'This is an American issue': parent urges resistance to 'woke' schools
‘This is not a rich person issue, this is not a NYC issue, this is an American issue’: Parent and teacher who spoke out against ‘woke’ antiracist doctrine in their expensive NY private schools warn it is infecting all US schools
- Bari Weiss held a Zoom discussion for her substack subscribers on Tuesday
- The journalist spoke to two people who this month criticized ‘woke’ schools
- Andrew Gutmann, whose daughter is at Brearley School, wrote to other parents
- Paul Rossi, who taught at Grace Church School, condemned his school’s ethos
- Both men expressed concern at ‘totalitarian’ antiracism teachings
- They said freedom of thought was being stifled under ‘Orwellian’ policies
A New York father who launched a crusade against his daughter’s school and their ‘indoctrination’ of pupils has warned that the problem is nationwide, and urged other parents to speak up against the ‘Orwellian’ promotion of a ‘woke’ curriculum.
Andrew Gutmann, whose daughter attends The Brearley School, an all-girls private school in New York City, located on the Upper East Side, wrote a letter on April 13 to other parents complaining about efforts to ‘brainwash’ students with ‘woke’ philosophies rather than teaching them how to think on their own.
His letter went viral, and on Tuesday he told former New York Times journalist Bari Weiss – who first published his letter – that it was not just a ‘rich person’s problem’.
School fees at The Brearley are $54,000 a year.
‘All the schools in New York City are doing this,’ he told Weiss in their Zoom discussion, watched live by over 900 people.
‘They are all playing by the same playbook. This Critical Race Theory is in public schools.
‘This is not a rich person issue, this is not a New York City issue – this is an American issue. It is a disaster for education nationwide, which is a disaster for our future.’
Bari Weiss (left) hosted a Zoom on Tuesday with Andrew Gutmann (top right) and Paul Rossi
Gutmann, pictured on Monday, said he stood by his letter and did not regret sending it
Gutmann said he was angered by an excessive focus on race, with weekly diversity and inclusion events and ‘everything being looked at through the lens of race’.
‘It’s the indoctrination,’ he said. ‘Not being able to have a discussion.
‘Schools like Brearley are supposed to teach intellectual curiosity and openness and discussion. And this is the exact opposite of what they are doing.’
In his letter, Gutmann mapped out what he called Brearley’s ‘critical race theory’ which he said is ‘advocating that blacks should forever be regarded as helpless victims’.
Brearly School is an elite New York school which includes Tina Fey and Drew Barrymore among its parents
This is Brearley’s exhaustive anti-racism calendar for the school year of 2020 to 2021 which includes training sessions for parents
One of the examples he gave was the school’s ‘sophomoric’ and ‘simplistic’ anti-training sessions for parents, and the fact that materials that have been taught for years are now suddenly considered offensive in light of the BLM movement.
He didn’t say which books had been pulled but said it applied to his daughter’s fourth grade class.
Gutmann fumed that the girls are being taught to hate their own country and that white students are being judged for the color of their skin.
He also denied that there was systemic racism in the US, saying there hadn’t been since the 1960s.
Weiss, a former New York Times journalist, hosted the Zoom discussion on Tuesday
‘Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters. It is the interning of Japanese and the exterminating of Jews. Systemic racism is unequivocally not a small number of isolated incidences over a period of decades,’ he said.
He also called out the school for claiming to care about diversity with its race stances while also prioritizing legacy students, siblings of other students or ‘families with especially deep pockets’.
‘I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs.
‘By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin color and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died,’ he said.
Gutmann went on to say that the school was ‘indoctrinating’ the girls into a single mindset that is ‘most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.’
‘Over the past several months, I have personally spoken to many Brearley parents as well as parents of children at peer institutions,’ he wrote.
‘It is abundantly clear that the majority of parents believe that Brearley’s antiracism policies are misguided, divisive, counterproductive and cancerous.’
He added in his letter: ‘Many believe, as I do, that these policies will ultimately destroy what was until recently, a wonderful educational institution.’
On Tuesday night, he accused the school of ‘pushing families and kids apart’, adding: ‘I think it is despicable.’
Jane Fried, Brearley’s head of school, sent a message to the school’s families on Friday in which she said students were ‘frightened’ to receive the letter at home
Gutmann accused Jane Fried (pictured), head of Brearley, of attempting to divide his family
Gutmann revealed that, amid the fallout from his letter to other parents, the head of school wrote to his daughter and ‘tried to drive a wedge between us’.
He said his daughter, who is still a pupil but will not return next year, wrote a letter in response to the head’s correspondence ‘basically saying I support my dad.’
Jane Fried, Brearley’s head of school, sent a message to the school’s families on Friday in which she slammed Gutmann’s letter as ‘deeply offensive and harmful.’
‘This afternoon, I and others who work closely with Upper School students met with more than one hundred of them, many of whom told us that they felt frightened and intimidated by the letter and the fact that it was sent directly to our homes,’ Fried wrote.
