Parents and alumni at the tony Dalton School have fired off a scathing open letter decrying the school’s new race-obsessed agenda.
The anonymous missive to the “Dalton community,” obtained by the Post, charges the “love of learning and teaching is now being abandoned in favor of an ‘anti-racist’ curriculum.”
It reads, “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. Wildly inappropriate, many of these classes feel more akin to a Zoom corporate sensitivity-training than to Dalton’s intellectually engaging curriculum.”
The letter calls for an “impartial ombudsman” outside of the “DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] industry” to advocate for the school’s educational mission and solicit feedback from alumni and parents about changes to the curriculum. It also suggests the school immediately pause the new “anti-racist” curriculum and “anti-racist” teacher training.
The 89th Street institution educates 1,300 students in grades K-12, charging $54,180 a year in tuition. It is more diverse than most of NYC’s elite prep schools, with a student body that is 57 percent white, 19 percent multi-racial, 11 percent Asian, 10 percent Black and 3 percent Hispanic.
Simmering conflicts at the Upper East Side bastion of privilege — which counts Anderson Cooper, Christian Slater and Claire Danes as alumni — erupted publicly last month when the school’s administration and faculty issued eight pages of “proposals” to overhaul the staffing, curriculum and treatment of Black students.
The plan grew out of the George Floyd police-brutality protests and long-held complaints of racism at the prestigious school.
Those demands called for the hiring of 12 full-time diversity officers, and multiple psychologists to support students “coping with race-based traumatic stress,” requiring courses that focus on “Black liberation” and “challenges to white supremacy” and abolishing high-level academic courses by 2023 if the performance of Black students is not on par with non-Blacks.
But the Dalton letter makes it clear that the school’s curriculum has already been drastically revamped in favor of an “anti-racist” agenda.
The seven-page treatise, signed only “Loving Concern @ Dalton,” calls for a return to empowering “teachers to passionately take responsibility for the children’s education and teach their subject matter in accordance with the Dalton Plan. It seems insane that we have to say this but let’s restore the centrality of education to the school’s mission.
“In place of a joyful, progressive education, students are exposed to an excessive focus on skin color and sexuality, before they even understand what sex is,” the letter reads.
“Children are bewildered or bored after hours of discussing these topics in the new long-format classes. Dalton used to awaken children’s imagination with fiction, art, Aztec bookmaking, the Renaissance, ITL and Carmino Ravosa musicals. Having children focus on skin color and their sexual identities, rather than immersing them in the beauty and joy of human civilization, the wonder of science and nature, or the meaning of power and words and math and music, seems nuts to us.”
A Dalton dad seethed to The Post Friday, “What we’re seeing at the school now is the atrocious mismanagement of the precious social and intellectual development of children. It’s inexcusable for with an institution with a 100-year old pedagogy to have so quickly and sharply shifted to a radical and untested approach to child development and education.”
A Dalton mother told The Post that she and other parents are nervous about even expressing their views anonymously.
“I never thought I’d see a time in America where people had to hide behind a veil to speak up for their children’s best interests,” she said. Head of School “Jim Best claims that all voices matter, but somehow the voices of parents can’t be heard for fear of retribution.”
Late Friday, Best acknowledged the letter and responded in a mass email to parents and alumni.
Best said the results of a “comprehensive review” of diversity, equity and inclusion-related “academic programming” that he launched in December will be rolled out this spring.
At that point, he wrote, “I intend to do a better job of demonstrating that excellence and inclusion aren’t competing ideas; each makes the other stronger.”
The Dalton parents who spoke to The Post don’t hold out hope for Best’s promises — or think the anonymous manifesto will have lasting impact.
“In the end the letter will likely be ignored and labeled racist or the result of white fragility,” the Dalton mother said.
Additional reporting by Susan Edelman