Education & Parenting

American Parents: The New “Domestic Terrorist”

Responding to a letter by the National School Boards Association, attacking parents concerned about the dereliction of duty by the American public school profession, Maud Mauron responds:

“You may disagree with parents like me who do not want our children indoctrinated with Critical Race Theory, masked during recess, or told that their biological sex is is not real. But in a free society, we don’t call the feds to police our fellow Americans because we don’t share their politics.

“Actual violence should be condemned without reservation. School board members can and should immediately call the police in the event of a crime or a credible threat. But the incidents cited by the NSBA are not criminal and they definitely do not warrant federal intervention.

[…]

“…few elected officials have publicly aligned themselves with parents — rich and poor and of every color — who are outraged that their children are being denied a decent education by ideological zealots. There will be no waivers for these moms and dads. These people — who dare to question the conventional wisdom, who are not so quick to submit to the powers that be — have no friends in high places. Instead, they are being treated as possible criminals.

“They’re not. We’re not. We are parents, and we have every right to speak passionately and publicly about our children’s education. To post on social media. To write open letters to school board members. To submit op-eds to newspapers. To form advocacy organizations with other parents. To organize protests. To show up to school board meetings.

“That’s not domestic terrorism. It’s good parenting. It’s patriotism. And it’s a basic American right — one we all need to defend.”

Read the rest of Why Are Moms Like Me Being Called Domestic Terrorists?

C. Bradley Thompson: The Police State Comes After American Parents

C. Bradley Thompson on the Biden Administration’s attempts to silence parental dissent against what’s happening in America’s government schools:

“Let’s not kid ourselves. We all know what this is and is not about. It’s NOT about alleged threats of violence against school board members. It’s about targeting political opponents, criminalizing dissent, and weaponizing the FBI and the National Security State against parents who are protesting peacefully and lawfully against indoctrination and censorship in America’s government schools. It’s about turning complaining parents into domestic terrorists for the crime of being parents. It’s about turning America’s mothers into the legal equivalent of Islamic jihadists. It’s about intimidating parents. It’s about using the coercive force of the State against our First Amendment rights to free speech, to assemble peaceably, and to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It’s about silencing parental opposition to the Education Establishment. Make no mistake about it, that’s what this about.”

“More fundamentally, what Garland’s letter is really saying is that the federal government is entirely responsible for the education of your children. You have no rights and no authority to determine the content of your child’s mind. That is for the government to determine.  Your old-fashioned view that your children are actually your children is no longer relevant.”

Read the full article A Declaration of War.

1776 Unites

Members of The Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites Initiative have written an open letter to the National School Boards Association and local School Boards.

Here are some excerpts:

The prevailing narrative of racial grievance has been corrupting the instruction of American history and the humanities for many decades, but has accelerated dangerously over the past year. The most damaging effects of such instruction fall on lower income minority children, who are implicitly told that they are helpless victims with no power or agency to shape their own futures.

[…]

We represent a nonpartisan and intellectually diverse black-led alliance of writers, educators, thinkers, and activists focused on solutions to our country’s greatest challenges in education, culture, race relations, and upward mobility.

The Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites initiative stands in unqualified opposition to any curricula that depict America as irredeemably racist; teach that the legacies of slavery, racial segregation, and other appalling crimes are insurmountable; or fail to provide examples from history of black achievement against the odds. We ask that your schools instead adopt curricula that, rather than completely reject our founding values, instead embrace the ideas of family, faith, and entrepreneurship that have enabled all Americans – including black Americans – throughout history to move from persecution to prosperity, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

We propose including in your schools’ offerings the Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites curricula, which map to Social Studies, English and Social/Emotional Learning standards. 1776 Unites offers authentic, motivating stories from American history that show what is best in our national character and what our freedom makes possible even in the most difficult circumstances.

The curricula maintain a special focus on stories that celebrate black excellence, reject victimhood culture, and showcase the millions of African Americans who have prospered by embracing their country’s founding ideals. The lessons have been downloaded more than 17,000 times across all 50 states.

The Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites curriculum is grounded in essential American values, upholding:

  • Continuity, not rupture. 1776 Unites confronts the realities of slavery and racism in American history while also recognizing them as betrayals of our founding’s highest principles. Leaders like Thomas Jefferson are celebrated in our history despite, not because of, their personal and political failings. The struggle of Americans to rise and realize our own values is part of our story—and always has been.
  • Dignity, not grievance. While dealing frankly with the grim realities of racial segregation, 1776 Unites also shows how black Americans have seized their own destiny and flourished despite harsh restrictions, as demonstrated by the development of nearly 5,000 rural schoolhouses overseen by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald. These schools became sources of local pride and helped close the white-black learning gap.
  • Resilience, not fragility. Knowing the achievements of the past helps students better understand their responsibilities as American citizens. A lesson on the “Woodson Principles,” which celebrate individual responsibility and strength in the face of adversity, asks students to draw vital support from family, faith, community, and participation in civic life.

Embedded within the achievements of American history are the tools of self-betterment and self-renewal that our country has always deployed on the journey to become a more perfect union. Our children deserve an authentic vision of that story, one that will help them to achieve their own human flourishing.

[…]We invite all those who are committed to quality education and fostering a genuine interest among our young people in how inspiring lessons from our past can inform our path forward to contact us at 1776 Unites ([email protected]), and to view and download our free lessons here.

The full letter can be read here.

Andrew Gutmann’s Courageous Letter on How “Woke” “Anti-Racism” is Destroying the Minds of Children

From the NY Post:

A father fed up with an elite Manhattan prep school’s heavy-handed focus on race won’t re-enroll his daughter in the fall, accusing the school of trying to “brainwash” kids with woke philosophies rather than teaching them how to think on their own. In a scathing 1,700-word letter Andrew Gutmann mailed to 650 families — a screed since gone viral —  he blasted the posh, all-girls Brearley School’s “cowardly and appalling lack of leadership [for] appeasing an anti-intellectual, illiberal mob.” The April 13 missive  —  published this week on journalist  Bari Weiss’  blog —  became public the same day the headmaster of the famed Dalton School resigned over controversial “anti-racism”  curriculum and policies that had outraged many parents.

Here is the text of the letter by Mr. Guttman explaining why he pulled his daughter out of the all-girls private school in Manhattan that charges $54,000 per year:

April 13, 2021

Dear Fellow Brearley Parents,

Our family recently made the decision not to reenroll our daughter at Brearley for the 2021-22 school year. She has been at Brearley for seven years, beginning in kindergarten. In short, we no longer believe that Brearley’s administration and Board of Trustees have any of our children’s best interests at heart. Moreover, we no longer have confidence that our daughter will receive the quality of education necessary to further her development into a critically thinking, responsible, enlightened, and civic minded adult. I write to you, as a fellow parent, to share our reasons for leaving the Brearley community but also to urge you to act before the damage to the school, to its community, and to your own child’s education is irreparable.

It cannot be stated strongly enough that Brearley’s obsession with race must stop. It should be abundantly clear to any thinking parent that Brearley has completely lost its way. The administration and the Board of Trustees have displayed a cowardly and appalling lack of leadership by appeasing an anti-intellectual, illiberal mob, and then allowing the school to be captured by that same mob. What follows are my own personal views on Brearley’s antiracism initiatives, but these are just a handful of the criticisms that I know other parents have expressed.

I object to the view that I should be judged by the color of my skin. I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs. By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin color and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died.

I object to the charge of systemic racism in this country, and at our school. Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters. It is the interning of Japanese and the exterminating of Jews. Systemic racism is unequivocally not a small number of isolated incidences over a period of decades. Ask any girl, of any race, if they have ever experienced insults from friends, have ever felt slighted by teachers or have ever suffered the occasional injustice from a school at which they have spent up to 13 years of their life, and you are bound to hear grievances, some petty, some not. We have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s, a period of more than 50 years. To state otherwise is a flat-out misrepresentation of our country’s history and adds no understanding to any of today’s societal issues. If anything, longstanding and widespread policies such as affirmative action, point in precisely the opposite direction.

