When given the choice between indoctrinating students in critical race theory or quitting, one New Jersey prep school teacher decided to leave her job. When my New Jersey prep school began this same type of brainwashing, we would have been lucky to have a teacher like her.
Dana Stangel-Plowe taught English at the Dwight-Englewood School, where she observed this racist ideology being forced onto the students. She published a letter of resignation, claiming that the school “is failing our students” due to “[embracing] an ideology that is damaging to our students’ intellectual and emotional growth and destroying any chance at creating a true community among our diverse population.”
Stangel-Plowe detailed the means by which this ideology is being fed to the students, who “accept this theory as fact,” due to early indoctrination and for lack of other options. “The school’s ideology requires students to see themselves not as individuals, but as representatives of a group, forcing them to adopt the status of privilege or victimhood. They must locate themselves within the oppressor or oppressed group, or some intersectional middle where they must reckon with being part-oppressor and part-victim. This theory of power hierarchies is only one way of seeing the world, and yet it pervades D-E as the singular way of seeing the world.”
She went on to explain how this thought process harmed the intellectual discourse in the classroom, writing, “In my classroom, I see up close how this orthodoxy hinders students’ ability to read, write, and think. I teach students who recoil from a poem because it was written by a man. I teach students who approach texts in search of the oppressor. I teach students who see inequities in texts that have nothing to do with power.” When the entire world is viewed through the postmodern lens of power imbalances, they become omnipresent. Intellectual, engaging discussions about flawed characters or imperfect writers become impossible.
The teacher did note that while the school attempted to create a culture wherein all students mindlessly buy into a worldview hyper-fixated on power imbalances, “not all students are true believers. Many pretend to agree because of pressure to conform.”
Stangel-Plowe recalled devastating stories of students who felt they could not engage in class discussion, writing, “I’ve heard from students who want to ask a question but stop for fear of offending someone. I have heard from students who don’t participate in discussions for fear of being ostracized. One student did not want to develop her personal essay — about an experience she had in another country — for fear that it might mean that she was, without even realizing it, racist. In her fear, she actually stopped herself from thinking. This is the very definition of self-censorship.”
The oppressive environment did not stop in the classroom but pervaded the administration. Questioning the new implementation of the racist ideology known as critical race theory was explicitly not tolerated, and the head of the school twice “told the entire faculty that he would fire us all if he could so that he could replace us all with people of color.” Racially segregated faculty meetings, “aimed at leading us to rethink of ourselves as oppressors, was regressive and demeaning to us as individuals with our own moral compass and human agency.”
“Will the school force racial segregation on our students next?” Stangel-Plowe asked.
In my experience, yes. All the way back in 2015, my New Jersey prep school embraced critical race theory, and the student body faced similar issues. We held an assembly in which the entire high school was segregated by race and tasked with defining our various groups monolithically. The documentary “I’m Not Racist, Am I?” was screened, directly stating that “all white people are racist.” I recall classroom situations where I was afraid to ask a question or make an argument for fear that classmates would take offense or teachers would discriminate against me. I was not alone in these concerns, as questions and dissent were relegated to whispers and private conversations with trusted friends — and this was six years ago, before this intentionally divisive ideology became so pervasive.
John McWhorter, a Columbia University literature professor, took to Twitter to suggest that “truly antiracist parents, in the name of love of their kids, should pull them from the Dwight-Englewood school as of next fall,” and he is right. Teaching kids to look at the world only through the lens of power dynamics rather than judge people as individuals will only divide us further.