Another educator risks his job by objecting to mandatory and ideologically narrow diversity training

April 13, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Bari Weiss has a guest writer on her Substack site Common Sense this week: high-school math and philosophy teacher Paul Rossi from Grace Church School in Manhattan, a coeducational private college-prep school that serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade. His topic is the antiracist training he’s required to take, but abhors as harmful, divisive, and above all stifling to students’ ability to think freely and explore ideas. Rossi, still employed at the school, recognizes that by writing this he’s “risking not only my current job but my career as an educator, since most schools, both public and private, are now captive to this backward ideology.” He’s the Jodi Shaw of Grace Church School, and I worry that he’ll suffer the same fate as Shaw: a resignation that’s more or less forced, or, alternatively, outright expulsion if he refuses to sign the school’s agreement that they cooked up for him.

Click on the screenshot to read.

Rossi says he’s more or less forced to “treat students differently on the basis of race” and to discuss their dissents not with other faculty, but with a special “Office of Community Engagement,” which always bats away his objections.  A longish excerpt (read more at Bari’s site) serves to show the problem:

Recently, I raised questions about this ideology at a mandatory, whites-only student and faculty Zoom meeting. (Such racially segregated sessions are now commonplace at my school.) It was a bait-and-switch “self-care” seminar that labelled “objectivity,” “individualism,” “fear of open conflict,” and even “a right to comfort” as characteristics of white supremacy. I doubted that these human attributes — many of them virtues reframed as vices — should be racialized in this way. In the Zoom chat, I also questioned whether one must define oneself in terms of a racial identity at all. My goal was to model for students that they should feel safe to question ideological assertions if they felt moved to do so.

It seemed like my questions broke the ice. Students and even a few teachers offered a broad range of questions and observations. Many students said it was a more productive and substantive discussion than they expected.

However, when my 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.”

He further informed me that I had created “dissonance for vulnerable and unformed thinkers” and “neurological disturbance in students’ beings and systems.” The school’s director of studies added that my remarks could even constitute harassment.

A few days later, 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. It was a surreal experience, walking the halls alone and hearing the words emitting from each classroom: “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.”

Students from low-income families experience culture shock at our school. Racist incidents happen. And bias can influence relationships. All true. But addressing such problems with a call to “undo history” lacks any kind of limiting principle and pairs any allegation of bigotry with a priori guilt. My own contract for next year requires me to “participate in restorative practices designed by the Office of Community Engagement” in order to “heal my relationship with the students of color and other students in my classes.” The details of these practices remain unspecified until I agree to sign.

Can you believe that oath he has to swear to? What is this—the Cultural Revolution? Well, yes, a form of it. Rossi also notes that many students have told him that they’re frustrated at the school’s “indoctrination” but are afraid to speak up against it. They’re never allowed to challenge the tenets of Critical Race Theory in class.

What this does, of course, is to stifle discussion and also to force—nay, brainwash—students into a narrow ideological mindset from which departure is heretical. As a private school in Manhattan, Grace is undoubtedly very expensive and has a lot of smart students. Yet their inquisitiveness and their dissent is being squashed flat.

I’ll add one more excerpt which shows how a “Cultural Revolution” is overtaking this school, as it is with many others:

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.”

I expect that soon students will be waving copies of “White Fragility” as they denounce their teachers, who will be forced to wear paper dunce hats and signs around they’re necks—if they’re not fired. Rossi describes his suggestion that Glenn Loury be included among his students’ reading assignments, but that the administration nixed it on the grounds that “the moment were are in institutionally and culturally, does not lend itself to dispassionate discussion and debate.” Apparently, discussing Loury would “confuse and enflame students.”

Can you believe that? The students are denied the chance to learn that black thinkers don’t all agree with each other. But again, that’s the Cultural Revolution, Jake.

You’ll be familiar with Rossi’s description of what is happening, as it’s what’s happening in Smith College, the Dalton School in NYC, and almost every other school where mandatory “diversity training” is instituted.  Pushing back can cost you your job, as Jodi Smith and others have learned. But it’s heartening that people are willing to risk this because they’re committed to a kind of liberalism that unites rather than divides.