I object to a definition of systemic racism, apparently supported by Brearley, that any educational, professional, or societal outcome where Blacks are underrepresented is prima facie evidence of the aforementioned systemic racism, or of white supremacy and oppression. Facile and unsupported beliefs such as these are the polar opposite to the intellectual and scientific truth for which Brearley claims to stand. Furthermore, I call bullshit on Brearley’s oft-stated assertion that the school welcomes and encourages the truly difficult and uncomfortable conversations regarding race and the roots of racial discrepancies.

I object to the idea that Blacks are unable to succeed in this country without aid from government or from whites. Brearley, by adopting critical race theory, is advocating the abhorrent viewpoint that Blacks should forever be regarded as helpless victims, and are incapable of success regardless of their skills, talents, or hard work. What Brearley is teaching our children is precisely the true and correct definition of racism.

I object to mandatory anti-racism training for parents, especially when presented by the rent-seeking charlatans of Pollyanna. These sessions, in both their content and delivery, are so sophomoric and simplistic, so unsophisticated and inane, that I would be embarrassed if they were taught to Brearley kindergarteners. They are an insult to parents and unbecoming of any educational institution, let alone one of Brearley’s caliber.

I object to Brearley’s vacuous, inappropriate, and fanatical use of words such as “equity,” “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” If Brearley’s administration was truly concerned about so-called “equity,” it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets. If the administration was genuinely serious about “diversity,” it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Instead, the school would foster an environment of intellectual openness and freedom of thought. And if Brearley really cared about “inclusiveness,” the school would return to the concepts encapsulated in the motto “One Brearley,” instead of teaching the extraordinarily divisive idea that there are only, and always, two groups in this country: victims and oppressors.

l object to Brearley’s advocacy for groups and movements such as Black Lives Matter, a Marxist, anti family, heterophobic, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic organization that neither speaks for the majority of the Black community in this country, nor in any way, shape or form, represents their best interests.

I object to, as we have been told time and time again over the past year, that the school’s first priority is the safety of our children. For goodness sake, Brearley is a school, not a hospital! The number one priority of a school has always been, and always will be, education. Brearley’s misguided priorities exemplify both the safety culture and “cover-your-ass” culture that together have proved so toxic to our society and have so damaged the mental health and resiliency of two generations of children, and counting.

I object to the gutting of the history, civics, and classical literature curriculums. I object to the censorship of books that have been taught for generations because they contain dated language potentially offensive to the thin-skinned and hypersensitive (something that has already happened in my daughter’s 4th grade class). I object to the lowering of standards for the admission of students and for the hiring of teachers. I object to the erosion of rigor in classwork and the escalation of grade inflation. Any parent with eyes open can foresee these inevitabilities should antiracism initiatives be allowed to persist.

We have today in our country, from both political parties, and at all levels of government, the most unwise and unvirtuous leaders in our nation’s history. Schools like Brearley are supposed to be the training grounds for those leaders. Our nation will not survive a generation of leadership even more poorly educated than we have now, nor will we survive a generation of students taught to hate its own country and despise its history.

Lastly, I object, with as strong a sentiment as possible, that Brearley has begun to teach what to think, instead of how to think. I object that the school is now fostering an environment where our daughters, and our daughters’ teachers, are afraid to speak their minds in class for fear of “consequences.” I object that Brearley is trying to usurp the role of parents in teaching morality, and bullying parents to adopt that false morality at home. I object that Brearley is fostering a divisive community where families of different races, which until recently were part of the same community, are now segregated into two. These are the reasons why we can no longer send our daughter to Brearley.

Over the past several months, I have personally spoken to many Brearley parents as well as parents of children at peer institutions. It is abundantly clear that the majority of parents believe that Brearley’s antiracism policies are misguided, divisive, counterproductive and cancerous. Many believe, as I do, that these policies will ultimately destroy what was until recently, a wonderful educational institution. But as I am sure will come as no surprise to you, given the insidious cancel culture that has of late permeated our society, most parents are too fearful to speak up.

