The Westminster Schools of Atlanta
To date, the Naked Dollar has focused almost exclusively on New York schools, which might leave the impression that CRT/wokeness is a problem rooted there, or maybe in the liberal northeast.
The Westminster Schools is the most elite private schools in Atlanta. (Note: Westminster has separate both a boys' and girls' schools, thus the plural "schools.")
The following is a letter written by Jonathan Bean, a Westminster alumnus and here-to-fore prominent supporter. It is addressed to Keith Evans, Westminster's president and board chair. I am reprinting this letter in the hopes that it will show others how to respond to their own schools, and also to demonstrate that others have the courage to speak up.
Relevant to some of Jonathan's points, it's worth noting that Westminster was founded specifically as a Christian School. Also, I have made some minor edits in the name of brevity.
Join Jonathan, and stop writing checks until this madness has been thoroughly expunged.
I trust you are well. Recall, we had a call on May 26, a little over six weeks ago. In that call I hope I was clear that I was speaking only for myself and my family’s foundation, not for my wife, her father, his personal foundation, nor for the Woodruff Foundation on whose board he sits.
Since then, and on June 17, I received Westminster’s DEI Annual Report (https://westminster.shorthandstories.com/diversity-equity-inclusion/index.html). I read almost all of it and watched most of the videos. I must tell you the relentless focus on black culture is not representative of our school, nor should it be. There is little real diversity in those videos, and I imagine most viewers found the vignettes unrepresentative of the school and disturbing for their relentless focus on something that has little impact on real education.
I made the following four points with you on our call and feel, based on persuasive evidence presented to me, that these are serious issues which have fundamentally changed the way our school operates, and have all been either initiated or nurtured by you and your administration. These issues are driving a wedge between you and most of the alumni and parents, including myself, which could have been easily avoided. I made it clear to you that should these points not get addressed, I will no longer support the school until such time as they are resolved. The issues are:
- Intolerance of conservative/Christian views is now the norm at Westminster.
- Teachers and children should not be able to disparage the sitting President of the United States whether Republican, Democrat, or something else.
- Artwork critical of police should not be allowed. The police need to be supported in every way.
- Political protests on the part of Westminster’s teachers, administrators, and especially its President is unbecoming and should be prohibited. Your participation in the protests last summer was an act of poor judgement which I find utterly mind boggling for a sitting President of a school who purports to represent the entire school.
These efforts to invalidate the legitimacy of our elected officials and to undermine the authority of public servants tears at the heart of our Republic and damages the psyche of young minds in your care. Taking political positions by faculty and staff undermines the legitimacy of the school.
- The politicization of every academic discipline at the school has affected almost every grade level at the school.
- Telling all middle school white students they are racists is a lie and psychologically damaging. Watch what happened to this young girl when she was told she was a racist and had “white privilege” - https://bit.ly/3Bi8edM.
How many Westminster Schools’ students might feel as she does about this lie?
- (Faculty) criticizing the US Constitution should be off limits, especially to lower school students
- Staff usage of social media should be kept to a minimum and clear policies should be in place for its use. Violating these standards should be a terminable offense.
- Tribalism/divisive training is actively encouraged at Westminster
- Affinity groups should be abolished, especially those that actively promote separation by race or (sexual identity) in all its forms. These groups serve no purpose other than to bring discord and accentuate differences between students and should rightly be left at the gate. These affinity groups do not raise kids’ consciousnesses and should not be used to “give them a voice,” as you said.
- We should be operating a completely color-blind system at the school.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion is the mantra of Westminster.
- When I asked you to tell me the difference between the words “equity” and “equality” you could not. Let me help you with this:
From the Milken Institute of Public Health comes this definition,
“Equality: What's the Difference? Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. ... Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.”
To be clear, the “equal outcome” described above is a Marxist concept. Am I to understand that Westminster is now encouraging Marxism and expects Marxist outcomes? Look up the definition of Marxism if you are confused about any of this. Marxism is anti-capitalist, anti-family and has never worked in any setting.
- We also discussed the word “inclusion” and I made the point that the school is actually exclusive and to say it is anything but, is a lie. You rightly pointed out that only one in four applicants is accepted at the school, so to continue with this inclusion falsehood amongst the students further confuses them and leads to further false logic and damage. My recommendation would be to come up with some other term if you feel you need the students to feel something. How about the word “special”, or “privileged”, the second word often heard in the context of DEI.
- We didn’t touch much on the term “diversity” in our conversation, but I would say the most important thing you can do as an administrator is to promote diversity of thought. Diverse opinions hashed out in a classroom are probably the best way to teach young minds, while recognizing that you are teaching in a Christian environment. While Exeter, where I also attended, was not a Christian school per se, we had Harkness tables of no more than 10-12 students who would discuss a topic introduced by the teacher, who would then only occasionally help guide the discussion for the class. I remember well one of my religion classes when the teacher came in and said, “God is dead. Discuss.” Based on the previous evening’s reading, this led to a lively discussion amongst the students and will likely never be forgotten by many there.
In short, it is my belief that whatever pedagogical standards you think is DEI, its relevance for Westminster is misguided and untested. It’s a new concept. Why you think the school would follow this new pedagogy at such an early stage in its development is reckless. Stick with what has worked when it comes to teaching.
As you know, Westminster has been an historically politically conservative school and to change to a politically liberal one is likely at your peril. Perhaps what you may have been feeling is pushback against our last U.S, President, but I assure you Buckhead is a historically conservative area of Atlanta and without its residents’ support, you will have a more difficult time managing the school.
More than anything else, you should take a pause from what you are doing. I have read many letters to you and the board from dissatisfied parents and alumni, know of more than a handful who are pulling their children from our school, and think you likely have a near revolt on your hands. Think about this – even in the late 60s and early 70s when the whole world was “on fire,” this did not happen. Do you know why? Inspired leadership from our own Dr. William Pressly. Let that sink in for a moment.
You often like to say, “We are on the right side of history”. I can tell you categorically that you are wrong. You are on the wrong side of history if you continue to take these various neo-Marxist approaches to educating Westminster’s students. There is no example of a successful communist state based on Marxist principles. It has been thoroughly debunked by every respected economist and I believe you need to go back to the drawing board on this.
I direct your attention to a recent article in the New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/28/opinion/racism-antiracism-discrimination.html. As you can see, even this liberal publication is pushing back against what you and other educators espouse. There have been hundreds of recent examples of articles like this and thousands of examples of severe push back by parents all over the country. I especially recommend you read the following book by Charles Murray, which demonstrates the disconnect between “systemic” racism and the facts - https://www.amazon.com/Facing-Reality-Truths-about-America/dp/1641771976. He describes the blowback that will likely happen if educators like you continue to teach ideas such as Critical Race Theory.
This all being said, I am heartened that you are starting a “planning process” this summer to develop a “sense of where we are.” I think it important to take a hard look at what you have created, come up with a better solution that meets the needs of an historically conservative school, then implement something that will work for everyone.
Until the school changes back to something that resembles what it once was, it will not have my support.
Jonathan S. Bean
Naked Dollar thoughts: I don't agree with one point, the one about prohibiting teachers from protesting on their own time. Such personal views should, however, be prohibited from the classroom. But also note the head of the school couldn't articulate the difference between equality and equity! Click here for the Naked Dollar primer.