‘Our students noted that as this letter, which denies the presence of systemic racism, crossed their doorways, the evidence of ongoing racism – systemic or otherwise – is daily present in our headlines.’
But Gutmann claims that Brearley students should not be ‘frightened’ by receiving a letter at their homes.
Gutmann, 45, said that he wrote his 1,700-word letter and mailed it to 650 different families because ‘someone had to speak out.’ He said he does not regret sending the letter, and told Weiss that he saw himself as giving other families ‘cover’, and courage to speak out.
He said he knew many other parents were concerned about the curriculum too.
‘It was – I’ll take the hit, and I hope you will start to speak up,’ Gutmann explained.
‘We have lost the ability to talk about race.’
He lamented how the United States ‘got so sensitive’ and wrapped their children in the cotton wool of a ‘safety culture’, saying he wished children were more resilient, and were not taught to condemn every disagreement as a ‘microaggression’.
In his letter, Gutmann angered some by saying that he did not believe the United States suffered from ‘systemic racism’.
He explained on Tuesday: ‘I by no means am saying there is no racism.
‘There is a distinction between systemic or institutional racism.
‘I stand by what I said.’
And he felt the issue of schools was part of a larger malaise in society.
‘We have to fix our cancel culture problem before we fix our schools problem,’ he said.
Gutmann was joined for the discussion by Paul Rossi, a math teacher at Grace Church School in Manhattan, who was ‘relieved of his teaching duties’ on Sunday for writing an essay against his school’s attitudes.
Paul Rossi taught math at Grace Church in the East Village of Manhattan until this weekend
GRACE CHURCH SCHOOL ‘DIVERSITY MISSION STATEMENT’
The following is a ‘mission statement’ from Grace Church High School that spells out its commitment to ‘antiracism, equity, and belonging.’
Grace Church School seeks to provide its students with an outstanding education and with the desire to use it to make the world a better place.
Every facet of our work is enhanced by the diversity and strength of our community.
We believe that equity and inclusion are not only hallmarks of a just society, but also virtues essential to sound learning.
And so, Grace seeks to recognize and honor the unique gifts of its students, families, faculty, and staff – and the cultures, beliefs, values, and experiences that have shaped them – striving always to cultivate mutual understanding, humility, respect, and kindness.
But inclusion is not enough and equity is an impossibility if we cannot name, acknowledge, and oppose the forces of racism and all forms of bias, hate, and fear that exist in our society and that seek to diminish so many in our midst.
Knowing this, we commit ourselves to the work of antiracism and to the cause of justice: that all students may find in Grace a home, may learn from Grace their precious worth, and may hear from Grace a call to serve the common good and the dignity of humanity.
Rossi lost his job following his April 13 essay published on Weiss’ site, but said that he too had no regrets.
He said that the students at his school were being told that they were representatives of a racial group, and not treated as free individuals.
On Tuesday Rossi published an audio recording of the head of Grace Church, George Davison, admitting: ‘We’re demonizing white people, for being born.’
He said: ‘Any attempts to challenge that by kids, and they are gaslit – saying ‘you don’t have consciousness of it’.
He said he was deeply troubled by what he saw as the school’s attempt to ‘prioritize social category over who they are as individuals.’
Rossi added: ‘This is totalitarian logic, and it’s at the core of what’s going on.’
Asked by Weiss why so many big companies, such as Coca Cola and Netflix, were succumbing to ‘wokeness’, Rossi replied that ‘wokeness is the only game in town now’.
When a viewer asked what black people would make of their discussion, he replied: ‘I don’t think of black people as a group, and I think it’s demeaning to think of them that way.’
Gutmann’s full letter
April 13, 2021
Dear Fellow Brearley Parents,
Our family recently made the decision not to reenroll our daughter at Brearley for the 2021-22 school year. She has been at Brearley for seven years, beginning in kindergarten. In short, we no longer believe that Brearley’s administration and Board of Trustees have any of our children’s best interests at heart. Moreover, we no longer have confidence that our daughter will receive the quality of education necessary to further her development into a critically thinking, responsible, enlightened, and civic minded adult. I write to you, as a fellow parent, to share our reasons for leaving the Brearley community but also to urge you to act before the damage to the school, to its community, and to your own child’s education is irreparable.
It cannot be stated strongly enough that Brearley’s obsession with race must stop. It should be abundantly clear to any thinking parent that Brearley has completely lost its way. The administration and the Board of Trustees have displayed a cowardly and appalling lack of leadership by appeasing an anti-intellectual, illiberal mob, and then allowing the school to be captured by that same mob. What follows are my own personal views on Brearley’s antiracism initiatives, but these are just a handful of the criticisms that I know other parents have expressed.
I object to the view that I should be judged by the color of my skin. I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs. By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin color and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died.
