Paul Rossi: How My Private School Tried to Force Me to Indoctrinate My Students
“They’re trying to carve out an intimacy with the child where they can foster a certain view of the world sheltered from what the parent thinks—and even turning the child against the parent and against the parents’ values.”
In this episode, we sit down with Paul Rossi, a former math teacher at Grace Church School in Manhattan, New York. Last year, he made waves when he published the viral article, “I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated.”
Since leaving Grace Church School, Paul has become an activist exposing woke ideology being implemented in schools, both public and private. He breaks down how it works—from racially segregated Zoom training sessions to lunchtime “affinity groups”—and how to identify the red flags.
Jan Jekielek: Paul Rossi, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Paul Rossi: Thank you, Jan. It’s great to be here. Thank you.
Mr. Jekielek: Paul, it’s been almost a year since you wrote what ended up being a very popular op-ed, “I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated.” Shortly thereafter, you left Grace School. (Grace Church School, NYC) Why don’t you remind us of the details of what actually happened from your perspective, and what prompted you to write this piece?
Mr. Rossi: I had been teaching math at Grace for nine years. I started in 2012 when the high school opened. The school started on a progressive platform, essentially, but gradually became more infused with critical social justice ideology. It started to impact a broader sense of the curriculum and the lives and the community. The school decided to have a Zoom session for white students and faculty only. It had a parallel session for BIPOC students and faculty only. BIPOC stands for black, indigenous, and people of color. The content in those meetings I found out later was very different, but I was in the white-identifying session. That session, which was supposed to be about helping students cope with the pandemic, helping them cope with their relationships, with their peers, and trying to get all their work done if they’re stuck at home, that kind of thing, turned into a session about white supremacy.
The facilitator who was very nice, and actually talked with us afterwards, put up a slide that discussed the characteristics of white supremacy. They included certain things that I felt were not helpful. I questioned it openly in the meeting with about 200 of my colleagues and students there. Some of the characteristics included things like individualism, objectivity, what was called “worship of the written word,” perfectionism, and even a right to comfort. I thought that was interesting in a session that was supposed to be about managing students’ wellbeing and self-care. As this facilitator showed us these characteristics, she said, “Now, many of you may feel strange looking at these things on the slide. You may experience white feelings.” I just didn’t know what a white feeling was.
So, I pressed unmute on the Zoom, and I said, “What is a white feeling?” Now, in every session that we had in the school up to this, no one had openly questioned these beliefs that were being presented as knowledge. I had seen many of the students go along with these things, even though I knew many of them had doubts about it. Frankly, I was looking for an opportunity where I could model for the students that it was okay to doubt these things and to openly doubt their validity. I don’t think that the students who doubted felt that they could question these things openly, in what was for us a public setting, with most of the community.
I was pleased because it helped to create an environment where people started asking questions. So students started asking more questions. Teachers started questioning it, and it seemed to be on the verge of an actual discussion breaking out about whether these things were true or not. That was what I wanted. Then after the meeting, there were meetings about the meeting. I was called on the carpet by my administration. I was told that I had created harm. One of the questions I asked in the meeting was, “To what extent do I, as a supposedly white person, must I identify with how society sees me? If race is a social construct, to what degree does an individual have to adopt those visions, that version of themselves as part of their identity?”
Maybe the answer is 100 per cent. Maybe we don’t have any control over our identities based on how others see us. Maybe it’s 80 per cent, maybe it’s 20 per cent, but I wanted to put it out there, so the kids could think about it. I lean more towards 30 per cent, but I didn’t want to say that. I just wanted people to think about it. That’s all. So, that was seen as denying my race and in turn, denying the race of the BIPOC students who were not there, minimizing their lived experience, minimizing their identities in our society and causing serious, grievous harm. Merely by asking the question, I was accused by the administration of harming not only the students, but their families, their ancestors, and of not helping the greater good and the higher truth.
Mr. Jekielek: Were you the only person in this school that was thinking this way?
Mr. Rossi: No. There were others. I had many one-on-one conversations, more than a handful, with colleagues in many departments, not just math. Sometimes it took the form of, “This is going a little too far. I wouldn’t go as far as you, Paul, but I definitely have concerns about this anti-racist instrument, like the pyramid of racism.” I had to teach that to some of my advisees, which I refused to do. My concern really was that the kids were clammed up. They were not in a place where they could articulate these things in any type of group setting. And not just white students, but also students of color, from all backgrounds.
Mr. Jekielek: You describe this as a potentially problematic thing, these two different sessions, which we presume had quite different content. Why is this indoctrination? This is a big question, I know, but you wrote, “I refused to stand by.” You took this hard position. Why is this indoctrination?
