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Caught in a Tradition Warfare, Georgetown Day Faculty Holds Quick to Its Mission

By , in Politics , at March 24, 2022

After Republicans attacked the varsity throughout Choose Ketanji Brown Jackson’s affirmation hearings, dad and mom, college students and alumni stated they firmly embraced its values.

WASHINGTON — A decade after the Supreme Court docket struck down segregated education in 1954, the president of a neighborhood affiliation right here wrote a letter urging leaders of native personal faculties to cease granting scholarships to additional the reason for integration, asserting that it was “unwholesome and unwise to have a scholar physique so miscegenated.”

One of many founders of Georgetown Day Faculty, which had been built-in for 20 years at that time and whose inhabitants was one-fourth Black, wrote again.

Edith Nash, one of many faculty’s founders, famous that not solely had it “at all times had extra white candidates for scholarship help than Negro,” however “a totally combined enrollment is our intention,” in accordance with the letter, elements of which had been printed in The Washington Submit that 12 months.

“Should you really feel this inhabitants is ‘miscegenated,’” she added, “that’s your drawback.”

Almost 60 years later, the primary built-in faculty in Washington nonetheless firmly embraces the mission of its founders. Georgetown Day got here underneath a nationwide microscope this week within the escalating culture war over antiracism teaching in schools.

The conflict spilled into the confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the primary Black lady nominated to the Supreme Court docket, who has served on Georgetown Day’s board of trustees since 2019.

The elite personal faculty grew to become a goal of Republican senators, who portrayed it because the poster little one for essential race concept, an educational time period that conservatives have co-opted to problem efforts to show youngsters about racism and inequality.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, took intention at Georgetown Day in her opening remarks at Choose Jackson’s listening to on Monday. The college had hosted a “woke kindergarten” program, Ms. Blackburn asserted, and it had taught 5-year-olds that they will select their gender and “pushes an anti-racist schooling program for white households.”

Ms. Blackburn advised Choose Jackson that her “public endorsement of this kind of progressive indoctrination of our youngsters causes one nice concern with regards to how you could rule on circumstances involving parental rights.”

T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Occasions

However many Georgetown Day dad and mom, college students and alumni say the varsity’s historical past of social justice activism and its antiracism efforts had been why they selected to enroll there.

In interviews, many individuals within the faculty’s group proudly cited Georgetown Day’s founding worth of racial equality, in defiance of segregation legal guidelines. The concept college students had been being indoctrinated — and that the varsity’s core values had been being weaponized towards the primary Black feminine nominee to the Supreme Court docket — was as unjust because it was insulting, they stated.

“Georgetown Day Faculty’s founding exemplifies what may be greatest about this nation: folks of numerous backgrounds coming collectively to make their group a greater place for everybody,” stated Debra Perlin, a mother or father of a first-grade scholar. She described the varsity as a “nurturing, caring and academically rigorous atmosphere.”

Forty p.c of the 1,075 youngsters who attend the varsity establish as college students of shade. Core to Georgetown Day’s tutorial imaginative and prescient is fostering open-mindedness and a collective dedication to justice, dad and mom stated; it held a Transgender Day of Visibility final 12 months and a week of Black Lives Matter events this 12 months.

Chris Suarez, one other mother or father, stated he wouldn’t describe his kindergartner as “woke” however worldly. “My son brings house books which are reflective of the variety of cultures in the US, that open him as much as many various views,” he stated. “And I feel that’s a beneficial factor.”

Conservative lawmakers tried to color Choose Jackson as a champion of essential race concept primarily based on her previous citations of authors and texts used to form fashionable civil rights debates — specifically, Derrick Bell, the lawyer who’s extensively credited with founding essential race concept, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of The New York Occasions’s 1619 Project.

However Georgetown Day emerged as a stunning goal.

Situated within the rich Tenleytown neighborhood in Northwest Washington, the varsity has for many years educated youngsters of the liberal and conservative elite. Dad and mom who select to enroll their youngsters purchase into its mission, for more than $40,000 a year.

That the curriculum is hardly foisted on households who search out the varsity appeared to matter little to Republicans who injected it into Choose Jackson’s hearings.

Hilary Swift for The New York Occasions

One of the racially charged lines of questioning got here from Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who claimed on Tuesday that Georgetown Day’s curriculum was “crammed and overflowing with essential race concept.” Flanked by a blown-up web page from “Antiracist Child,” by Ibram X. Kendi, Mr. Cruz held up book after book that he described as assigned studying on the faculty and grilled Choose Jackson about whether or not she endorsed their messages.