Oh hell, I want to reproduce Rossi’s ending as well:

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.

At the end of this post, Bari gives an email address where you can write to Rossi expressing support, advice, or commiserating with him if you’re in a similar situation:


h/t: Luana

30 thoughts on “Another educator risks his job by objecting to mandatory and ideologically narrow diversity training

  1. As a result of this experience the students will not, of course, become brainwashed. They will become reactionary, assuming that any claim to racial justice is part and parcel with the propaganda they were fed in school.

    1. There is now a considerable body of research showing that your prediction is right on the money. Mona Sue Weissmark’s authoritative study, _The Science of Diversity_, has presented evidence documenting exactly this outcome as the typical result of attempted woke indoctrination, and similar research has been reported by investigators at the Harvard Business school and, of all places, in the pages of the Guardian.

      My guess is that the time is coming when we’ll start to see a rash of class action lawsuits against places like this—most probably starting with colleges and universities of the Smith ilk—by parents well-healed enough to finance a trip or two to the Supreme Court. And I do not expect this particular Court to be especially friendly to the Woke Red Guard waving the current avatars of the Little Red Book and shouting at their white (and quite possibly Asian) students…

      1. I know that my personal reaction to all this figurative in the face finger shaking would be to tell them to take a dive into the shallow end of the swimming pool. I think we will start seeing resistance more and more

    2. Given how woke many students are already before college, I’d say the brainwashing is quite effective. I have not noticed that schools create right-wing students: On the contrary, the millenial generation is woker than any previous one and only beaten by Generation Z.

  2. Yeah, it’s extremely frustrating that this is happening. Forcing dogma on anyone and punishing any attempt to criticize it will have the opposite results of those intended, and is counter to the entire concept of education. And it provides ammunition to the conservatives who want to discredit any progressive attempts at actually solving racial disparities in the country. Tucker Carlson is grateful.

  3. I had created “dissonance for vulnerable and unformed thinkers”

    Clearly, this teacher does not belong in a K-12 school. He belongs at a University. 🙂

    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.”

    Wow. Is Orwell on their reading list as a cautionary tale or a how-to book? I do hope the kids learn about many cultures, but the only culture I want a K-12 school to establish for my kid is, basically, “this is a society not a free for all; treat everyone else civilly.”

    “the moment were are in institutionally and culturally, does not lend itself to dispassionate discussion and debate.

    Ho ly cow. This from a school? ‘A time and place for dispassionate discussion and debate’ is pretty much their entire reason for existence. To paraphrase an old cliche – if not now, when? If not here, where? If not you, who?

  4. And I was told that by doing so, I failed to serve the “greater good and the higher truth.”

    “What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.” The belief in a communitarian good which overrides individual rights, and of truth which embraces falsehood is at the heart of all Utopian projects, starting with Plato. Marxian socialism is no different than the others for all its claims of being “scientific.” Critical Race Theory is nothing but Marxism where economic classes of oppressor and oppressed are replaced by racial classes. We should not be surprised to see its practitioners adopt the same practices that were used by all the Communist parties franchised by the Comintern. (After all, the founders of BLM brag of being trained Marxists, and apparently are now getting their dachas.) The target is Capitalism, and Capitalist culture, which is anything that resists their ideas, from the idea of objective truth, to meritocracy, to the family. Sadly, there are enough people who think that a free market, like a free vote, is “unfair” to provide lots of fellow travelers, who think they are fighting racism when they are really championing it.

    1. My parents were American Communists in the 1930s through 1956. My mother once bitterly described how the first time she left my father alone after major surgery to go to a cell meeting she confessed to being distracted by worrying about him getting out of bed and falling. She got lashed into viciously for her bourgeois selfishness. I think her whiteness may have been mentioned. Sound familiar?

    2. “The belief in a communitarian good which overrides individual rights . . . .”

      Since you bring up individualistic capitalism, versus communitarianism, consider:

      “Gaining wealth,
      Forsaking all but self.”

      That sounds quite admirable and noble, eh?

      Can there not be a reasonable compromise?

