As the school year comes to an end, parents of high school aged kids at the independent Marshall School in Duluth are concerned that the school’s curriculum leaves little room for independent thinking.
A parent from the school recently shared that Marshall School is pushing race and gender-based curriculum from social justice organizations rather than through peer-reviewed or Socratic methods. They became concerned when they learned that their child’s health class was using curriculum from AdvocatesforYouth.org and were being “forced” to no longer use pronouns. After quick click through the AdvocatesforYouth.org website, it’s easy to see why the parent was concerned. The health education Marshall Students are being exposed to is created by an organization that boasts activism in “shattering abortion stigma with storytelling” through a program called “Abortion Out Loud”, and activism opposing “puberty blocker” bills that were introduced in 2020, saying “Puberty Blocker Bills which prohibit gender affirming medications to minors are not based in concern for the child’s welfare, but rather in fearmongering and transphobia.”
Behind the scenes, parents and students complained about the AdvocacyforYouth.org curriculum, but in fear of being unfairly labeled a homophobe or racist, they have mostly remained silent. AvocacyforYouth.org offers a K-12 health curriculum, though it’s unclear how many grades at Marshall use the activist group’s materials. The AdvocacyforYouth.org website boasts their curriculum is used in 100 school districts in the United States – where there are 16,800 total school districts. How a little independent school in Duluth ended up with this controversial program is a mystery – and something that should be explained by school leaders.
The reporting parent is also concerned that many parents at the school might not be aware of what is being taught to their kids. The pandemic has prevented many activities and events that bring parents into the schools, and the typical lack of communication about curriculum leaves most parents in the dark when it comes to what is being taught to their children.
Strolling the halls of Marshall, you’ll see BLM and anti-police signs with fists, or posters with LGBTQ flags, but the parent shares that students aren’t allowed to wear blue lives matter shirts or share their pro-law enforcement opinions.
Concerns like these are not unique to Duluth, they are starting to be voiced around the country, even in places like New York, where a father caused a stir after writing a letter that resonated with the concerns of the Marshall School parents. The father said his daughter’s New York all-girls school was “fostering an environment where our daughters and our daughter’s teachers are afraid to speak their mind for fear of consequences.”
FAIRforall.org, where FAIR stands for Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism, is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all Americans and promoting a culture based on fairness, understanding, and humanity. Guided by the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., the group stan for individual rights, free speech, equal protection under the law, and a right to personal privacy. Their site explains that they advocate for those who are held to a different set of rules based on the color of their skin, ancestry, or other immutable characteristics. They “support respectful disagreement” without dehumanization, de-platforming, or blacklisting. Their large Board of Advisors is remarkably diverse. One Board Member is Bari Weiss, an author, and journalist that recently shared the stories of Paul Rossi and Andrew Gutmann.
Gutmann is the father of a 4th grader at Brearly School in New York, an all-girls school that costs about $54,000 a year to attend.
He recently wrote a letter to the school and all 600+ other parents explaining why he was removing his child from Brearly (read the full letter here). In his letter, he points out the irony in requiring prospective parents to take an “anti-racism pledge” pushing diversity and inclusiveness while strictly adhering to their admission preferences for siblings, legacies, or other wealthy people.
Gutman writes, “I no longer have the confidence that our daughter will receive the quality of education necessary to further her development into a critically thinking, responsible, enlightened, and civic-minded adult.” He refuses to send his child to a school that judges based on the color of one’s skin, saying, “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 Martin Luther King, Jr. and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died.”
Brearly School has adopted Critical Race Theory curriculum, which Gutmann says teaches there are only two groups of people – victims and oppressors. “Brearly, by adopting Critical Race Theory, is advocating the abhorrent viewpoint, that blacks should forever be regarded as helpless victims, and are incapable of success regardless of their skills, talents, or hard work.”
What’s at stake? Only America.
Gutmann sums up his letter with a dire warning, “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 their country and despise it’s history.”
The second story shared by Bari Weiss was an essay by Grace Church School, New York teacher, Paul Rossi, who shared that “Anti-racist training requires teachers to treat students differently based on the color of their skin. “
The most shocking portion of Rossi’s essay was a story he shared about an all-white student and staff “self-care” zoom meeting he attended (read the essay here). The meeting ended up being a dress-down in characteristics of white supremacy, which included, objectivity, individualism, and the right to comfort. Rossi doubted these basic human traits should be radicalized and posed a question to the group, “must one define oneself in terms of racial identity at all?”. A productive discussion among the zoom attendees proceeded. Later, after his question was shared outside of the zoom meeting in a violation of confidentiality – Rossi was called to the head of the school’s office where the head of the school told him, his “philosophical challenges had caused great ‘harm’ to students, given that these topics were ‘life and death’ matters about people’s ‘flesh, blood, and bone’” He was remanded for “acting like an independent agent of a set of principles or ideas or beliefs and was told in doing so he failed to ‘serve the greater good and higher truth.’”
If that wasn’t enough, this was followed with a public reprimand of his conduct with a statement being read aloud to the full student body.
But that’s not all…
A few days after releasing his essay, Rossi was told not to return to the school.
Rossi’s school recently sent the faculty an email recommending they officially flag students who appear resistant to the culture – where resistance means the students “persist with colorblind ideology”, “suggest we treat everyone with respect”, “believe in meritocracy”, or just remain “silent”. The head of the school announced in an assembly that the “impact of words or images perceived as racist – regardless of their intent – is akin to them using a gun or knife to kill or injure someone.”
These incredible stories, might have taken place half the country away, but the ideology behind them has already taken root here at home in Marshall School, where the thought-police of Orwell’s 1984 might make their ways off the pages in the library and into the halls and classrooms with our children, and with the potential of parents not even knowing.
The backpacks and the lunch sacks may be tucked away for the next couple months, but that doesn’t mean parents can lose focus on the decisions being made at both our private and public schools. Parents deserve transparency when it comes to curriculum and school programing, teachers should be able to feel they can voice concerns without risking their jobs, and students should feel comfortable speaking up in class without fear of being “cancelled”.
Our children being exposed to pronounless, gender and race based content at schools makes them all victims and oppressed– two characteristics that fly directly in the face of what it means to be an American.