Dalton headmaster quits while Brearley dad writes scathing letter

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Letters to the Editor — April 17, 2021

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As the headmaster of the famed Dalton School resigned over controversial race-based curriculum and policies, another storied Manhattan prep school faced a father’s public wrath over the same issue.

Dalton School’s Jim Best announced he was leaving Friday to pursue “other exciting and inspiring opportunities” after 16 years at the school. His departure came after months of controversy at the Upper East Side academic bastion over the school’s “anti-racism” focus.

At the same time, a father at the equally prestigious, $54,000-a-year Brearley School sent a scathing, nearly 1700-word letter to the institution’s roughly 600 families over Brearley’s “obsession with race.”

The letter by Andrew Guttman, first published in Bari Weiss’ Substack, explained why he was pulling his daughter out of the Upper East Side school after seven years. She started there in kindergarten.

“It should be abundantly clear to any thinking parent that Brearley has completely lost its way,” Guttman wrote. “The administration and the Board of Trustees have displayed a cowardly and appalling lack of leadership by appeasing an anti-intellectual, illiberal mob.”

He went on to say that he objects “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.”

Guttman’s most controversial claim in the letter was objecting to what he said was the school’s belief in “systemic racism.”

“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,” he wrote.

Brearley head of school fired back Friday with her own missive to the school’s families, calling Guttman’s letter “deeply offensive and harmful.”

“This afternoon, I and others who work closely with Upper School students met with more than one hundred of them, many of whom told us that they felt frightened and intimidated by the letter and the fact that it was sent directly to our homes,” Fried wrote. “Our students noted that as this letter, which denies the presence of systemic racism, crossed their doorways, the evidence of ongoing racism – systemic or otherwise – is daily present in our headlines.”

Guttman told the Post Saturday that he stood by his letter and expressed scorn for Fried’s contention that upper school students would be “frightened” by a letter.

Guttman listed a total of 10 “objections” in his screed. Specifically he railed against “mandatory anti-racism training for parents.” He also decried the school’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,” Guttman wrote.

“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.”

He criticized the school for gutting the traditional curriculum and censoring books while repeatedly telling parents that its first priority is the “safety” of the children. “For goodness sake, Brearley is a school, not a hospital!”

Guttman said he most resented how “Brearley has begun to teach what to think, instead of how to think.”

Said one of the more than 200 people who commented on article: “This is a masterpiece, and I want to buy this man a drink.”

The faculty and parents at Brearley have not been that vocal until now.

In contrast, an anonymous group of parents sent a letter to other school families in January protesting Dalton’s race-based policies.

“Every class this year has had an obsessive focus on race and identity, ‘racist cop’ reenactments in science, ‘de-centering whiteness’ in art class, learning about white supremacy and sexuality in health class,” the missive stated. “Wildly inappropriate, many of these classes feel more akin to a Zoom corporate sensitivity-training than to Dalton’s intellectually engaging curriculum.”

Tensions first began running high in December when Dalton issued an “anti-racism” manifesto written by faculty members.

The document called for the hiring of 12 diversity officers and an overhaul of the entire curriculum to better reflect social justice imperatives.

Some parents backed the initiative; others said it created an excessive emphasis on racial issues and differences.

Dalton’s incoming kindergarten class in fall 2021 will be 48 percent students of color, the insider said.

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