      (From reading the saintly Milton Friedman, I gather not. Why do workers need OSHA? There is always tort law as a remedy in the aftermath of having one’s limb torn off – an ounce of prevention being preferable to a pound of cure notwithstanding – if one has the money to pay an attorney over the long haul of legal appeals, the opponent corporation entitled to write off attorney fees as a business expense.)

      I reasonably gather that, e.g., Mitt “Carried Interest” Romney and his elite ilk (their offshore accounts notwithstanding) are glad to have a powerful military to preserve, protect and defend their interests, including financial, so that they may carry on with their privileged lives and sleep easy at night. That the “working class” (as opposed to the “non-working”?) is motivated to join the military, out of (solely?) a patriotic sense of duty, and potentially go in harm’s way to possibly be killed or maimed for life on their behalf seems to smack of certain communitarian predispositions (economic dire straits as a motivator to enter the military notwithstanding) not as much found among the Wall Street elite.

      (Not that I have all that much against Romney, notwithstanding his assertion that his several sons were doing more of benefit to the country by supporting their father’s campaign than joining the military. Did a year of alternate service never occur to them? A la, and to paraphrase, Hitch, I would be very much more comfortable encountering a group of men leaving a religious meeting in Salt Lake City than I would in Beirut or Basra or . . . .”)

  5. The school, I understand, is $46,000/year and by its own admission calls itself in the “Episcopal Tradition”. And I saw in the school’s website these sentences:

    “The third and fourth grades read Hebrew scriptures, and the fifth grade focuses on the New Testament. These sacred texts are taught neither as truth, nor as literature. Rather, they are presented as a body of powerful stories that have moved millions over thousands of years and serve as truth to those for whom they are true.”

    So scripture is taught as symbolic and open to interpretation, but Critical Race Theory is being taught as unquestionable and absolute. In other words, CRT is taught as a relgious fundamentalist enterprise.

    This is a totally out of the closet instance where CRT is clearly marked for what it is: religion, and a highly fundamentalist and fragile one.

  6. The spreading requirement for “trainings” in Critical Race theory agit-prop mimics a disagreeable custom pioneered in the late-lamented USSR. The result of the custom’s revival in a new form can surely be summarized in a manner akin to a fine underground saying that circulated in the USSR, to wit: “They pretend to train us, and we pretend to be trained.”

  7. Can you believe that oath he has to swear to?

    No way does this withstand First Amendment scrutiny at any public school (or at any private school that purports to uphold First Amendment principles).

    I give you the words of Justice Robert Jackson, for my money the best writer ever to sit on the high court (and an autodidact, the last justice on the Court to earn his law license through the old apprentice system, rather than by attending college and law school. Jackson is also the sitting justice who took a leave of absence from the bench to serve as the lead US prosecutor at the Nuremberg Nazi War Crimes Trials — the IRL person upon whom Spencer Tracy’s character in Judgment at Nuremberg was based):

    If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.

    That was true when SCOTUS struck down laws requiring students to salute the US flag and recite the pledge of allegiance in 1943, and it shall remain true for so long as this Republic shall endure.

  8. The pressure on teachers and students to conform to this stuff is plain: the teachers are threatened with losing their jobs, and the students with bad grades and social ostracism. But who exactly is pressuring the administrators to act like commissars, imposing the new party line and stifling any dissent? Is the principal of Grace Church School afraid of losing his job if he permits teachers to act as “independent agents”?

    1. …who exactly is pressuring the administrators….

      School administrators in K-12 generally carry out policies that are approved by a governing board. For public schools this is called a local school board which is either appointed by local elected officials such as a city council or the board members are directly elected. Generally private schools have a board of trustees which often is populated by successful alumni of the school and are self-selected. These boards make high level policy such as the vision and mission of the school and approve policies and procedures that are designed to achieve and carry out the vision and mission. The highest level staff administrator, often called the district superintendent in public schools or the head of school in private schools is hired directly by the board to carry out the policies and procedures, including recommending the budget, hiring of individual faculty members, facility requirements and day to day management of the schools. The vision and mission are generally formulated by the board members with staff support and policies and procedures are generally formulated by staff and brought by the superintendent or head of school to the board for formal approval. So…these training sessions seem to be a cog in the wheel of achieving vision and mission and would have been set up by the head of school or superintendent, with at least the tacit approval of his or her board which represents the community, either the private school parents or in public schools the local city or county. If the superintendent or head of school has wandered from the board’s true path, he can be fired by the board which does his annual evaluation.

