Paul Rossi, a math teacher at Grace Church High School, published an essay, “I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated,” explaining the “anti-racist” instruction the school was imposing on students. Rossi believes the teaching “is deeply harmful to them and to any person who seeks to nurture the virtues of curiosity, empathy and understanding.”
Rossi said he knew he might lose his position for speaking out at the exclusive, $46,030-per-year Manhattan school, which is connected with The Episcopal Church. He was right. Two days later, he was relieved of his teaching responsibilities for the rest of the year.
Rossi refused to sign a contract, which would have required him to participate in unspecified “restorative practices designed by the Office of Community Engagement,” in order to teach at the school next year.
George Davison, head of the school, wrote a letter to school families saying, “We find it regrettable that Paul Rossi chose to air his grievances with the school in the press, especially with an account that contains glaring omissions and inaccuracies.”
Now, Rossi is speaking out about the real “omissions and inaccuracies” – coming from Davison – who earlier in the year agreed with him that the school’s training was harming students and “demonizing white kids.” And Rossi’s got recordings from a previous conversation to back him up. Here’s how it all happened.
Rossi’s original essay was posted on “Common Sense with Bari Weiss on April 13. In it, he explains that the school is indoctrinating children into a harmful philosophy. “‘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.”
The math teacher said that Grace Church tolerates no dissent from teachers or students:
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 refused to toe the line, saying, “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.)”
The meeting, called by the school a “self-care” seminar, labelled “‘objectivity, ‘individualism,’ ‘fear of open conflict,’ and even ‘a right to comfort’ as characteristics of white supremacy.” Rossi questioned whether this was true and asked “whether one must define oneself in terms of a racial identity at all.”
His questions broke the ice for students and other teachers, who then felt free to ask questions and make comments. He writes:
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.’
What happened next sounds like some sort of a “Two Minutes Hate,” straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Rossi writes:
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.’
In his letter to the school responding to the essay, Davison made it sound as if Rossi “chose to air his grievances with the school in the press,” rather than talking first to school officials about his concerns. Rossi wrote a letter back, explaining:
But as you well know, speaking publicly about this was hardly my first choice. Over the course of several years, I have made my specific concerns clear, not only to you, but to the Head of High School, and the Assistant Head. These concerns centered on the impact of this doctrinaire ideology on our students. Even when I have simply tried to expose our students to alternative points of view in the classroom, I have been repeatedly shut down. The school’s response to my efforts to raise these concerns internally left me no choice but to speak about them publicly.
The math teacher went even further, saying that Davison had also “expressed grave doubts about some of the doctrinaire stuff that gets spouted at us, in the name of antiracism.”
Posted by Foundation against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), the letter said Davison concurred with Rossi about some of his concerns,
[You] say that ‘the wellbeing of our community is our first priority,’ and that Grace cares ‘deeply about human dignity.’ And yet you admitted to me that Grace Church is, in fact, ‘demonizing white people for being born,’ and that the school is making white students ‘feel less than, for nothing that they are personally responsible for.’
… I think there’s something very different about having a single experience where you make sense of it [racism], and having a teacher, an authority figure, talk to you endlessly, every year, telling you that because you have whiteness you are associated with evils, all these different evils. These are moral evils. …
Davison responds, “The fact is that I’m agreeing with you, that there has been a demonization that we need to get our hands around, in the way in which people are doing this understanding.”
Rossi says, “So you agree that we are demonizing kids.”
“We’re demonizing ki – we’re demonizing white people for being born. … We are using language that makes them feel less than, um, for nothing that they are personally responsible for,” Davison replies.
Later, Davison can be heard saying exactly what he said was a misquote, “And, I also, um, have grave doubts about some of the doctrinaire stuff that gets spouted at us in the name of anti-racism. … And so, I don’t disagree entirely with some of your points of view.”
Rossi asks him to elaborate, and Davison answers, “I think, that one of the things that’s going on a little too much, and we’ve talked about this, is that, um, the demonization of being white, um, and the attempt to link anybody who’s white to the perpetuation of white supremacy.”
The head of Grace Church agrees, then, that what’s “going on a little too much” is inculcating children with a belief that, if they are white, they are responsible for white supremacy and a racist culture. That’s a heavy burden to place on these children.
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