has transpired, but Gillian Blanchard speaks up, putting everything in perspective. She says that it is the editor who decides what is published based on what the publice wants, and that the public, being fickle, "will have forgotten it all by tomorrow." Her words defuse the difficult situation, and business at the school resumes as usual.

In early December, the mother of one of Mr. Braithwaite's students, Seales, dies. The children take up a collection to bring flowers to the family, but when the time comes to actually deliver the flowers to Seales' house, no one volunteers. The students confess that, because Seales is of mixed race, they would be exposed to public censure if they were to be seen going to his house. Mr. Braithwaite is heartbroken, feeling that he has taught them nothing during his time with them, but Mr. Florian rebukes him, telling him to be patient and to "show (his students) some of the same tolerance and patient good will (he) hope(s) to get from them." When Mr. Braithwaite returns to his classroom, Pamela Dare bravely volunteers to deliver the flowers, declaring that she is not worried about gossips. Mr. Braithwaite, somewhat heartened, goes to the funeral of Seales' mother on Saturday, and discovers to his surprise that virtually his entire class is present there, with Pamela. Mr. Braithwaite is moved to tears by the courage his students show in daring to defy deeply ingrained social conventions because they see that they are wrong, and he hurries to join them, proud beyond words (Chapter 20).