Today I am posting a commentary by 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.”
Gutman 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.
In this commentary, he discusses the ruinous impact the woke concept of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is having on education.
The Ghosts of DEI: Past, Present & Future
By Andrew Gutman
In my last post, I talked about the vital importance of understanding the true meaning of the words used by the woke. Contrary to what Elon Musk and many others are fond of saying, woke is not a mind virus. The vast majority of Americans may have been cowed into silence, but they have not been indoctrinated into the woke cult. Woke is an institutional virus. Once an institution is infected, it is nearly impossible to eradicate the woke virus because woke ideology shuts down the institution’s immune system to bad ideas. That immune system is free speech.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, is the primary mechanism for how woke ideology takes over an institution, as well as the primary justification for changing the mission of an institution. Once entrenched, DEI becomes the new institutional operating system, influencing every aspect of the organization. So, of all the words in the woke lexicon, the holy trinity of diversity, equity, and inclusion are the most imperative to understand.
I have written before about the definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion, including in a piece I authored for the Wall Street Journal with my friend, Paul Rossi. Here, I try to simplify things. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to comprehend DEI is to think of it in terms of past, present, and future. Diversity is the past. Inclusion is the present. Equity is the future.
The woke virus first entered our institutions through the idea of diversity. Diversity simply reflects the lowering of an organization’s standards with the purpose of increasing the number of individuals from some underrepresented minority group. In the context of DEI, diversity is a near synonym for affirmative action. The original intent of diversity was to increase black representation, though quickly, it was also put to use to boost the ranks of women.
Once an institution changes the standards for admission and hiring, it has no choice but to also lower the standards within the organization for such things as grades and promotions. An organization cannot appear to be discriminating on the basis of race or sex. I wrote more about the consequences of diversity initiatives in my recent piece on the case against affirmative action.
We’ve seen the effects of diversity over the past five decades slowly corrupt our institutions, especially in education. Now, in the aftermath of the summer of 2020, DEI has moved to its present stage – inclusion – the goal of which is the complete transformation of an organization.
For an organization to be “inclusive,” everyone involved must feel a sense of belonging. In “woke speak,” they must feel (always about feelings!) valued, seen, and safe. Their identity group must be reflected in all aspects of the institution. The exception, of course, is the group of white male heterosexuals, whose values are taken for granted to be the reason why the organization was historically exclusive and unwelcoming.
In a school, for instance, students must see themselves in their teachers, and teachers must see themselves in their administrators. To be properly valued, students also need to recognize themselves in the books they read, the history they study, and even in the math and science they are taught. This is the justification for removing classical literature written by dead white males, reframing history through the lens of the so-called oppressed, and incorporating social justice ideas into math problems and science labs.
No longer are schools focused on passing down a unified base of traditional knowledge to all students nor inculcating a humanistic or patriotic sense of shared values. Instead, in an inclusive school, academic subjects become mere props used to push political ideology into the minds of children.
An inclusive school must also be a “safe space” for all individuals of minority identity groups. A safe space is one that is free from “harm.” Harm, one of the many words that have been redefined by the left, now means any speech, act, book, work of art, or anything else that might make someone feel uncomfortable.
Creating a safe space is further justification to gut curricula, eliminate traditions, and change missions. Worse, however, it is the excuse to absolutely obliterate free speech and open discourse. Any dissent or questioning of the DEI regime or its actions can be deemed “harmful.” Thus, in an inclusive institution, dissent and questioning are de facto outlawed.
As I have written previously, this is why banning DEI, as Florida’s Governor DeSantis is trying to do, is not – contrary to the charge of many leading intellectuals – illiberal. The “I” of DEI, by intention, precludes free speech and academic freedom. Good ideas cannot win over bad ones when good ideas are considered harmful and prohibited. Only with DEI’s complete removal can academic freedom and free speech be reintroduced to the academy.
America’s institutions, and in particular its schools and universities, are in various stages of transforming themselves in the name of inclusion. However, the end goal of DEI is to promote “equity.” On the surface, equity means equal outcomes for all identity groups, as measured by grades, salaries, or any other metric.
How do you achieve equal outcomes? In the diversity stage of DEI, institutions tried lowering standards, but that hasn’t worked to equalize outcomes. In the inclusion stage, organizations will try wiping out differentiating standards. For instance, as the Wall Street Journal reported just this week, schools across the country are eliminating honors classes to “ensure students of all races receive an equal, rigorous education.” But this won’t work either. Even in a regular English or math class, some students are going to perform better than others, and that will be obvious.
The only way to truly achieve equal outcomes is to either 1) eradicate all measurement of outcomes altogether or 2) mandate and enforce equal outcomes. This is exactly what will happen in the equity stage of DEI. Unequal success in school means no grades and no SATs. Unequal achievement in the workplace means the outlaw of salary differences. Unequal wealth means handouts and reparations. Unequal prison populations means restorative justice, exploding crime rates, and the death of cities.
If you think this sounds like socialism or communism, then you are, of course, right. But it is actually worse than that. The goal of equity represents a full frontal attack on the core foundations of American life and of western civilization. Objectivity, liberalism, capitalism, individual rights, and meritocracy are all labeled as “white supremacist” values and are under attack by the high priests of DEI because they run counter to the ideals of equity.
The cult of DEI is most prominent in our country’s education system. But lest you think DEI is only in schools, I leave you with this.
Last week, President Biden signed an executive order that received scant media attention. As the New York Post reported (and few others), Biden’s order will create “a five-year plan for the implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion across a huge swath of government agencies.”
Section 4 of the order is titled “Embedding Equity into Government-wide Processes” and its mandate is “to advance an ambitious, whole-of-government approach to racial equity and support for underserved communities.” Among other things, federal heads of agencies will be required to “prioritize and incorporate strategies to advance equity” into “individual performance plans for senior executives.”
Make no mistake. The DEI commissars have infiltrated our federal government.
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