New Trier High School, a top-rated government school serving the extremely affluent Chicago suburbs of Northfield and Winnetka, is requiring its students to attend an all-school seminar day with the theme of “Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights,” on February 28, 2017.
School administrators informed parents in a December 2016 letter the event is “a day of regular attendance for students, who will hear from two keynote speakers and choose two workshops presented by staff, students, and experts on the topic.”
One workshop offered in the catalog is titled “Blackenomics 101 (The Movement, The Music, The Solution).”
Its description reads, “Rapper, entrepreneur, and activist, John the Author explores systemic racism in relation to building a black business and artist presence in minority communities. Empowering and embracing blackness is a way to move beyond the inequities seen in our country.”
Another title and description read, “Appropriate Alliances: Working in White Spaces: Students will lead this discussion on how white students can help break down stereotypes and other types of structural racism in white spaces. The discussion will also address why white guilt is an ineffective form of acknowledging racism. We will discuss how to be an effective supporter without appropriating other people’s identities and moving from thought to action.”
A description for a third presentation, titled “Seeing the Unseen: The Bias All Around You,” read, “Most systemic racism is invisible … often to both ‘sides’ … until you know it’s there. Once you know it’s there, you can’t stop seeing it. In this workshop, you’ll participate in an activity that will help you see the unseen, and possibly recognize some systemic biases that you see every day without realizing they are there.”
Parents of New Trier students concerned about the seminar day started a blog, titled Parentsofnewtrier.org, which includes information about the day and a petition calling to “balance or else suspend” the day, which the blog labels “biased, unbalanced, divisive, and costly.”
‘Promotes a Politics of Victimology’
Joseph A. Morris, an attorney for Morris & De La Rosa in Chicago, says supporters of the program are taking the wrong approach to accomplish their professed goals.
“Teaching children that kindness equals socialism is not teaching children to be kind,” Morris said. “Teaching children that hatred of white people is the antidote to hatred of people of color is not the teaching of tolerance or the rejection of racial bias.”
Morris says the curriculum is biased and perpetrates racist thinking.
“Based on a review of the catalog of the day, it cannot be seriously argued that these seminars aim at a fair and neutral exposition of civil rights, whether based on some laudable theoretical construct such as that of Martin Luther King, that people be judged on the content of their characters rather than on the colors of their skins, or on the principles of individual liberty and equality before the laws that are embedded in the U.S. Constitution,” Morris said. “This program promotes a politics of victimology under which rights are held by groups, not by individuals, and the rights of groups are measured and apportioned not by inherent individual right or by earned merit, but by perceptions of past collective victimizations and perpetrations of wrongdoing.”
‘Parents Rightly Object’
Morris says New Trier’s curriculum is completely inappropriate.
“The curriculum appears to be a pseudo-academic smorgasbord of hatred of whites, of males, of Western Civilization, of the traditional family, of faith and religion, and of the principles of the American founding,” Morris said. “Parents rightly object, because the subject matter is offensive. The indoctrination is unbalanced. The program is presented as if uncontroversial and as naturally related to the normal and approved high school curriculum.
“The day comes at the expense of a normal day of classroom education, and the costs of the project are undisclosed,” Morris said. “It is evidently a form of patronage and subsidization for the benefit of presenters and materials-providers of one conspicuous political orientation.”
‘Parents Should Make a Fuss’
Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, says parents must be persistent in protesting the teaching of unsuitable material.
“Parents should make a fuss about this,” said Robbins. “They should contact the teachers first, then if there’s no resolution there, go to the principal. And if there’s no resolution there, [they should] go to the local school board and talk about what is happening in the school and point it out. I have friends who are very active in this area in one of the large counties in Georgia, and they have spent many hours going to local school board meetings talking about this kind of thing. They’ve had lots of success in getting the offensive textbooks and other materials withdrawn.”
Robbins says parents should not be afraid to stand up for their children.
“There is safety in numbers,” Robbins said. “A lot of times parents are hesitant to raise a fuss about something that’s going on because they don’t want their children to be targeted, held responsible, or treated badly in any way because of it. We would hope that kind of thing wouldn’t happen, but we know it does. But if they can notify as many parents as they can and get more parents to agree to oppose this and to be willing to come to a meeting, then that’s the best thing. Trying to fight it on your own is not likely to be very effective, but you can assemble more people who maybe just didn’t realize what was happening.”
Elizabeth BeShears ([email protected]) writes from Trussville, Alabama.
New Trier All-School Seminar Day: Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights, February 28, 2017: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/new-trier-all-school-seminar-day-understanding-todays-struggle-for-racial-civil-rights