|Today, I am reprinting a letter I received from Andrew Gutman, a New York City parent who, in 2021, pulled his daughter out of the Brearley School, an all-girls private school in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, to protest the school’s woke policies regarding race and gender.
Gutman wrote a scathing letter to nearly 600 families whose children are enrolled in the school, urging them to speak out against the school’s “misguided” policies on racism and cancel culture. His letter decried the school’s focus on Critical Race Theory and the bogus “1619 Project.”
He quickly became the voice of millions of other parents coast to coast who were also angered and frustrated by schools that were indoctrinating rather than educating their children.
Gutman and I corresponded a few times via email. A few weeks after sending his letter to other Brearley parents, he launched a website and newsletter (Speak Up for Education) (https://andrewgutmann.substack.com/) to help parents nationwide share his concerns.
Now, Gutman has given up on New York City and has moved to Florida. In his letter to those who subscribe to his website and newsletter, Gutman explains why he and his family decided to abandon the Big Apple.
Read on. I suspect thousands of other New Yorkers agree with his sentiments.
Florida Beckons as New York City Sadly Wilts
By Andrew Gutman
After two years of hemming and hawing, we decided, like many thousands of others, to relocate from the New York City area to what is now formally referred to as the Free State of Florida. I’d like to share with you why.
For nearly 25 years, my wife and I (and our daughter – now 13) lived in Manhattan. Before 2020, we never thought we’d leave. Ever. We loved the restaurants. We loved the culture. We loved trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and concerts at the New York Philharmonic. We loved walks in Central Park and exploring the city’s vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. Perhaps more than anything else, we loved that New York City felt alive, endlessly stimulating, with infinite possibilities for our daughter and us.
In 25 years, we never felt unsafe. Streets and sidewalks were always complete. The homeless were present but rarely threatening. We were comfortable letting our then 11-year-old daughter take public buses home from school by herself. We never needed to look over our shoulders, venturing out at night. We never thought twice about taking the subway in the wee hours of the morning.
And in 25 years, we never felt unwelcome. Sure, New York City leaned decidedly left. But in a city of 8 million, all were welcome. Free speech was championed, diverse opinions were valued, and intellectualism was celebrated. For 25 years, we lived in what we thought was the greatest city in the world.
Then came 2020. I’d like to say the city changed, which in many ways it did. But I think it is more accurate to say the rot was exposed. First came covid.
By the time covid hit the area in March (or at least when it was reported to have become prevalent – since it was almost certainly circulating before March 2020), we had enough data from Northern Italy to know what we were dealing with. Covid was a nasty and virulent virus, yes. But it was a virus that almost exclusively impacted the very old and the infirm – not the young and healthy – unlike the Spanish Flu of 1918, with which it was wrongly compared. By then, there were already solid estimates of the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR), being not more than 1 to 2 times as deadly as seasonal flu, not 10 or 100 times as fatal as the mainstream media reported. Moreover, we could infer from death counts (which lag infection by 3-4 weeks) that cases had already peaked by mid-March, BEFORE any restrictions were imposed.
There was absolutely no reason to panic and no reason to shut down our beloved city. But panic and shut down the town, we did. Lockdowns, distancing, mask mandates, school closures. None of which had any scientific justification before 2020.
It should have been evident to any thinking person that our government’s response to the virus – and not the virus – would do irreparable damage to New York City. School closures would cause enormous learning loss and long-term mental health damage from which kids would never recover. Conditioning humans to see each other as no more than disease carriers would shatter all sense of community and humanity and decimate a dense, vertical city that depends on elevators and mass transit. Encouraging and forcing online shopping and food delivery would destroy countless retail businesses and restaurants, leaving rows of empty storefronts to be used as nothing more than homeless shelters. Conditioning people to work from home would do long-term damage to work ethics and ravage Manhattan’s business districts.
Finally, we were told by our esteemed governor that all our sacrifices were justified if they saved only one life. This naïve and childish attitude ignored something worse than the direct collateral damage of those sacrifices. By destroying the very fabric and culture of New York City in a matter of a few short months, we trashed the life’s work of the many tens of millions of New Yorkers who made the city so special over decades and centuries.
In the early days of the pandemic, these were all points I tried to make in countless online comments to the endless fearmongering articles in the New York Times. Those comments completely fell on deaf ears. I finally gave up.
I wondered. Where were all the thinking people? Where were all the tough and cynical New Yorkers who were supposed to be better than anyone else in the world at calling bullshit?
As it turns out, a few were reprehensibly silenced, but most were easily duped and brainwashed. The constant panic-inducing media onslaught proved too much. As fear overcame them, most New Yorkers gave up their minds and handed over their souls to Cuomo and Fauci, two of the most narcissistic and power-hungry men to ever grace the airwaves of CNN.
Then, in the summer of 2020 came George Floyd and the so-called racial reckoning. Say want you to want about the tragedy of George Floyd, but the BLM protests and riots that happened over that summer are a direct result of covid lockdowns. Young people, bored and restless, having been cruelly isolated for months with no school, no playgrounds, and no outlets save toxic digital media, were all of a sudden let out of their cages. The virtue of staying home to save Grandma was instantly forgotten. The new virtue was to join the protests and atone for the sins of slavery and Jim Crow. The level of hypocrisy was hard to fathom.
I was curious, so I walked through a few daytime protests. Big ones down Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Peaceful? Sort of. Block after block of mostly teenage and 20-something-year-old white males chanting “NYPD Suck My Dick.”