Mr. Rossi: Well, to a certain extent, I’m not somebody that thinks that there’s never any indoctrination. There’s always some degree of “indoctrination” going on. The question is, in the high school where I taught, what was happening was explicitly a political indoctrination that was based around the idea of a moral imperative. A collective morality, which focused on certain maxims like impact, regardless of intent, was more important, as well as things that conflated the difference between physical and emotional harm. It was the idea that you could grievously traumatize someone for voicing an opinion that was unwelcome or provocative. This created an environment where certain politicized ideas, ideas about race, ideas about identity, ideas that blatantly align with the liberal Left wing of the Democratic party, and ideas about climate change, were not open to discussion, or if they were, it was in a very perfunctory and dismissive way.
Mr. Jekielek: What is the thing that you found the most problematic? I’m sure you have one, or maybe a few.
Mr. Rossi: In addition to math, I also taught a class on persuasion, which was a rhetoric class. So, we had more wide ranging debates. In one case, there was a student who was talking about the riots that occurred after the murder of George Floyd. He used the word riot. He said, “Well, there were riots.” Then he was shouted down by three students who said, “Protest, protest.” Then he said, “Yeah, yeah, protest.”
So, the question isn’t, “Were there protests, or were there riots?” There were both. But he was talking about the riots. He wasn’t saying there was no such thing as a protest. That was one of the examples of the atmosphere. There was also a general atmosphere where identity was everything, and a certain social identity was everything. How you were perceived was structurally determinative of your path in life. If you were a black-identifying person, because you had been black-identified by society, you therefore had a certain expectation about how society would treat you and a certain set of strategies in place for how you should struggle, not only for your own success in life, but also for those of your tribe, the people who are also black-identified around you.
And it was the same for white people. If you were identified as a white person, you benefited from a certain set of anticipated privileges. That also guaranteed what you could be assumed to know or what you could be assumed to want, even unconsciously. You could say, “No, I really try to treat people equally based on their personality or our interactions and an anti-racist moral schema.” But no, your biases actually prevent you from behaving that way.
Furthermore, you don’t even know what your biases are. You need to rely on the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” experts to tell you what those are, or have a person of color to school you or call you out in certain situations that you may not be aware of. This was a pre-emptory form of identity that the kids were interjecting into themselves. They were doubting their own perceptions and implanting this worldview about how limited we are as individuals based on our social identities. I really found that to be the most disturbing thing.
Mr. Jekielek: What happened after you published this essay?
Mr. Rossi: I was still working as a teacher for the school, so I had a choice to sign the contract for the next year. The contract had been revised after I spoke out at the Zoom meeting to say that, in order for me to teach another year at the school, I would need to attend restorative justice training led by the office of community engagement, which is the diversity, equity, and inclusion office. When I asked what that session would entail, what were the things that I would have to do, and what it would it mean to participate, I wasn’t given any details. I was just told, “Look, you just need to sign or not sign. We’re not going to help you out here.” So, I didn’t sign. Because I realized if I signed, I would be signing onto something that I didn’t know what it was or how it would be conducted. If I did sign, it would mean that I was implicitly saying it was okay, when I hadn’t even been told what harm I had caused.
Mr. Rossi: Four or five days after my article came out, the school contacted me and said, ‘Since the community is upset with you and they feel harmed by you, we’re going to reassign all your classes. You need to stay home and teach remotely.” But I actually wouldn’t even be able to teach remotely, because my classes had been reassigned. They were saying, “ Why don’t you participate in this task force, addressing some of your concerns in your article?” That was actually a very creative way of dealing with it. But it was a task force where I wouldn’t really have direct contact with anyone. My only contact would be the assistant head of school. So, I declined to do that too, because it was, again, a way of tacitly approving of the policies. It would essentially just put me in a rubber room for the rest of my teaching contract. I decided not to do that either. Then when my contract ran out in August, that was it. I was out.
Mr. Jekielek: Of the many people that had concerns, or have concerns to this day about this curriculum or this approach, why are you the only one who had something to say publicly?
Mr. Rossi: Some of it is the context of my life and what I can do. This is my third career. Teaching was not my first or only career. I am skilled at other things. I can code a website. I can survive. I’ve reinvented myself in the past. There was that, where I felt that I could take risks. I didn’t know this would happen, but I figured for a higher good, I could do something. The other thing is, I don’t have any kids. There are so many teachers that see something is wrong, but they have dependents, and they need to feed them and house them and they have a duty to them. I felt like I was in a place where because of my personal circumstances, I could take risks that for other people would be harder to take. My feeling is, yes, you have a duty to your family, but you also have a duty to do what’s right. You have a duty to the students. If you feel something, you should say something.
