Cockburn doesn’t have any school-aged children — that he’s aware of, anyway. But a number of his close associates do — and they’ve been complaining a lot recently about schooling. Here’s a brief note from a New York-based mother Cockburn often gets cocktails with, who has a grievance she’d like to air…The ‘closing of the American mind’ is a lament usually reserved for the indoctrination of college students, but it’s now starting far younger. By the time our American students arrive on campus, much of the damage has already been done. K-12 education has been infected with critical race theory, tenets of the 1619 Project, Black Lives Matter doctrine and other debunked, destructive ‘religious’ ideologies. Laudable attempts by the OMB, and the recent Executive Order issued last month, seek to defund federally-supported institutions which force these false ideas on their constituents.This is a helpful step.But what of our private schools, which don’t receive federal dollars and are not subject to these common sense rules? The recent return to class has unleashed a wave of uncontested anti-racist talking points on our vulnerable young children, equally applied in live classrooms and over Zoom.At the two private schools my sons attend in New York City, Trinity School and Friends Seminary, there is a new kind of ‘education’ now in full force. Trinity, voted consistently by US World News and Report to be the number one college preparatory school in the country, assigned one summer reading book to its high school students this year: Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning.The book starts with the premise that there is a racist president in the White House and that our country is systemically racist. Kendi, has been widely critiqued for his less than rigorous intellectual arguments and for his unsupported assertions, most recently suggested that the practice of white people adopting black babies is an act of racism. He was referring to Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and her adoption of two children from Haiti. He tweeted ‘Some White colonizers “adopted” Black children. They “civilized” these “savage” children in the “superior” ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.’ That this man’s work was chosen speaks volumes about the academic standards Trinity now fails to meet for its children. That other books with different views on critical race theory such as Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsey were not recommended as balance speaks to the real agenda here. This isn’t education – it is reeducation.
At Friends Seminary it’s a similar story. Tenth grade World History is being taught with the express goal of teaching students to ‘understand…the historical roots of today’s unequal power dynamics’, and ‘engage with history as a form of storytelling…’ That the Friends Seminary’s history department wasn’t ashamed to put that in print suggests that dogma reigns where academic integrity used to. Similar stories abound as told by silenced parents at Columbia Grammar, Riverdale, Dalton, Spence and so on. These were once academically rigorous schools. We know our children are being inculcated with a non-academic, partisan worldview and denied even the dignity of a two-sided argument that used to be the definition of real education. The question is: do our schools know it? Are they willing participants and pushers of this new religious fervor or just hostages to a fever-pitched climate they won’t contest? Either way, they are failing their students and themselves.Got a tip for Cockburn? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.