      Thus at the end of the day, the full responsibility for these sessions lies with the school’s governing board. There may be exceptions to this, but i, as a former local school board member, believe it to be 95% or so correct.

  9. Holy sh!t – this trend is so depressing. I also worry about how much in the opposite direction the inevitable backlash will over-steer.

  10. the administration nixed it on the grounds that “the moment were are in institutionally and culturally, does not lend itself to dispassionate discussion and debate.”

    And they solve that problem by having no discussion and no debate? Brilliant. What an education.

  11. How is a manditory “whites-only” student and faculty training session not segregation and instantly a violation of each person’s civil rights, regardless of whether the school is public or private? Compelled speech is surely an overt violation of free speech as well but to be sorted by race is something I would never ever submit to.

    Somebody, for the love of the US Constitution, eviscerate this antiracist horseshit and go straight to the Supreme Court with it. I’m hearing anecdotally from college professors that antiracist training is already happening, further evidenced by this story and the Univ of Oklahoma instance cited by PCC. It makes my blood boil.

  12. You may not agree with this extremist nonsense (and neither do I), but this is what you voted for.

    Like it or not, this is what the Democrat party supports now. You voted for this.

    What are you going to do about it?

    1. When you voted for Trump in 2016, you voted for the storming of the Capitol. Like it or not, that is what the Republican Party stands for now.

      Or maybe the executive branch of the US government isn’t the direct cause of everything that happens in high schools.

    2. I didn’t vote for this and I doubt many others here did either. My vote was mostly against the christian nationalism of the republicans which I consider to be a more serious and immanent threat. Your comment takes a page from CRT in its collectivization of guilt.

  13. I’m reminded more and more of the behaviour of the Red Guard during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The period is vividly evoked in Jung Chang’s “Wild Swans”. You need only replace “Mao Zedong Thought” with “Critical Race Theory”.

  14. What I’m wondering is: why aren’t there legal protections for constructive criticism and dissent of policies that are controversial? Isn’t a firing that is not based on job performance considered unfair emplyment practice? Why are there not provisions for “political and ideological diversity” protections when it comes to employment?

  15. Having taught over two decades, also coaching and running after school clubs, I would love to believe teachers were good for our youth here in America. In India, you may have a great system, and I would love to visit one day [I’ve had a couple of friends, from India, during college, and I enjoyed their conversations.]. However, while in college, later reading and researching, going on to teaching, over the years I realized what was happening to our system and was very concerned with how the teachers here were putting up with the horrific curriculum changes, horrible social beliefs and creation, and now, Marxist ideologies, which may have been what was happening, slowly, but quickly now, all along the past few decades. And these teachers only thought about their jobs, their paycheck, and their health care, even though they knew their kids and teens were being dum#ed down. I had to ask, as I read and researched, more notably the Soviet Union (reading, researching, in novels, and discussions with people who lived there), why we weren’t given a fuller history education, why education was already dum#ed down back then while we were still number 1 in the world (Which makes me wonder about that. I think they were going by straight numbers.), because I now realize, given the continuing research, we could have provided a far richer depiction of the past, truly encouraging young people to think for themselves. For I truly believe, if the youth are provided with plenty of real information, most, if not all, will arrive at the conclusion that our founding fathers gave us the best country ever. But not only that, they would have seen, long ago, what is happening to America is party do to forces abroad, seeking to bring us down. And they would have worked hard to reverse. But the teachers today, who were vetted in political correctness colleges, haven’t a clue, or don’t want a clue, and are doing our children no service, but a disservice. In this, we saw some of the worst teachers getting teacher awards, and imagine that. In this system, I would give back a teacher of the year award, for that would mean I sold out. **One last: Every single time I’ve ever talked with a home schooled student or graduate, they are always leaps and bounds ahead of their propaganda camp peers. I might give one of the parents a teacher of the year award

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