Posted on April 15, 2021

I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated

Paul Rossi, Substack, April 13, 2021

I am a teacher at Grace Church High School in Manhattan.  {snip}

As a teacher, my first obligation is to my 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.

{snip} It requires teachers like myself to treat students differently on the basis of race. {snip}

I know that by attaching my name to this I’m 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. But witnessing the harmful impact it has on children, I can’t stay silent.

My school, like so many others, 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. 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. 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.

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.


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.” {snip}

{snip} 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: {snip} “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.”

{snip} 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.


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. These concerns are confirmed for me when I attend grade-level and all-school meetings about race or gender issues. There, I witness student after student sticking to a narrow script of acceptable responses. Teachers praise insights when they articulate the existing framework or expand it to apply to novel domains. Meantime, it is common for teachers to exhort students who remain silent that “we really need to hear from you.”

But what does speaking up mean in a context in which white students are asked to interrogate their “white saviorism,” but also “not make their antiracist practice about them”? We are compelling them to tiptoe through a minefield of double-binds. {snip}

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.”

When I questioned what form this resistance takes, examples presented by a colleague included “persisting with a colorblind ideology,” “suggesting that we treat everyone with respect,” “a belief in meritocracy,” and “just silence.” In a special assembly in February 2019, our head of school said that the impact of words and images perceived as racist — regardless of intent — is akin to “using a gun or a knife to kill or injure someone.”