He went on to read a passage from another of Dr. Kendi’s books, “Stamped (For Youngsters): Racism, Antiracism and You,” which is also in the library catalog and on studying lists on the private school in Houston that Mr. Cruz’s children attend.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Cruz stated his questions weren’t meant to counsel that folks didn’t know what their youngsters had been studying, or that there ought to be any motion taken towards the varsity — which might undermine rules like faculty alternative and personal faculty autonomy that Republicans champion.

“I’m saying that Choose Jackson is on the board of a college that aggressively teaches essential race concept,” he stated, “and that’s an excessive and divisive concept that pits youngsters towards different youngsters, divides us primarily based on race, and teaches a false and revisionist historical past of our nation.”

Choose Jackson advised Mr. Cruz that she had not reviewed the books and that they don’t come up in her work.

However what resonated most amongst members of the Georgetown Day group was her description of the varsity’s “particular historical past,” citing the Jewish and Black households who banded collectively to create the establishment in 1945 as a result of their youngsters couldn’t attend public faculties collectively.

“The concept of equality, justice, is on the core of the Georgetown Day Faculty mission,” Choose Jackson, whose dad and mom attended segregated faculties, told Mr. Cruz. “It’s a personal faculty such that each mother or father who joins the group does so willingly, with an understanding that they’re becoming a member of a group that’s designed to guarantee that each little one is valued, each little one is handled as having inherent value, and none are discriminated towards due to race.”

Aidan Kohn-Murphy, a senior at Georgetown Day and the president of the Pupil Workers Council, its scholar authorities, stated he was “confused” by the “gotcha questions,” given the varsity’s historical past.

Hercules Zhang/The Augur Bit

Mr. Kohn-Murphy has attended Georgetown Day because the fourth grade, and he stated he couldn’t recall being instructed in essential race concept or studying any of the books that Mr. Cruz displayed. However together with “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Nice Gatsby,” he stated he had learn books that reinforce the notion that the “struggle towards racism just isn’t being colorblind, not pretending that racism doesn’t exist.”

“Nobody is indoctrinating anybody,” he added. “We’re studying from the previous.”

Georgetown Day has additionally taught Mr. Kohn-Murphy tips on how to weigh numerous views, he stated. In eighth grade, college students are required to finish a mission on a constitutional situation and to have interaction with audio system who maintain opposing views. His group selected affirmative motion. One of many audio system his group invited was Edward Blum, the conservative legal strategist who has fought to overturn affirmative motion in school admissions and who helped carry a case towards Harvard College to the Supreme Court docket this 12 months.

Choose Jackson is one in all 23 members of Georgetown Day’s board of trustees; her greatest buddy and college roommate, Lisa Fairfax, a legislation professor on the College of Pennsylvania, is the board’s chairwoman. Choose Jackson wouldn’t be the one Supreme Court docket justice with ties to Georgetown Day: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall, the primary Black Supreme Court docket justice, additionally despatched their youngsters there and Justice Marshall sat on its board of trustees.

Georgetown Day describes the board as working intently with its head of faculty to make sure its “short- and long-term monetary well being” and to safeguard its “founding function as a racially and religiously inclusive faculty whose academic philosophy derives from the idea that range is the bottom out of which nice studying grows.”

Spokeswomen for Georgetown Day and its board of trustees didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The Republican Nationwide Committee this week despatched an e mail taking intention on the faculty’s just lately enacted Anti-Racism Action Plan, citing parts like affinity groups, which it stated amounted to “racial segregation.”

Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Occasions

The motion plan features a litany of range, inclusion and fairness efforts, together with “anti-racist education programming for white families,” a brand new mentoring program for college of shade and contemplating classroom demographics as a part of the location course of for college kids.

At a parent meeting the place the top of faculty mentioned the plan, Ms. Fairfax launched a new provision in the enrollment contract that folks signal, the varsity newspaper reported in January. The availability required that folks “acknowledge and perceive that G.D.S. is an establishment that values range, fairness and inclusion, and that has made a dedication to work actively towards particular person and systemic racism, hatred, oppression and bigotry of any variety.” By signing the doc, dad and mom agree to hitch within the faculty’s efforts, it stated.

The availability solely formalizes what many alumni and oldsters described as an unwritten contract that had been understood for many years.

Sean High quality, the mother or father of a junior who has attended the varsity because the second grade, stated his son was studying tips on how to confront the identical societal points the varsity was grappling with when he graduated in 1992.

“Our youngsters should not robots,” Mr. High quality stated. “They’re not advised what to assume, they’re taught tips on how to query, they usually’re uncovered to concepts in an open atmosphere.”

Referring to Mr. Cruz’s assault, he added: “They’re being taught tips on how to establish issues like this — techniques that divert away from what we actually must be speaking about.”

Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting, and Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.

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