I object to the charge of systemic racism in this country, and at our school. Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters. It is the interning of Japanese and the exterminating of Jews. Systemic racism is unequivocally not a small number of isolated incidences over a period of decades. Ask any girl, of any race, if they have ever experienced insults from friends, have ever felt slighted by teachers or have ever suffered the occasional injustice from a school at which they have spent up to 13 years of their life, and you are bound to hear grievances, some petty, some not. We have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s, a period of more than 50 years. To state otherwise is a flat-out misrepresentation of our country’s history and adds no understanding to any of today’s societal issues. If anything, longstanding and widespread policies such as affirmative action, point in precisely the opposite direction.
I object to a definition of systemic racism, apparently supported by Brearley, that any educational, professional, or societal outcome where Blacks are underrepresented is prima facie evidence of the aforementioned systemic racism, or of white supremacy and oppression. Facile and unsupported beliefs such as these are the polar opposite to the intellectual and scientific truth for which Brearley claims to stand. Furthermore, I call bulls** on Brearley’s oft-stated assertion that the school welcomes and encourages the truly difficult and uncomfortable conversations regarding race and the roots of racial discrepancies.
I object to the idea that Blacks are unable to succeed in this country without aid from government or from whites. Brearley, by adopting critical race theory, is advocating the abhorrent viewpoint that Blacks should forever be regarded as helpless victims, and are incapable of success regardless of their skills, talents, or hard work. What Brearley is teaching our children is precisely the true and correct definition of racism.
I object to mandatory anti-racism training for parents, especially when presented by the rent-seeking charlatans of Pollyanna. These sessions, in both their content and delivery, are so sophomoric and simplistic, so unsophisticated and inane, that I would be embarrassed if they were taught to Brearley kindergarteners. They are an insult to parents and unbecoming of any educational institution, let alone one of Brearley’s caliber.
I object to Brearley’s vacuous, inappropriate, and fanatical use of words such as “equity,” “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” If Brearley’s administration was truly concerned about so-called “equity,” it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets. If the administration was genuinely serious about “diversity,” it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Instead, the school would foster an environment of intellectual openness and freedom of thought. And if Brearley really cared about “inclusiveness,” the school would return to the concepts encapsulated in the motto “One Brearley,” instead of teaching the extraordinarily divisive idea that there are only, and always, two groups in this country: victims and oppressors.
l object to Brearley’s advocacy for groups and movements such as Black Lives Matter, a Marxist, anti family, heterophobic, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic organization that neither speaks for the majority of the Black community in this country, nor in any way, shape or form, represents their best interests.
I object to, as we have been told time and time again over the past year, that the school’s first priority is the safety of our children. For goodness sake, Brearley is a school, not a hospital! The number one priority of a school has always been, and always will be, education. Brearley’s misguided priorities exemplify both the safety culture and “cover-your-ass” culture that together have proved so toxic to our society and have so damaged the mental health and resiliency of two generations of children, and counting.
I object to the gutting of the history, civics, and classical literature curriculums. I object to the censorship of books that have been taught for generations because they contain dated language potentially offensive to the thin-skinned and hypersensitive (something that has already happened in my daughter’s 4th grade class). I object to the lowering of standards for the admission of students and for the hiring of teachers. I object to the erosion of rigor in classwork and the escalation of grade inflation. Any parent with eyes open can foresee these inevitabilities should antiracism initiatives be allowed to persist.
We have today in our country, from both political parties, and at all levels of government, the most unwise and unvirtuous leaders in our nation’s history. Schools like Brearley are supposed to be the training grounds for those leaders. Our nation will not survive a generation of leadership even more poorly educated than we have now, nor will we survive a generation of students taught to hate its own country and despise its history.
Lastly, I object, with as strong a sentiment as possible, that Brearley has begun to teach what to think, instead of how to think. I object that the school is now fostering an environment where our daughters, and our daughters’ teachers, are afraid to speak their minds in class for fear of “consequences.” I object that Brearley is trying to usurp the role of parents in teaching morality, and bullying parents to adopt that false morality at home. I object that Brearley is fostering a divisive community where families of different races, which until recently were part of the same community, are now segregated into two. These are the reasons why we can no longer send our daughter to Brearley.
Over the past several months, I have personally spoken to many Brearley parents as well as parents of children at peer institutions. It is abundantly clear that the majority of parents believe that Brearley’s antiracism policies are misguided, divisive, counterproductive and cancerous. Many believe, as I do, that these policies will ultimately destroy what was until recently, a wonderful educational institution. But as I am sure will come as no surprise to you, given the insidious cancel culture that has of late permeated our society, most parents are too fearful to speak up.
But speak up you must. There is strength in numbers and I assure you, the numbers are there. Contact the administration and the Board of Trustees and demand an end to the destructive and anti-intellectual claptrap known as antiracism. And if changes are not forthcoming then demand new leadership. For the sake of our community, our city, our country and most of all, our children, silence is no longer an option.
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