A ritzy private secondary school in NYC melts down—with the usual causes and usual demands

December 22, 2020 • 12:00 pm

It looks as if the ritzy private secondary schools are beginning to take their behavioral cues from the ritzy private universities like Swarthmore, Yale, Princeton, and Haverford. In this case the ritzy private venue is the Dalton School in Manhattan, a high-class college prep school on the upper East Side. At Dalton, tuition is about the same as at the Ivy-League colleges (Dalton students pay $54,180 per year for tuition, and live at home). It’s also progressive and, as Wikipedia says, “is known for the diversity of its staff and students.”

What’s going on at Dalton, though, is in some ways worse than what’s happening at places like the Ivies, because the students’ parents, who want some return for their money, are threatening to pull their students out of the school after the latest fracas, which started when the school decided to go all-virtual last semester. Other fancy private schools, which abound in New York City, are still holding live classes, and Dalton parents don’t want to pay $54K per year to have their kids sit in front of computers. (The school goes from kindergarten through grade 12, which is 13 years, for a total of at least $650,000 for a full ride.)

Further, since the school is now in the process of meeting the protestors’ demands, the quality of education will also drop, and parents send their kids to Dalton so they can get into a really good college. That won’t happen if Dalton’s reputation suffers (as is already happening), and if the school lowers the standards for achievement (which the protestors want).

But let’s back up. Why are there protests at Dalton? These are well summarized in several pieces. The best one is from the website The Naked Dollar, but there are shorter pieces at  Bloomberg News and The New York Post. Otherwise, you’ll have to go to right-wing sites. But all the pieces agree about what happened.

The backstory: Because of the pandemic, Dalton decided to shut down this year, with all classes going virtual. The parents got upset and sent a petition to the school asking for re-opening, especially because similar private secondary schools in NYC were open for live classes. Dalton did say they planned to re-open, but that made things really blow up. The faculty and staff argued that re-opening is racist because faculty and staff of color say they have a longer commute than do white teachers and staff, exposing them to greater risks of viral infection. The same is probably true of black and Hispanic students, though there are no data.

A big roster of Dalton’s faculty, staff, and administrators then issued a very long and detailed series of demands, which you can see here. The Naked Dollar link above summarizes the most important ones in the list below (I’ve made a few comments which are flush left):

  • The hiring of twelve (!) full time diversity officers

Actually, the petition demands that the school “expand the office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to include up to 12 full-time positions”. Since there’s already an office with some staff, that doesn’t mean twelve new officers. Still, 12 full-time officers is a big staff for a school that has just 1300 students.

  • An additional full time employee whose “entire role is to support Black students who come forward with complaints.”
  • Hiring of multiple psychologists with “specialization on the psychological issues affecting ethnic minority populations.”
  • Pay off student debt of incoming black faculty
  • Re-route 50% of all donations to NYC public schools

This is a really sore point with donors and trustees, as well as with parents. It means that if you donate a lot of money to the school, half of it will immediately go into a fund for New York Public Schools. You have no choice about this, which means that if you want to support just Dalton itself, you have to give twice the amount of money you planned to give. This requirement only kicks in if, by 2025, Dalton’s study body is not “representative of New York City in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic background and immigration status”.

  • Elimination of AP courses if black students don’t score as high as white

These are called “leveled courses” at Dalton, and it’s true that if, by 2023, “membership and performance of Black students are not at parity with non-Black students, leveled courses should be abolished.” This makes no sense to me at all, for it gives sole responsibility to the faculty to achieve that equity, despite any disadvantages black students may come in with due to their backgrounds. In other words, it punishes everyone and achieves nothing useful.

  • Required courses on “Black liberation”
  • Reduced tuition for black students whose photographs appear in school promotional materials
  • Public “anti-racism” statements required from all employees

They also require that no faculty can be hired without submitting a “diversity statement”

  • Mandatory “Community and Diversity Days” to be held “throughout the year”
  • Required anti-bias training to be conducted every year for all staff and parent volunteers
  • Mandatory minority representation in (otherwise elected) student leadership roles
  • Mandatory diversity plot lines in school plays
  • Overhaul of entire curriculum to reflect diversity narratives

The list is even more comprehensive than lists tendered by college protestors at places like Haverford and Swarthmore, and is especially ironic because, as the author of the website above says (their emphasis),

. . .Dalton has long been one of the most progressive schools in the country. They have actively encouraged the sort of thinking that is now biting them in the ass. And the obvious irony is that if Dalton is “systemically racist,” a belief they themselves promote, it is progressives who bear the responsibility.

When progressive institutions embrace revolutionary ideologies, as Dalton has done, they fail to appreciate that the revolution comes for them first. The scaffolding is being built on East 89th street.

Well, I don’t know that much about Dalton, but there are lots of alternative private college-prep schools in the area, and some predict that as many as 30% of students may be pulled out of Dalton by disaffected parents. What’s worse is that, like Evergreen State, Dalton’s reputation may suffer permanent damage from both dilution of standards and the hegemony of the protestors, and, like Evergreen, Dalton’s input of money could be seriously reduced, leading to layoff of faculty and staff.

Here’s a photo of “Big Dalton,” the building housing facilities for grades 4-12 (photo from Wikipedia):

26 thoughts on “A ritzy private secondary school in NYC melts down—with the usual causes and usual demands

  1. It will be easier to achieve at the K-12 level (where there is also an option for homeschooling), but there will soon be a demand for explicitly non-woke schools and colleges. And where there is demand, there will be supply.

