In recent weeks, parents sending their children to prestigious private schools in New York have protested new anti-racism courses introduced by several educational institutions in response to last year’s death of African-American George Floyd. Parents complain that teachers force children to look at themselves through characteristics such as skin color, gender, or sexual orientation often while promoting that all Whites are privileged.
Parents’ dissatisfaction was first voiced in late April in an open letter from one man, Andrew Guttman, who condemed “a new obsessive focus on race and identity” at Brearley School, one of the best private schools in New York.
Guttman said the all-girls private academy was “trying to make her feel guilty” about her “skin color.”
Shortly afterward, a father whose daughter attended another prestigious school in Manhattan joined the initiative, announcing that he would no longer send her there.
“The school has resorted to censoring books and teaches the extremely contradictory idea that there are only two groups in this country, victims and oppressors,” the man said.
According to The New York Times, parents who have children in schools across the city have now formed an alliance against the “anti-racist courses,” which many schools have started to teach in connection with last year’s death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the United States that caused billions in damage and led to dozens of deaths.
The group, which calls itself the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), claims that educational institutions promote “cynical and intolerant rhetoric”.
“It obliges us to look at each other based on unchanging characteristics, such as skin color, gender, or sexual orientation,” the group says.
Its members also include the 45-year-old Guttman, who is behind the open letter to the management of the Brearley School, which charges parents $54,000 (€44,840) a year for their children’s education.
Guttman said the school’s new teaching desecrates Martin Luther King’s legacy by following “every element of education, every aspect of history, and every aspect of society through the lens of color and race.”
Another father, Harvey Goldman, said he dropped his nine-year-old daughter from Heschel School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side over the demagoguery.
“They taught my daughter that she had a White privilege. But we don’t have to apologize for that. If anyone suggests so, it’s an insult,” Goldman noted. “Little children don’t need to feel bad about the color of their skin. That’s what they’re teaching them, to feel bad about who they are.”
“Schools are supposed to be teaching you confidence,” he continued, and added that teachers and parents are “scared to say something.”
Goldman said the school suggested he remove his daughter from the school, which he did. He has moved to Florida and said he made sure to enroll her in a public school that did not include critical race theory (CRT) in its curriculum, which is “a controversial prescription for addressing racial issues centered around the idea of ‘white privilege,’” which “originated in universities and has spread to K-12 schools — both public and private.”
Brearley School leader Jane Fried said in a letter to the parents that many members of the school community considered Guttman’s views to be “deeply offensive and harmful.” Heschel School did not want to comment on the matter.
Lawyer Maud Maron said that parents of children in public schools also expressed displeasure.
“It’s a contradictory, ugly orthodoxy and a million-dollar industry,” said Maron, who has four children in city schools.
“This educational program started with good intentions, but it has become a cult. It’s very insidious because it looks good at first glance. Who wouldn’t want to take a course on how to be less racist,” she said. FAIR is now asking other parents to sign a petition “against disrespecting individuals based on the circumstances of their birth.” So far, 6,000 people have signed it.