Mr. Jekielek: I have seen people surprised that this is so prominent in private schools, because there’s no government involvement. Ostensibly, these schools are choosing to implement these curriculums. Why would they do that?
Mr. Rossi: Some of it is a matter of cover. There are many, many reasons in private schools. Some of it is they just want to do the moral thing, since morality has been drained out of public life and religious schools. Some of these schools had a religious past, but it’s been supplanted by a different religion. That religion is critical social justice. In their quest to raise ethics and nurture ethics among their students, they’ve glommed onto this. It connects them to a higher purpose, even though in practice, it does much more harm than good. The other part of it is, a lot of these schools are predominantly white schools, in the sense that they have more white students than minority students. There are serious class issues here, and culture differences.
Mr. Rossi: So, they need some ethos that’s going to blanket over and bind the student body. Social justice offers that, where one group of students sees themselves as oppressors and silences themselves, while another group is to promote “belonging,” as they call it, and encouraged to take on a political identity. That’s a very difficult balancing act. It’s going to be interesting to see whether these schools can survive, because there are deep inherent contradictions in that. In the environment of a school, you really cannot voice opposition to this. It’s become a totalitarian ideology in these schools.
Mr. Jekielek: This is what others have related to me in all sorts of other settings—it’s just very divisive among the students or people.
Mr. Rossi: Yes. What’s remarkable is that kids are great. They’ll form friendships, even despite this, which tells you that there is something wonderful about youth. You can form relationships across these boundaries, even though the boundaries are exacerbated. So, I have a lot of hope that this can be overcome, but it’s going to take students to do it. There’s been a lot of involvement from parents and some teachers. But, ultimately, there has to be a student action where they push back against this heavy identity-driven education. I call it seducation really, because it’s seducing people away from the transcendence of what it is to be an individual and getting them to attach to their tribal identities—whether that’s race or gender or these things that create group conformity around a certain sense of where do I belong, where do I fit in?
It’s really institutionally-sanctioned cliques, almost. What I’d like to see students say is, “My identity isn’t your business. I’m here to learn to read, I’m here to get skills, I’m here to learn to do math, and calculus, and algebra and all the things that are going to help me in life and help the people I love. I’m not here for to be your guinea pig about what identity it is or what gender I am, or what my sexual preferences are.” Teachers have arrogated to themselves and administrations have arrogated the power—with the moral patina of doing it for the good of the kids—for this stuff which is not their business. It’s the parents’ business. Teachers and administrators need to get out of that business, because it’s cheapening, it’s warping, and it’s diminishing the individual.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s a huge debate about that, isn’t there? This whole election in Virginia, I think the critical issue in that election was this question, right?
Mr. Rossi: Yes, totally, and it’s encouraging. Parents know what’s wrong, they’re not stupid. They know that their kids are being exposed to stuff that is not simply teaching slavery or teaching the history of racism in this country, or even the ways that we still have problems with racism. It’s about a particular worldview, which says that depending on the circumstances of your birth, you have this or that outcome. That is a fact, and you can look forward to that based on how you were born into society. That means that if you’re a white kid, then you have this privilege and you have to atone for your oppression. If you are a black kid, you can expect the whole world to be arrayed against you simply because of the color of your skin. I think that’s evil. I think parents know it’s evil too. And I think that they’re doing something about it.
Mr. Jekielek: A lot of people that are looking at this stuff have questions. There are elements of it that seem like they make sense, like they’re attractive. A lot of people watching this might even be wondering to themselves, why? Tell me a little bit about this process of where you became convinced that this is problematic, because initially you didn’t.
Mr. Rossi: No. I was Left-liberal myself. I wanted these things. Who could be against diversity? Who could be against inclusion? Who could be against even equity, reducing inequality in society? These are not necessarily bad things. But the question is how is it being implemented and what is happening underneath the pretty words? So, diversity justifies itself. These experts will justify it saying, “Studies have shown that diversity in corporate environments leads to more creative solutions.” Great. Yes, absolutely right. But how they use that is diversity of skin color is actually what the game is.
Now, that’s great. It’s important to have opportunities and to improve access. But what it is creating is an intellectual monoculture. No matter what your skin color is, you ascribe to this particular worldview around critical consciousness, critical social justice. It’s essentially conflict theory. People say it’s Marxism, but it’s even bigger than that. Essentially, it’s a conflict theory, which says that history moves forward when the contradictions are reconciled through being conscious of them and there is struggle between opposites. So, that’s the real agenda here. Students are being used as tools for history. The teachers are looking at students and not teaching them to evaluate their ideas based on truth, but based on the marginalized status of the person saying it.