    1. I really hope so…Every time I read stuff like this I get scared because I plan on having a kid. But it seems everything will be more polarized.

  2. There should be Darwin awards at the institutional level as well as for individuals—and if that were the case, Dalton would definitely have a bye into the finals. Just as in nature, there’s no law that says that you necessarily succeed—getting on the wrong evolutionary path can make you extinct, and that’s an end of it. If that happens to Dalton, well, *tough*—stupid choices lead to bad outcomes, and that’s as it should be.

  3. Good grief, I thought the 10-12 thousand a year they were paying here for private/religious schools were allot. At $54,000 a year they should be raising my kid. In any event, it is hard to feel sorry for these poor people. Where will we get our next Donald Trumps from?

  4. 12 Diversity/Equity/Inclusion officials for a student population of 1300 is just the beginning. When the full woke tide comes in, and the parents pull their children out, Dalton will probably enjoy a staff of 1300 diversicrats and a student population of 12. This should be just about right for Dalton which, according to its own website will “pilot new student orientation activities around identity”, and “enhance the Health and Wellness curriculum and programming to explicitly address racial wellness, racism, the effects of bias and stereotyping, and racial identity formation.”
    Dalton School was founded a century ago to exemplify what was then called “progressive education”. Today, needless to say, its board has a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, and the school seems deeply concerned with “racial identity formation”. In short Dalton has for considerable time been bringing the latest meltdown on itself.

    I was curious about its best known alumni, some of whom are listed in Wiki. The list includes no well-known physicians, scientists, engineers, or architects, that is individuals whose lifework engages with the real world. It does, however, include lots of performance artists (Clair Danes, Chevy Chase, Marian Seldes, Christian Slater, Jennifer Grey, Barrett Foa, Tracy Pollan, Mark Feuerstein, etc. etc.). Oh, and Laura Geller, formerly rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, and author of “”Women Rabbis and Feminism: On Our Way to the Promised Land”.

  5. This part is particularly scary:

    Mandatory “Community and Diversity Days” to be held “throughout the year”
    Required anti-bias training to be conducted every year for all staff and parent volunteers
    Mandatory minority representation in (otherwise elected) student leadership roles
    Mandatory diversity plot lines in school plays
    Overhaul of entire curriculum to reflect diversity narratives.

    What can I do to fight things like that??
    It’s insane…

    1. If you’re an employee, you fight it by immediately starting a job search. Likewise for parents, you fight it by enrolling your kids in a different school next September. If you’re willing to pay that much, I’m sure some other high-end private school will be happy to take your kid.

      1. Exactly. If there is truly a demand for a “non-Woke” education, then other schools will step up and there should be an exodus from schools like Dalton to those schools.

  6. Two years ago, and as I was on the verge of retiring from the community college I taught at for 18 years, senior management mandated that all courses in all programs would be required to include aboriginal ways of knowing into their curriculum. A number of experts who claimed they knew how to accomplish this gave presentations and workshops.

    The trades programs offered some resistance, but most faculty just rolled their eyes and did their best to minimize the damage. What exactly constitutes the aboriginal way of knowing about heavy duty mechanics, or business math? The experts could offer no guidance.

    I am glad I retired when I did.

    1. WOW! This phenomenon is beginning to look like a public health problem. Can we look forward to college teaching about aboriginal ways of knowing in vaccine development, infectious disease treatment, and surgery? I assume the senior management you refer to are products of our Schools of Ed.

  7. Does anyone know of a single instance in which “wokeness” leads to the raising of academic standards?

    Some people are calling the process “Cultural Communism”: since not everybody is brought up, you bring everybody down. And it’s at that down level that you establish equity.

    I want to point out this excellent piece by Razib Khan on the history of testing and IQ:


  8. Since this is a K-12 institution it is probable that the majority of the teaching faculty is female. I must have missed the demand that more males are hired to remedy this disparity,

    1. Males (especially WHITE males) are the oppressors. It doesn’t fit in with the “pro diversity.” Diversity here does not mean equal representation of all types. It means promotion of those “underprivileged and oppressed” classes.

  9. If you really want to hear about it, the whole place seems full of phonies, like one of those lousy prep schools Holden Caufield got kicked out of right before he went wandering around New York during Christmas vacation, and got run down so bad he had to go out to California to take it easy, not that I feel like getting into all that David Copperfield kind of crap right now.

  10. This requirement only kicks in if, by 2025, Dalton’s study body is not “representative of New York City in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic background and immigration status”.

    That’s equivalent to saying that the requirement will kick in. There’s no way the student body will be representative of New York City in terms of socio economic background if the fees are $54k.

    Also, speaking as a Brit, I don’t know what an AP course is. Can somebody enlighten me please?

    1. AP is short for “advanced placement”. For example, AP math would be for the smart kids who’d be bored in the regular math class.

  11. “Elimination of AP courses if black students don’t score as high as white.”

    “Elimination of the basketball team if white students don’t jump as high as black.”

    Both of these are obscene and ridiculous statements but apparently only one of them is recognized as such by the Woke left.

  12. “(The school goes from kindergarten “through grade 12, which is 13 years, for a total of at least $650,000 for a full ride.)”

    I keep staring at that number. 650K to educate a kid, where down the street at a public school you could do it for free. Some of those public schools are quite good, by the way.

    Are schools like Dalton really THAT much better in terms of the education that they offer? Do students come out spewing Chaucer by memory and doing differential equations in their heads?

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