On Tuesday, a teacher at a posh Manhattan high school that charges $57,000 annual tuition slammed the school for its championing of “antiracism training and pedagogy,” adding that the school “induces students via shame and sophistry to identify primarily with their race before their individual identities are fully formed.”
Math teacher Paul Rossi began his essay on Substack by acknowledging that he loves his work at Grace Church High School in Manhattan, from which “X-Files” actor David Duchovny and New York Times columnist David Brooks emerged. He then plunged directly into the issue at hand:
“Antiracist” training sounds righteous, but it is the opposite of truth in advertising. It requires teachers like myself to treat students differently on the basis of race. Furthermore, in order to maintain a united front for our students, teachers at Grace are directed to confine our doubts about this pedagogical framework to conversations with an in-house “Office of Community Engagement” for whom every significant objection leads to a foregone conclusion.
“Students are pressured to conform their opinions to those broadly associated with their race and gender and to minimize or dismiss individual experiences that don’t match those assumptions,” Rossi continued. “The morally compromised status of ‘oppressor’ is assigned to one group of students based on their immutable characteristics. In the meantime, dependency, resentment and moral superiority are cultivated in students considered ‘oppressed.’”
“All of this is done in the name of ‘equity,’ but it is the opposite of fair,” Rossi opined. “In reality, all of this reinforces the worst impulses we have as human beings: our tendency toward tribalism and sectarianism that a truly liberal education is meant to transcend.”
Rossi recalled a “mandatory, whites-only student and faculty Zoom meeting” at which he asked whether it was necessary to define oneself in terms of a racial identity at all. His suggestion was discussed openly, he claimed, but when the subject was broached outside the meeting, the head of the high school informed him that his questions had caused “harm” to students. He claimed he was chastised for “acting like an independent agent of a set of principles or ideas or beliefs” and had failed to serve the “greater good and the higher truth.” Rossi wrote, “The school’s director of studies added that my remarks could even constitute harassment.”
A few days later, Rossi noted, “the head of school ordered all high school advisors to read a public reprimand of my conduct out loud to every student in the school.”
“I wanted to be a voice for the many students of different backgrounds who have approached me over the course of the past several years to express their frustration with indoctrination at our school, but are afraid to speak up,” Rossi stated, adding, “They report that, in their classes and other discussions, they must never challenge any of the premises of our ‘antiracist’ teachings, which are deeply informed by Critical Race Theory.”
Every student at the school must also sign a “Student Life Agreement,” which requires them to aver that “the world as we understand it can be hard and extremely biased,” that they commit to “recognize and acknowledge their biases when we come to school, and interrupt those biases,” and accept that they will be “held accountable should they fall short of the agreement.” A recent faculty email chain received enthusiastic support for recommending that we “‘officially’ flag students” who appear “resistant” to the “culture we are trying to establish.”
Rossi tried to introduce the perspective of Glenn Loury, a black professor at Brown University whose writings are what Rossi expressed as a “nuanced, center-right position on racial issues in America.” Rossi wrote that the head of the school informed him that he preferred assigning “mainstream white conservatives” to be studied. Rossi continued, “effectively denying black students the opportunity to hear from a black professor who holds views that diverge from the orthodoxy pushed on them.”
One current student paid me a visit a few weeks ago. He tapped faintly on my office door, anxiously looking both ways before entering. He said he had come to offer me words of support for speaking up at the meeting.
I thanked him for his comments, but asked him why he seemed so nervous. He told me he was worried that a particular teacher might notice this visit and “it would mean that I would get in trouble.” He reported to me that this teacher once gave him a lengthy “talking to” for voicing a conservative opinion in class. He then remembered with a sigh of relief that this teacher was absent that day. I looked him in the eyes. I told him he was a brave young man for coming to see me, and that he should be proud of that.
Then I sent him on his way. And I resolved to write this piece.
George P. Davison, the head of the school, wrote a letter to the faculty, staff, and parents in response to Rossi’s claims, the Daily Mail reported. It stated that the school has “respect for the wide spectrum of political views that our faculty members hold.” It added:
However, it is our expectation that our faculty and staff find appropriate venues and times to raise concerns. … As you may be aware, a member of the faculty wrote and posted an article that is critical of Grace and of our efforts to build a school where everyone feels they belong. … The process of building a community is often challenging, and I am disappointed that this individual felt it necessary to air his differences in this way. We have always held the goal of fostering an environment that is safe and welcoming for all members of the community across a myriad of differences. This is a work in progress, and while we are not always as successful as we would hope, we know that it requires the constructive engagement of everyone in the community.
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