Private K-12 programs ditch classics for race-obsessed classes, woke activism

Nearly three years ago, I mailed a letter to every parent of the Brearley School, an elite all-girls Manhattan private school that my daughter then attended.

My letter, which passionately objected to Brearley’s obsession with race and identity, unexpectedly went viral, helping fuel what became the national parents movement and the fight against woke education.

Rarely does a day go by when I am not asked about the current status of Brearley and other elite independent schools around the country.

Are parents speaking up? Did administrations back down? Are schools still woke?

The answers are distressing: In a nutshell, the war on our children continues unabated. 

Ideology first

Not only have elite private schools like Brearley persisted on the path of woke indoctrination, but they have proudly doubled down, emboldened by the pathetic silence of parents either too scared to speak up or too unwilling to leave behind the status of elite schools and the perceived path for their children to Ivy League universities.

The old mission of elite private schools — in the classical liberal tradition — was to pass down a set of knowledge to the next generation, foster curiosity, promote debate and inculcate wisdom and virtue.

Yet Brearley, like many K-12 schools around the country, changed its mission in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter riots in 2020; it became an “antiracist” school.

The top goal of such schools: radicalizing students to become far-leftist activists with the ultimate objective of fomenting a cultural revolution and tearing down Western, capitalist society.

This requires schools to censor speech, stifle dissent and debate and bully the entire community, including parents and teachers.

To indoctrinate students, every aspect of a school is rethought in the name of “inclusion,” and the ideological lens of social justice (read: wokeism) is applied to every area of study.

Comparing Brearley’s course catalog from the pre-George Floyd, 2019-2020 school year with the most recent online course catalog, from 2022-2023, illustrates just how much leftist ideology has taken over the curriculum.

In the old catalog, the first five words of Brearley’s mission statement were “Academic excellence. Liberal arts tradition.”

These words are nowhere to be found in Brearley’s new, much longer “Statement of Beliefs,” the bulk of which is devoted to “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” and “antiracism.”

In 10th-grade English class, which covers American literature, Brearley students used to read Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Now, those dead white men have been replaced by James Baldwin, W.E.B. DuBois, Claudia Rankine, Phyllis Wheatley Peters and Zitkala-Sa, five “diverse” authors who each wrote extensively about race, identity and oppression.

The description of 2019’s American History class, also taught in 10th grade, sounds like normal history: “a chronological survey introducing students to political, economic, social and cultural developments in American history from 1492 to the present, incorporating the study of the U.S. Constitution and federal government, extensive work with primary sources.”

Yet the 2022 version not only omits mention of the Constitution and the federal government, but clearly exemplifies how Brearley now teaches American History through a progressive lens: “In keeping with Brearley’s commitment to antiracism, students will consider fundamental questions about the struggle of various groups in their quest to become full members of ‘We, the People.’ ”

Elective history classes demonstrate the same ideological capture.

High schoolers can take Latin American Cultural Studies, where they use a “critical cultural studies approach . . . to undo and relearn many of the historical narratives” or they can study the Modern Middle East, where students “explore discussion of Islam, imperialism, oil, gender and decolonization.”


Brearley’s politicized education isn’t limited to the humanities; 10th-grade Chemistry goes far beyond teaching the periodical table: “Whenever possible, the course explores the chemistry of environmental issues.”

According to Brearley’s website, even the physical-education and drama departments are working on new programs to align with the school’s commitment to an inclusive curriculum.

Perhaps no subject at Brearley is more ideological than sexuality education, which begins in kindergarten.

Brearley uses the widely adopted Our Whole Lives curriculum, which provides “a social justice approach to inclusive sexuality education.” 

The kindergarten and first-grade module “offers new and expansive ways of addressing gender identity and roles, sexual orientation, race, ability, and more for children and their families.”

Wokeness has taken over after-school activities as well.

Of Brearley’s 57 upper-school clubs, no less than 21 of them are either segregated affinity groups or explicitly incorporate social-justice ideology.

Students can discuss “environmental justice and intersectionality” in The Brearley Environmental Action Committee; talk about “social, environmental and political issues” in Business and Financial Awareness; explore “social justice, identity and intersectionality” in Diversity Club; investigate “global gender equality” in Global Girls; chat about “racial and social inequity” in Public Health club; or delve into “nonwhite francophone identities and cultures . . . and racism, inequity and bias” in French club.

Future leaders

Brearley is by no means unique.

The same ideological capture is pervasive at independent schools across America, since accreditation agencies require that member schools demonstrate their commitment to the woke principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Why does it matter what happens at a relatively small number of elite private schools — some of which, like Brearley, have annual tuitions north of $60,000?

The short answer is that adults who attended elite private schools tend to be vastly overrepresented in leadership positions throughout society.

Think we have it bad now with woke district attorneys who won’t prosecute criminals, CEOs pushing anti-capitalist environmental, social and governance investing and politicians who want to legislate reparations?

Consider that these leaders were introduced to progressive ideology later in life, while at universities like Harvard and Penn.

Just imagine what society will look like when we are forced to follow the whims of woke ideologues, indoctrinated beginning in kindergarten.

In the letter I sent to Brearley families, I stated, “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.”

I believe this warning is even more relevant today than when I wrote it three years ago.

Andrew Gutmann is a congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District in Palm Beach County and co-host of the podcast, “Take Back Our Schools.”

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