It is often true that history moves forward from the voices of the marginalized, but it doesn’t mean that just because you’re marginalized that you are right, which is the implicit message that the kids are internalizing. If someone is speaking who is of a marginalized group or racialized group, then that person has a moral authority that I as a white person do not possess, because I am of an oppressor class, essentially. The process of evaluation of what a truth claim is or isn’t, is not being conducted along objective criteria. So again, if you want to instantiate this ideology, you have to take down objectivity as well. So, all of these things fall into that solipsistic grab bag of the things that you have to toss out.
Mr. Jekielek: Another term that we’ve been hearing is a type of education that is called social and emotional learning. People have been describing this as a kind of a gateway into this or the pre-DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) approach. What are your thoughts on this?
Mr. Rossi: Yes, it’s interesting. I have some familiarity with it. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ll tell you my thoughts on it. It’s another way for institutions and the expert class to interpose themselves into the identities of children. They say, “Let’s get to know you. It’s important for your health, and for you to get to know yourself. So, we’re going to ask you a bunch of questions in order to help socialize you with the other kids, because everyone wants society to get along. You’re going to get to know yourself. You’re going to get to know your likes and your dislikes, and we’re going to manage that for you. We’re going to collect that data.” God knows where the data’s going to go. Some things have already come out where that data goes places that the parents don’t want it to go.
“In the process, we’re going to create a healthier, more, equitable, more just society.” But it seems to me that it’s reducing the individual to a set of preferences, which can be commodified and which can make you a better customer. It can make you more easy to market to. After taking these questions, if you start to think of yourself as, “I like ice cream and I’m Colombian. I am from this part of the world and that informs who I am. I have my social identity and my personal identity. I have this cluster of labels that I apply to myself. Those labels may help me interact with other kids who see themselves as labels. “ But it’s not going to get them to the transcendent limitless potential of the individual. That’s where all the greatness and joy of life comes from.
It doesn’t come from a label. If I give it to myself, it may make me reduce my anxiety or it might make me feel better about myself. But the creative dynamic self transcends all labels. I want the kids to understand that. Your creativity and what makes you special doesn’t come from some identity which you could fit on an index card. As traditional moralities and religions have been washed out or leached out of society, we have this impoverished view of ourselves. Now we’re teaching the kids to have that same impoverished view. We could give them marching orders and we could say, “The world is unjust and here you go, and here’s what you’re supposed to do about it. But that’s indoctrination. That’s not letting them come to their own conclusions or letting them solve their own problems.
Mr. Jekielek: Some people have described what some of the teachers are doing and also what ends up being the dynamic among the students as bullying. Do you agree with that?
Mr. Rossi: Yes. It’s a moral imperiousness, this idea that there aren’t two sides. Or if there are two sides, one of them is morally superior to the other one. That is really dangerous. There is always a moral thing to do, without limiting principle. Remember Barry Goldwater? He said, “Extremism in pursuit of virtue is no vice.” I’m probably mangling the quote. But it’s this idea that if we are going to stop climate change, everything should be at our disposal, because it’s an existential crisis. The world is going to end. When you catastrophize everything, there’s no moral solution, there’s no practical solution which could have enough costs to outweigh that benefit. That means we need to cut our industry, we need to cut our oil. Who cares what it does to inflation, who cares what it does to jobs?
Mr. Rossi: That’s what we see now with Biden, if I’m going to go into that realm. You have that same logic playing out around the extremism of saying that if I question the riots, if I say that burning down property is wrong, then I don’t care about black lives, and that riots are the language of the unheard. These are really thought-terminating cliches that shut down conversations, because the moral purity and the moral clarity of who’s good and who’s bad is unquestionable. If you even posit the other side of that and say, “Actually I care about black lives more than you, because I care about everyone who lives in the community. I care about the business owner. I care about the services they provide. I care about the schools and I care about the infrastructure.”
“If you burn down property, then what’s going to happen? No one is going to invest in that.” Then someone would say, “You’re just supporting capitalism and capitalism is slavery.” So, it cheapens and shortcuts real conversations around these issues, which limits students, limits the teachers, and limits discourse. It limits all these things. And ultimately it doesn’t educate anyone.
Mr. Jekielek: It strikes me that it limits the creation of reasonable policy that requires some critical thinking and compromise.
Mr. Rossi: Right. And consideration of unintended consequences.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes.
Mr. Rossi: We may mean well, but what’s the outcome?
Mr. Jekielek: Actually that’s really interesting too. This idea that it’s the outcome that matters, not the intent, but somehow when it comes to actually implementing things, it’s only the intent that matters and the outcome doesn’t. I find this dichotomy bizarre.