But speak up you must. There is strength in numbers and I assure you, the numbers are there. Contact the administration and the Board of Trustees and demand an end to the destructive and anti-intellectual claptrap known as antiracism. And if changes are not forthcoming then demand new leadership. For the sake of our community, our city, our country and most of all, our children, silence is no longer an option.

Respectfully,

Andrew Gutmann

In the NY Post letters section Leonard Peikoff made these comments:

As a PhD who has taught at four New York City colleges, I want to express my profound admiration for Gutmann’s letter, which tells the world with passion, logic and ringing clarity what is wrong with the school — and, in my opinion, with the whole country today. Thank you, Mr. Gutmann, for your courageous achievement.

Leonard Peikoff
Laguna Woods, Calif.

Related:

The New Critical Race Orthodoxy on College Campuses

Bari Weiss writes on the saga of Jodi Shaw in “Whistleblower at Smith College Resigns Over Racism.”

Here is Shaw’s resignation letter to Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, originally published on journalist Bari Weiss’ Substack blog, available at bariweiss.substack.com:

Dear President McCartney:

I am writing to notify you that effective today, I am resigning from my position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life at Smith College. This has not been an easy decision, as I now face a deeply uncertain future. As a divorced mother of two, the economic uncertainty brought about by this resignation will impact my children as well. But I have no choice. The racially hostile environment that the college has subjected me to for the past 2¹/₂ years has left me physically and mentally debilitated. I can no longer work in this environment, nor can I remain silent about a matter so central to basic human dignity and freedom.

I graduated from Smith College in 1993. Those four years were among the best in my life. Naturally, I was over the moon when, years later, I had the opportunity to join Smith as a staff member. I loved my job and I loved being back at Smith.

But the climate — and my place at the college — changed dramatically when, in July 2018, the culture war arrived at our campus when a student accused a white staff member of calling campus security on her because of racial bias. The student, who is black, shared her account of this incident widely on social media, drawing a lot of attention to the college.

Before even investigating the facts of the incident, the college immediately issued a public apology to the student, placed the employee on leave, and announced its intention to create new initiatives, committees, workshops, trainings and policies aimed at combating “systemic racism” on campus.

In spite of an independent investigation into the incident that found no evidence of racial bias, the college ramped up its initiatives aimed at dismantling the supposed racism that pervades the campus. This only served to support the now prevailing narrative that the incident had been racially motivated and that Smith staff are racist.

Allowing this narrative to dominate has had a profound impact on the Smith community and on me personally. For example, in August 2018, just days before I was to present a library orientation program into which I had poured a tremendous amount of time and effort, and which had previously been approved by my supervisors, I was told that I could not proceed with the planned program. Because it was going to be done in rap form and “because you are white,” as my supervisor told me, that could be viewed as “cultural appropriation.” My supervisor made clear he did not object to a rap in general, nor to the idea of using music to convey orientation information to students. The problem was my skin color.

I was up for a full-time position in the library at that time, and I was essentially informed that my candidacy for that position was dependent upon my ability, in a matter of days, to reinvent a program to which I had devoted months of time.

Humiliated, and knowing my candidacy for the full-time position was now dead in the water, I moved into my current, lower-paying position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life.

As it turned out, my experience in the library was just the beginning. In my new position, I was told on multiple occasions that discussing my personal thoughts and feelings about my skin color is a requirement of my job. I endured racially hostile comments, and was expected to participate in racially prejudicial behavior as a continued condition of my employment. I endured meetings in which another staff member violently banged his fist on the table, chanting, “Rich, white women! Rich, white women!” in reference to Smith alumnae.

I listened to my supervisor openly name preferred racial quotas for job openings in our department. I was given supplemental literature in which the world’s population was reduced to two categories — “dominant group members” and “subordinated group members” — based solely on characteristics like race.

Every day, I watch my colleagues manage student conflict through the lens of race, projecting rigid assumptions and stereotypes on students, thereby reducing them to the color of their skin. I am asked to do the same, as well as to support a curriculum for students that teaches them to project those same stereotypes and assumptions onto themselves and others. I believe such a curriculum is dehumanizing, prevents authentic connection and undermines the moral agency of young people who are just beginning to find their way in the world.