At night a different story. Rioting and looting. The CVS pharmacy in our building had its windows smashed. Cars outside the building were vandalized. An attempt to break into our garage was stymied only because they couldn’t get through the locked gate.
Principled activism indeed.
Defunding the police became a rallying cry. So-called social justice trumped all semblance of public safety. Looting equaled reparations, and property destruction was justified for centuries of oppression.
And once again, I wondered. When would New Yorkers wake up? Do we want to go back to the bad old days of the 1970s? The days of squeegee men and subway graffiti? Of syringes in playgrounds and drug deals on stoops? Of nighttime car thefts and daytime muggings? Or worse?
We stayed through the riots and curfews of the summer. My wife was slapped and knocked off her Citi bike while riding in Central Park. Shaken up but not hurt, she was one of many that afternoon. The police said she was welcome to press charges but also that there was no point in doing so.
We held out hope that New Yorkers would finally come to their senses. But by the fall of 2020, life in the big city was no longer viable for us. We were being harassed and fined ($500 per occurrence!) for our refusal to wear useless cloth masks in the empty lobby of our condominium building. With sadness, we left our apartment of 12 years, the only home our daughter ever knew.
By comparison to New York City, suburban New Jersey felt relatively free. We could leave our home without the Gestapo writing down our names. We could go for walks without being mask-shamed. We even found a handful of restaurants that refused to enforce the absurd charade of the 30-second masked March to your table, followed by the 2-hour maskless meal. New Jersey was no paradise (duh!), but it was far less stifling than life in New York City. But for us, it was always a temporary stop.
After we left Brearley, we put our daughter in a small private school in New Jersey for the 2021-22 school year. It was the only non-woke secular school we could find in the New York City area. The school, still run by its headstrong founder, valued real education: math, history, literature, and Latin. No politics. No ideology. Just a school.
Unfortunately, the school only went through 8th grade (our daughter was in 7th). If we were to stay in the New York City area, we’d have to make a plan for high school. The only viable plan seemed to be the one I had fantasized about since my Brearley letter went viral: a brand new school—the highest possible academics and a strong focus on history, civics, and the liberal arts. In a nutshell, a classical secular school is a model utterly absent from New York City school landscape.
I started down that path. I met with school founders from all across the country. I spoke to prospective parents and prospective teachers. I looked at Manhattan real estate. I pitched potential philanthropists. Many were enthusiastic, even with the $100+ million price tag for a moderately sized K-12 school. I made progress, but I couldn’t fully commit to this project until I fully committed to returning to the city.
For the next year, nearly every night brought the same debate. Do we return to Manhattan or pack up and head down to Florida? We yearned for the old, pre-2020 New York. But would that city ever come back? Was New York City savable?
I held out just a bit of hope. Perhaps the new mayor, Eric Adams, would prove the white knight the city desperately needed. Almost immediately, that hope vanished. While not the avowed Marxist of his predecessor, Adams quickly showed himself as thin-skinned and vain, surrounding himself with corrupt yes-men. He belittled parents’ pleas to remove senseless and abusive covid measures such as masking toddlers. He displayed little backbone in standing up to teachers’ unions and equity-obsessed health officials. And while he sometimes said the right things on crime, he proved no match for district attorneys who won’t prosecute and the progressive legislatures that support them.
My final hope was that we could rally enough parents to turn the tide, as Virginia did in electing Glenn Youngkin governor last November. I joined several parent groups fighting to save education and restore normalcy for kids. I made many new friends in these groups of courageous and tireless moms and dads. But alas, we didn’t have anywhere near the numbers necessary. And every week seemed to bring the sad news of another core member fleeing New York for brighter and saner pastures.
By this past summer, the answer I had been avoiding was unavoidable. New York City is not savable. Not for a generation, at least. Possibly not forever.
The city is not yet unlivable like the west coast progressive bastions of San Francisco and Portland, though it is headed that way. Residential neighborhoods are dead after 8 pm and on weekends. 24-hour drug stores, which now close at 9 pm, have most of their merchandise under lock and key. The homeless are menacing. Shoplifting is rampant. The cops are nowhere. Pot smoke is everywhere. A sense of lawlessness pervades.
New York is also a place whose political leaders and many of its residents simply cannot or will not move beyond the fear of covid. Once united and resolute in the aftermath of 9/11, this formerly resilient city has become the city of wallowing and victimhood, of the perpetually scared and lazy, and of the selfish, self-absorbed, and self-diagnosed immunocompromised.
Finally, and worst of all, New York City is hostile to children, and by natural extension, to families. We have abhorrently treated children as human shields for nearly three years, ignoring common sense, irrefutable data, and any semblance of morality. We have closed their schools, canceled their sports, made them eat lunch outside in the cold and rain, masked them for hours on end with no breaks, and forced vaccinations on them that cannot be justified by any reasonable cost-benefit analysis. Even today, we exclude many from extracurricular activities and many of their parents from school functions and meetings.
The lifeblood of any vibrant city is not tourists or foodies, commuters, or clubbers. The lifeblood of any vibrant city is families. New York City is no longer a place to raise a family.
So now we’re in South Florida. My parent’s generation always said Florida is where you go to die. Perhaps that used to be true. But with New York City dying, it seems fair to say that Florida is now the place you go to live.
If you’re in the neighborhood, reach out. Thanks for reading Speak Up For Education! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work. Subscribe
[NEXT: Andrew Gutman’s Letter to fellow parents with children in the Brearley School.]
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