Mr. Rossi: Yes. The morals are for thee, not for me. If I tell you, “You’re an oppressor. Your impact matters more than your intent. You may be wanting to do good in this world, but actually you’re harming kids. You need to do better. You need to question your biases and really get into what’s animating you as a white man. In fact, your even asking about this is really indicative of your fragility.” There’s a whole thing you could go into there, I’m sure you’re familiar with it. But if I am the oppressor, and I’m speaking for the marginalized, my intent is everything. What’s my impact? Maybe I’m hurting the people who have been oppressing, but actually I need to double down because really I’m in it for the greater good.
Once all of these terrible things have been swept away, then the beautiful glorious future will arrive. The impact that you’re feeling right now is temporary and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but you’ll thank me in the end. Because I’m really helping you, because you are actually imprisoned by your own biases. Once you free yourself, you’ll be fine. The self justification is limitless.
Mr. Jekielek: There is that line from C. S. Lewis that comes to mind, “The people that torture you for your own benefit, those are the most difficult to deal with and they imagine it’s for your own good.”
Mr. Rossi: Yes, exactly. And that gives you license to torture, because then you have God on your side. It’s most dangerous when, because of things that have been done to you, you commit excesses, that’s really just comeuppance for the oppressors. You believe that you are on the side of the angels.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the things you’ve been talking about lately that I’ve been following is that the way some of these lesson plans or ideas are presented publicly is really quite different from what actually gets taught or how it’s implemented.
Mr. Rossi: I’ve been watching hundreds of hours of DEI training in the past three months, just to really understand what’s going on under the hood and how this matches what I saw, because I wrestle with this stuff. I could be wrong. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s something here that I’m missing. I keep watching these things over and over. I come to different conclusions about how it plays out. I saw a training session, which was presented by a fourth grade teacher and a fifth grade teacher. They both talk about how they implement Black Lives Matter in the school curriculum in their private school. The way they do it really reflected back to me what I had seen at my school. They will start with the empathy of the child and they will steer it towards a certain type of collectivist morality.
They will instantiate that morality on an interpersonal level within the classroom. Then they will take that as a foundation for the political ideology or the political position. I’ll give you an example. The fourth grade teacher in this presentation says, “We talk explicitly about restorative justice. One of the aspects of restorative justice is reparation.” I choose that word very carefully. Reparation means it’s not enough to say you’re sorry, you have to repair the harm done. She tells a story about one student stepping on another student’s foot, and then taking that foot off. She uses that as an analogy saying, “It’s not enough to take your foot off, you have to ask the person if they want ice? Can I massage your foot? Because that foot is still throbbing.” So, it’s not enough to just say you’re sorry, you have to do something about it.
Now, that’s not a terrible thing on its own. There’s a grain of truth there. Now it’s trivializing it because she says, “The kids would always say why didn’t you just take your foot off. Big deal.” Well, it is a big deal. So, you take this trivial thing and you say, “There’s harm here.” And restoring that harm never ends. It makes everyone in the group responsible for everyone else’s happiness, which is a total collectivist morality. If someone is harmed, who harmed you? Okay. You harmed him? Well, you have to restore that person’s wellbeing. So, we’re all responsible for everyone else’s wellbeing. Which is okay, maybe to some extent, but there’s a limit to that. Where’s the limit?
What happens with the fifth grade teacher is once they’ve instantiated that vocabulary, “reparation,” then they can have a debate about why we need to have reparations for slavery.
Speaker 3: Reparation—what actions are taken to repair the harm? How am I repairing the harm every single day? Harm doesn’t get better one time. Harm needs to get better over time. I use the words, consequence and reparation, because language is important. They need to start to hear the language, so that when they get to Carl and Carl says, “We’re going to have a debate on why we need to have reparations for slavery in America.” It’s not that he’s not teaching them in his meeting, because they’ve already internalized what a reparation is.
Speaker 3: They fundamentally know, reparation has to be making something better over time. One of the ways that we do this is also with reading. We have done front desk this year, and one of the characters, Hank, is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and he’s vindicated. The police officer comes to say, “He’s no longer being charged.” The police officer says, “Well, what can I do?” And he says, “Well, you can be better.” And at this point, my fourth graders have had this for several months, and they said, “That’s a horrible response.” All right, let’s talk about this. “Why is it a horrible response?” “There’s no real change. There’s no reparation. He’s not doing anything.” So, my fourth graders are already starting to get into this idea of how does society not help each other?