Although I have spoken to many staff and faculty at the college who are deeply troubled by all of this, they are too terrified to speak out about it. This illustrates the deeply hostile and fearful culture that pervades Smith College.

The last straw came in January 2020, when I attended a mandatory Residence Life staff retreat focused on racial issues. The hired facilitators asked each member of the department to respond to various personal questions about race and racial identity. When it was my turn to respond, I said, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that.” I was the only person in the room to abstain.

Later, the facilitators told everyone present that a white person’s discomfort at discussing their race is a symptom of “white fragility.” They said that the white person may seem like they are in distress, but that it is actually a “power play.” In other words, because I am white, my genuine discomfort was framed as an act of aggression. I was shamed and humiliated in front of all of my colleagues.

I filed an internal complaint about the hostile environment, but throughout that process, over the course of almost six months, I felt like my complaint was taken less seriously because of my race. I was told that the civil-rights law protections were not created to help people like me. And after I filed my complaint, I started to experience retaliatory behavior, like having important aspects of my job taken away without explanation.

Under the guise of racial progress, Smith College has created a racially hostile environment in which individual acts of discrimination and hostility flourish. In this environment, people’s worth as human beings, and the degree to which they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, is determined by the color of their skin. It is an environment in which dissenting from the new critical race orthodoxy — or even failing to swear fealty to it like some kind of McCarthy-era loyalty oath — is grounds for public humiliation and professional retaliation.

I can no longer continue to work in an environment where I am constantly subjected to additional scrutiny because of my skin color. I can no longer work in an environment where I am told, publicly, that my personal feelings of discomfort under such scrutiny are not legitimate but instead are a manifestation of white supremacy. Perhaps most importantly, I can no longer work in an environment where I am expected to apply similar race-based stereotypes and assumptions to others, and where I am told — when I complain about having to engage in what I believe to be discriminatory practices — that there are “legitimate reasons for asking employees to consider race” in order to achieve the college’s “social justice objectives.”

What passes for “progressive” today at Smith and at so many other institutions is regressive. It taps into humanity’s worst instincts to break down into warring factions, and I fear this is rapidly leading us to a very twisted place. It terrifies me that others don’t seem to see that racial segregation and demonization are wrong and dangerous no matter what its victims look like. Being told that any disagreement or feelings of discomfort somehow upholds “white supremacy” is not just morally wrong. It is psychologically abusive.

Equally troubling are the many others who understand and know full well how damaging this is, but do not speak out due to fear of professional retaliation, social censure and loss of their livelihood and reputation. I fear that by the time people see it, or those who see it manage to screw up the moral courage to speak out, it will be too late.

I wanted to change things at Smith. I hoped that by bringing an internal complaint, I could somehow get the administration to see that their capitulation to critical race orthodoxy was causing real, measurable harm. When that failed, I hoped that drawing public attention to these problems at Smith would finally awaken the administration to this reality. I have come to conclude, however, that the college is so deeply committed to this toxic ideology that the only way for me to escape the racially hostile climate is to resign. It is completely unacceptable that we are now living in a culture in which one must choose between remaining in a racially hostile, psychologically abusive environment or giving up their income.

Enlarge Image Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts where a student accused a security guard of racial profiling her in 2018.Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
As a proud Smith alum, I know what a critical role this institution has played in shaping my life and the lives of so many women for 150 years. I want to see this institution be the force for good I know it can be. I will not give up fighting against the dangerous pall of orthodoxy that has descended over Smith and so many of our educational institutions.

This was an extremely difficult decision for me and comes at a deep personal cost. I make $45,000 a year; less than a year’s tuition for a Smith student. I was offered a settlement in exchange for my silence, but I turned it down. My need to tell the truth — and to be the kind of woman Smith taught me to be — makes it impossible for me to accept financial security at the expense of remaining silent about something I know is wrong. My children’s future, and indeed, our collective future as a free nation, depends on people having the courage to stand up to this dangerous and divisive ideology, no matter the cost.

