A math teacher in a private New York City high school has publicly condemned the “antiracism” training and pedagogy he said he is being told to embrace, asserting this “indoctrination” of his students is “deeply harmful.”
In a post published on the website of former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss, Grace Church High School teacher Paul Rossi wrote that his first obligation is to his students.
“But right now, my school is asking me to embrace ‘antiracism’ training and pedagogy that I believe is deeply harmful to them and to any person who seeks to nurture the virtues of curiosity, empathy and understanding,” he said, elaborating on his concerns:
“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. Any doubting students are likewise “challenged” to reframe their views to conform to this orthodoxy.
Rossi wrote that, as in many public and private schools, the current “orthodoxy” actually “induces students via shame and sophistry to identify primarily with their race before their individual identities are fully formed.”
“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,” he explained.
Rossi added that, in this current system of indoctrination, while one group of students is labeled “oppressor,” those considered “oppressed” are assigned an identity of “moral superiority.”
“All of this is done in the name of ‘equity,’ but it is the opposite of fair,” he asserted. “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 wrote about his experience during a “mandatory, whites-only student and faculty Zoom meeting,” when he questioned whether defining oneself by “racial identity” should be done at all.
His questions “broke the ice,” he said, and opened up the discussion to further questions and observations.
Rossi met with a more hostile response, however, when his questions were “shared outside this forum, violating the school norm of confidentiality”:
I was informed by the head of the high school that my philosophical challenges had caused “harm” to students, given that these topics were “life and death matters, about people’s flesh and blood and bone.” I was reprimanded for “acting like an independent agent of a set of principles or ideas or beliefs.” And I was told that by doing so, I failed to serve the “greater good and the higher truth.”
The teacher reported he was scolded for having created “dissonance for vulnerable and unformed thinkers,” as well as “neurological disturbance in students’ beings and systems.”
According to Rossi, one school official said his comments “could even constitute harassment.”
He wrote that, after several days, the head of school ordered all high school advisers to read the following public reprimand of his actions aloud to all students:
“Events from last week compel us to underscore some aspects of our mission and share some thoughts about our community,” the statement began. “At independent schools, with their history of predominantly white populations, racism colludes with other forms of bias (sexism, classism, ableism and so much more) to undermine our stated ideals, and we must work hard to undo this history.”
Grace Church School’s website states its officials have “built, and continue to add to, a robust network of people and structures to ensure that we are living up to our goal of aspiring to be an antiracist institution.”
“The work of antiracism is ongoing [sic],” Grace Church School states. “We aren’t an antiracist school right now, but we are striving to become one.”
“Our students of color experience the burden of racism every day, and we strive to oppose the forces of bigotry and hate that seek to diminish them,” the school adds.
According to Fox News, which reported Rossi’s essay Tuesday, in response to a request for comment, Grace Church School’s Head of School George Davison sent a message that was communicated to the school’s parents:
“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 message Davison shared with Fox News said. “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,” Davison added. “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.”
Rossi reported in his essay that many students, frustrated with the indoctrination which, he described, as “deeply informed by Critical Race Theory,” have approached him, but are afraid to speak openly about their dissatisfaction. These same students, he wrote, are often urged to “speak up” in classes, but with statements that reflect “the existing framework” of “antiracist” teachings.
“We are compelling them to tiptoe through a minefield of double-binds,” he observed. “According to the school’s own standard for discursive violence, this constitutes abuse.”