Mr. Rossi: Okay. So, the morality is instantiated. The vocabulary is implanted. Then they discuss why in this particular way, “We’re going to debate about why, not whether or not, or how, or in what way, but why?” Which means once you know that reparation is a moral good, then that’s not much of a debate, is it? Reparations are good. Some people don’t want to give reparations, and some people do. “We know reparations are good, so of course, we want to give reparations.” There is nothing about the limiting principle, nothing about the moral hazard. Can anyone claim harm? If someone claims harm, does that mean that they’re entitled to redress, and to what extent? Are there unintended consequences? Who’s going to give reparations? The people who are going to pay for that didn’t do any of the bad things themselves, and many of those people don’t have ancestors that did the bad things.
Everyone’s going to pay for this. And who’s going to get paid? All those questions never come up. It’s just a moral good. It’s implanted at the level of emotion, and that’s the most powerful level. So, that’s what people remember, and that is what lasts. That’s why my focus is on the early years, the earliest grades, because that’s where they connect to morality.
Mr. Jekielek: Where does this 100 hours of curriculum come from? That’s a lot.
Mr. Rossi: Yes. There are conferences that have been leaked that I’ve had access to that people have shared with me. So there is a lot there.
Mr. Jekielek: These people aren’t coming forth publicly, but privately they’re feeding you the things they want exposed.
Mr. Rossi: Right. Then when I write about it, they shut it down. They shut down those things. Those things are not available publicly. They’re trying to hide it because they know that public scrutiny is bad.
Mr. Jekielek: This is one of the side effects of COVID, or maybe a silver lining. I’ve heard these stories again, and again, and again—parents just wandering in and listening and hearing what is being taught to their kid via Zoom, and suddenly they say, “What?”
Mr. Rossi: Yes. What was that?
Mr. Jekielek: Right. It’s very interesting. There’s this whole movement and it’s the equivalent of police having body cams, parents can actually see what teachers are doing.
Mr. Rossi: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: It has its own potential problems. As a teacher, you’re now being micro-scrutinized by parents.
Mr. Rossi: I’m on the side of the parents, but I don’t know whether cameras in the classroom are a good idea. It would be very difficult as a teacher to teach under this scrutiny. Maybe it works the other way. Maybe some parents who are very hyper-attuned to social justice would know my beliefs and they would be ready to pounce if I said the slightest thing. I don’t think that’s going to work, but transparency bills are important. I think those are good.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay.
Mr. Rossi: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s a public face of this education, which you dispute is even education, and what is actually taught is different.
Mr. Rossi: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: How can parents deal with that? They are given a desk lesson plan, and is that the real lesson plan or does it just get scrubbed?
Mr. Rossi: Yes, exactly. It’s not a panacea, because the teachers can lie and teachers will lie and they do that because they’re on the side of the angels. They know better than parents. There’s no moral humility there. They’re going to say the parents are all white supremacists anyway. We’ll just tell them something or we’ll be very generic in the syllabus and we’ll teach something else in class and that’s alright. You have to expect that, but it’s better than nothing. At least the parent has something on paper. They can ask their child, “Is this what you learned in class?”
“Well, no. It was more than that.”
“What do you mean?”
There’s no substitute for a parent’s involvement with the child. There’s no legislation, no silver bullet that is going to create a relationship with the parent and the child. That’s just between the parent and the child.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the solutions that’s been brandished about is school choice, having the money follow the student, as opposed to the system, as they call it. What do you think?
Mr. Rossi: It’s a start, but it’s not the answer, because private schools are riddled with this too. We need to see a movement of schools that are classical education schools, that get back to the basics about how to create independent thinkers with a rich understanding of rhetoric and logic, about how to think for yourself, and reinvigorate the classics. The classics belong to everyone. They are not just Western civilization, they are everyone’s birthright. To deny them to people based on the color of their skin or to deny them because the people who said those things don’t look like you is criminal. These are the things, these are the ideas, these are the thinkers that made our society possible. If you cut people off from that and you cut civilization off at the knees, you cut all the things that are the engines of progress. You hamstring them. You create a situation where they fall apart.
Mr. Jekielek: A number of people I’ve had on the show, who are studying critical social justice wokeism, say that is the purpose.
Mr. Rossi: Yes. Right. I tend to think so. I don’t think everyone who teaches it thinks that way. There are people in it, some of the academics and thought leaders who are definitely pushing that. They’re not even hiding it. But it’s masked by a lot of flowery language that pulls a lot of people in. “We want a more just and democratic future. We want collective liberation.” Collective liberation, it’s pretty much out there, but it’s the idea that we can make a better society. And everybody wants a better society, okay. But they’re judging our society, which has its flaws, by some perfect lodestone.
They will always find it wanting, and it has a limiting principle. In critical consciousness, wherever you see a flaw, it takes a revolution to undo it. So, just keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing, and break, disrupt, dismantle, and decolonize these structures. Because, particularly with critical whiteness studies, whiteness is everywhere. It’s everywhere. It’s in the air you breathe. It’s in every system. That means that if you have to get rid of it, and that means you have to take everything apart.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s a forever project.