Sincerely,

Jodi Shaw

Comments Weiss:

What is happening is wrong. Any ideology that asks people to judge others based on their skin color is wrong. Any ideology that asks us to reduce ourselves and others to racial stereotypes is wrong. Any ideology that treats dissent as evidence of bigotry is wrong. Any ideology that denies our common humanity is wrong. You should say so. Just like Jodi Shaw has.

If you would like to help support Jodi with her legal fees, visit her GoFundMe page.

Rethinking “Black History” Month

An interesting discussion by Higher Ground’s advisory group on Montessori and Identity on the purpose and value of African American history and closely connected questions of identity and humanism.  Topics covered include” the original purpose of Black History Month (and why we might want to rethink it), the complexity of the learning process around the history of slavery and race, and what, exactly, we want for our kids with respect to race in education.

What Do Steve Jobs and Frederick Douglas Have in Common?

An awesome integration from an interview with Higher Ground’s Matt Bateman:

“Look at Steve Jobs, who is a great model for, “Wow, what are the 21st Century skills that allowed him to integrate art and technology and create all these things?” But, then look at Frederick Douglas. It’s the same thing, and, these are two men who were separated by 200 years. Both of them are fundamentally autodidacts. They taught themselves in a context where the traditional education wasn’t serving them for very different ways and very different reasons. But, something is common there. They both had a deep knowledge and perspective on the world in a broad sense. They both were humanistic and understood communication — things that people say are 21st Century skills, but put that through a lens where you’re understanding that more deeply in terms of human nature, and that is what we want for children.”

Read the rest.

Girn and Bateman: Helping Children to Flourish as Adults

The New Liberals podcast has an interview with Higher Ground Education’s Ray Girn and Matt Bateman. From the description:

“Our national conversation around childhood education usually revolves around or devolves into a sort of generic bifurcation of public vs private. But only when we really break a topic down into its constituent parts can we begin to see it more clearly. So what educational method might work best? Ray Girn and Matt Bateman of Higher Ground Education believe that the method they practice will best equip children to flourish as adults”

Luminar’s Austin Russell: Another College Dropout Becomes Newest Billionaire

From “Luminar going public makes 25-year-old Austin Russell one of world’s first, and youngest, self-driving billionaires” at CNBC:

Luminar, which creates lidar technology critical to many automakers’ autonomous driving efforts, is going public on Thursday through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and the deal will make Luminar co-founder and CEO Austin Russell a billionaire — at the age of 25.

Russell, who founded the company as a 17-year-old high school student, said the feeling of becoming a billionaire (on paper, at least) is “absolutely incredible” and “totally surreal.”

[…]

Russell was a bit of a science prodigy.

“I guess, I did memorize the periodic table — I think I was around 2 or so,” Russell told CNBC Make It in a 2018 interview. “I was just obsessed with learning certain things … just independently learning and understanding a lot of new types of scientific fields, among other things.”

That evolved into work on lasers and ultimately, lidar, which uses lasers to detect and measure distance and ultimately create a 3D map of the real world environment that can be used in self-driving.

He ended up at Stanford University studying physics, but dropped out and received a Thiel Fellowship, created by tech icon and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel to provide tech talent with alternatives to traditional education programs.

 

 

Liberty Unlocked: The Quest for Meaning with Lisa VanDamme

Persuasion guru, Don Watkins has an awesome interview with education innovator Lisa Van Damme on his Liberty Unlocked podcast. From the podcast description:

Lisa VanDamme is the founder of VanDamme Academy, a K-8 private school, and Read With Me. In this episode, we talk about how education and art bolster our pursuit of a meaningful life. Along the way, we discuss the role of hierarchy in education, cultivating a love of literature, and why I believe that the Bible can’t be the voice of God, because if that voice exists on earth, it’s Victor Hugo’s.

Listen now.

Bezos Academy: Free Montessori-style Preschools

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has just launched the Bezos Academy. “The @bezosacademy opens its doors on Oct. 19th. This one in Des Moines, WA, is the first of many free preschools that we’ll be opening for underserved children.”

The Bezos Academy is a non-profit organization that is launching a network of tuition-free Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities.