English teacher resigns from NJ prep school over 'culture of conformity and fear'

The Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey is a private prep school where high school tuitions costs just over $50,000 per year. Tuesday an English teacher at Dwight-Englewood named Dana Stangel-Plowe announced she was resigning her position because of the school’s embrace of Critical Race Theory, an ideology she believes is harming students at the school. A group called the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) published Stangel-Plowe’s resignation letter, which reads in part.

I believe that D-E is failing our students. Over the past few years, the school has embraced 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. I reject the hostile culture of conformity and fear that has taken hold of our school.

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.

As a result, students arrive in my classroom accepting this theory as fact:  People born with less melanin in their skin are oppressors, and people born with more melanin in their skin are oppressed. Men are oppressors, women are oppressed, and so on. This is the dominant and divisive ideology that is guiding our adolescent students.

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. Students have internalized the message that this is the way we read and think about the world, and as a result, they fixate on power and group identity. This fixation has stunted their ability to observe and engage with the full fabric of human experience in our literature…

Sadly, the school is leading many to become true believers and outspoken purveyors of a regressive and illiberal orthodoxy. Understandably, these students have found comfort in their moral certainty, and so they have become rigid and closed-minded, unable or unwilling to consider alternative perspectives. These young students have no idea that the school has placed ideological blinders on them.

But it’s not just the students who feel it necessary to self-censor in this environment. It’s also the teachers who’ve been forced to accept the new CRT hierarchy including segregations of teachers by race:

In 2019, I shared with you my negative experiences among hostile and doctrinaire colleagues. You expressed dismay, but I did not hear any follow up from you or other administrators. Since then, the stifling conformity has only intensified. Last fall, two administrators informed faculty that certain viewpoints simply would not be tolerated during our new “race explicit” conversations with our new “anti-racist” work. They said that no one would be allowed to question the orthodoxy regarding “systemic racism.” The message was clear, and the faculty went silent in response.

The reality is that fear pervades the faculty. On at least two separate occasions in 2017 and 2018, our Head of School, standing at the front of Hajjar Auditorium, told the entire faculty that he would fire us all if he could so that he could replace us all with people of color. This year, administrators continue to assert D-E’s policy that we are hiring “for diversity.” D-E has become a workplace that is hostile toward educators based solely on their immutable traits.

During a recent faculty meeting, teachers were segregated by skin color. Teachers who had light skin were placed into a “white caucus” group and asked to “remember” that we are “White” and “to take responsibility for [our] power and privilege.”

In addition to her resignation letter, Stangel-Plowe provided FAIR with documents collected from the school. One document labeled “Faculty Training Materials” included faculty responses to leading questions from a recent training session. In addition to things like pursuing “equitable grading practices” and calling out microaggressions, someone suggested they launch a “‘targeted deprogramming / de-radicalization strategy toward identitarian white boys.”

This was all published yesterday and has only been picked up by Fox News and a few other outlets. We’ll have to wait and see if there is any response from the school or if other teachers are willing to back up some of these claims. Here’s Stangel-Plowe’s video announcement about the reasons for her resignation.

Jazz Shaw Jul 03, 2022 10:01 AM ET