Mr. Rossi: Forever project. Yes. The good thing about a forever project is that you can be paid to work on it forever. That is the other part of this, it’s a career. These people are not revolutionaries. They’re careerists. They’re actually very conservative. It’s the revolution, but they are part of the whole capitalist system. They’re getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. In particular, these private schools pay millions of dollars.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re talking about the people who are bringing these concepts to the teachers in the school systems.
Mr. Rossi: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: All right. Okay.
Mr. Rossi: The DEI commissars, or however you’d like to say it.
Mr. Jekielek: So what about the teachers’ colleges? Obviously, your version of teachers’ college was maybe you didn’t focus so much on these things. But it seems like there’s so many teachers that believe maybe not all of it, but a lot of it.
Mr. Rossi: Yes. It’s 99 per cent. I saw some statistics where they actually even do a questionnaire where if you not align with critical social justice, then you shouldn’t be in the program. It’s out there so blatantly.
Mr. Jekielek: This is fully baked into teachers college?
Mr. Rossi: Yes. Absolutely.
Mr. Jekielek: All of them?
Mr. Rossi: I don’t know. I saw that at one school. I don’t know whether it’s in every one, but certainly in ed schools. The idea that you could survive with doubting these precepts in ed schools, I’ve never heard of it. I did an educational psychology masters, but they’re very, very weak in terms of actual intellectual rigor. I know that much, because in my program I actually delivered my master’s thesis with the ed school graduates.
I had done a 35-page paper with references and everything. They had done, maybe 25 pages, with references it was longer. But they had dioramas and poster boards for their final projects. It was embarrassing. My thesis advisor said, “You don’t want to present with them, because you’ll just make them feel bad. Don’t do it.” I said, “No, I want to get done with my program in a year-and-a-half. Why do I need to take two years? I want to get done with it.” They said, “Okay, go ahead. But it’s going to be embarrassing.”
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating and disturbing.
Mr. Rossi: Yes. Education is a noble profession, but I’m not sure ed schools are attracting the most rigorous thinkers that we have
Mr. Jekielek: Currently, it seems like what you’ve decided to do is to figure out how this system works and expose them, and looking at this video, like we talked about earlier, that teaches teachers how to educate using this ideology, and then exposing it. What are others supposed to do in this context? What should parents be doing?
Mr. Rossi: Yes. Communicate with your child, that’s just the essence of parenting. I’m not a parent, I don’t have kids, but I think that’s what the relationship should be. That’s where the primary relationship should be, not between the student and the teacher. Very often these teachers are trying to carve out an intimacy. Let’s be honest. They’re trying to carve out an intimacy with the child where they can foster a certain view of the world, and shelter them from what the parent thinks, and even turning the child against the parent and against the parent’s values. You see this very much with the trans-stuff going on.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. There are some states that have legislation that says if a child starts asking questions like this, you don’t tell the parents.
Mr. Rossi: Right.
Mr. Jekielek: Right.
Mr. Rossi: Again, the catastrophization they use to justify it is, “Do you want the child to kill themselves? Because that’s what’s going to happen if they don’t get the support and affirmation that they need. You’re putting their life at risk.” That’s the logic. So, that justifies that intimacy, because it’s protective. Safety-ism is also a huge part of this. So as a parent, if you communicate with your child, if you have a good relationship, you create fewer entry points for that kind of thing. Just like you would for any high-risk behavior with the child—you tell them don’t take candy from strangers—then don’t take identity from teachers. Parents need to warn their kids about when they start asking you questions about your identity like, “Do you like boys, or you like girls? Do you feel like a boy? Do you feel like a girl? Get them educated on how to look out for that kind of thing and communicate it back home.
Because that’s so much more valuable—even though transparency is good—than a piece of paper. Because once that door closes, that child belongs to the teacher. Essentially, they can tell them anything they want. They also have these “lunches.” They will have affinity groups based around gender and race or ethnicity where they bring the child into these little lunch groups. They’ll try to foster racialized identity belonging, that kind of thing. I’ve seen teacher training where the presenters will say, “You’ll be amazed, what a kid does for a bag of hot Cheetos. If you get them in your office, get them to tell you their problems. Then you’ll have a student, and you can use that student to build the affinity group.”
So, they tell their friends, and they are referred to as boots on the ground. You get some kids to be boots on the ground and they go and recruit the other kids. What does that sound like to you? It doesn’t sound right to me. This is not an authentic thing. This is something that’s being manufactured.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay. What do you mean by that?
Mr. Rossi: There are cultural differences in schools, there’s no question. It’s the idea of creating a group that’s focused around that identity, and in many cases, an opposition to other dominant identities in the school. So, there’s an in-group and an out-group. Making that happen and fostering that is very calculated. That is manufactured by administrations and teachers. There are things that people have in common, there’s no question. But rather than those commonalities developing organically, they are paid for by the school. They are supported by the school. They are invested in by teachers that have an agenda, and it’s all part of the critical consciousness program.
That’s what you want to watch out for as a parent. Is my child getting sucked into this? Are they getting benefit from it? I’m not saying it’s not beneficial to some degree. It’s a way to make friends. It’s a way to bond over common things, but it is also a gateway to critical social justice ideology, which is the whole oppositional framework, systemic oppression and society that they layer on top of that. So, you just have to be very careful. There are kids that do that, and they’re fine. There are kids that do that and they’re not fine. They get sucked into something that’s a lot more dangerous.
Mr. Jekielek: What about teachers that might be wondering about this program, or wondering how they can make a difference without stepping out and getting fired, or is that what they have to do?
Mr. Rossi: It’s hard to do without stepping out a little bit, whether that means asking somewhat provocative questions in your classroom, or not necessarily agreeing with some of the things that get said. I had a reputation as someone that wasn’t necessarily going along with this stuff. So, kids would come to me sometimes. I was asked to be the advisor of a discourse club. There was a student who approached me and said, “Do you want to start a viewpoint diversity club or discourse?” I was like, “Sure.” When the administration found out that I was the advisor, they gave me a chaperone from the diversity office, because they didn’t want me to be alone with the kids talking to them. They were worried that some kid was going to say something harmful and that I wouldn’t shut it down. So, they assigned someone, and because this other person was there, no one showed up except the student who started it. So, it could be very difficult.
Mr. Jekielek: Kafkaesque, dare I say?
Mr. Rossi: Yes, exactly. But since nobody came, that chaperone went on to other business, because he was busy doing other stuff. Once he went away, the kids started to come back. So, we actually had a pretty nice club, once it was thought not to be an issue anymore. The thing I would say to teachers is, don’t challenge directly. Challenge when the timing is right and do it for the students. It’s difficult. Pick your battles, and pick your timing, because you may only get one shot. The other thing to do is to elicit, and for parents to elicit. Don’t challenge directly when you’re talking to somebody who is a true believer in this, or seems like a true believer. Ask somebody what they mean, “What do you mean by equity? What does that mean?”
“Tell me how do you get from point A to B? How are we going to get there? What do you mean by inclusion? What do you mean by belonging? What are the limits of belonging? Can you have too much belonging? Can you have too much diversity? Is it possible to have too much diversity?” That’s a really challenging question because that says diversity is an unmitigated good. There’s no such thing as too much diversity. When you have these commitments that are transcendental in their minds to these things that are unmitigated goods, even just asking a limiting question will sometimes reframe it. “What do you mean? How’s that possible?” Diversity is good, but it exposes the lack of a limiting principal.
Mr. Jekielek: Are there schooling options that you’re aware of?
Mr. Rossi: It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. Privates, publics, it’s everywhere. You go to their website. Is there a diversity, equity, and inclusion director? What are the commitments that they are making to that? How are they verbalizing those commitments? Look for collaborations with universities, because very often the universities will have graduate study programs. Let’s send people in to collect data or to push a certain idea. Look into that. You really have to do a lot of research on whatever school you’re considering, public or private. To me, the only foolproof method is homeschooling at this point.
Mr. Jekielek: Ultimately, if your kids are in school, you need to keep developing those relationships as best as you can.
Mr. Rossi: Yes, and it can be hard. To get an adolescent to talk about what he did at school, for every 20 questions, you may get one grunt in response, but keep at it.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts?
Mr. Rossi: It’s just been great talking to you and talking about some of these things. I think about the students. If there’s going to be real change, it has to come from the students. It has to come from students. It’s a big ask and they are vulnerable and maybe only 5 per cent of the students can even entertain challenging this, given all the reputational costs that they are subject to. Say to the teacher, “I’m not comfortable with you asking about my identity, and I’m not comfortable with you asking me to make assumptions about my classmates’ identities. I appreciate you as a teacher, but I’m not going to participate in this assignment.”
Mr. Jekielek: Paul Rossi, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Mr. Rossi: Thank you again. Thanks for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: We reached out to Paul Rossi’s former employer, Grace Church School. They did not comment on or dispute any of Paul Rossi’s specific allegations, but directed us to a statement published last fall by the school’s board of trustees and administration called, “The Grace Way.”
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