Another Prestigious School Pummeled by Critical Race Theory
There is a lot of trouble afoot at my alma mater, and it seems worth sharing. Maybe that should be “more trouble,” because prestigious Regis High School has been in the news of late, with its president being fired over charges of sexual misconduct. A Jesuit-run institution, and yes, the high school of one Anthony Fauci, Regis is not “prestigious” because of my particular alumnus status (nor that of my colleague, Daniel Tenreiro), nor because of cost (actually, it’s tuition-free per its founding in 1914). Simply, it is regularly ranked as the best Catholic high school in America. It got that status because it was a determined fire hose of classical education that graduated young men who were put to many a test so they could think and analyze as adults, for God and country, as the blunt school motto stated. But now, Regis — like many a school — seems ashamed of its legacy and purpose, maybe even of Deo et patria, and has become quick to genuflect and lie prostrate before the gods of Critical Race Theory. More on that shortly. Back in the day, when Abe Beame was still mayor: Every year, Regis took around 120 Catholic boys (parochial-schoolers from classes low to high, and having a silver spoon in your mouth at birth was not a condition of acceptance) from New York and the surrounding area — through competitive exam and ensuing interview — into the freshman class. A goodly amount fell away through the ensuing four years (a grade of 75 was failing) of grueling and unrelenting work (learning Latin, self-taught physics among the heavier stones to push uphill). There was many a big brain among my classmates, but how I survived to graduate with the remaining 100 remains a mystery. All being in this together, close quarters for four years, you could not help but notice the black classmate was black, the Puerto Rican senior was Puerto Rican, the gay freshman was gay. (We noticed the musical one was musical too, the artistic one artistic too — but such things are of no use in our times of pigmentary politics and cultural ethics.) My experience and perception was that we were all young guys who regarded each other as comrades. We were caught up in some worthwhile academic marathon. Ours was a brotherhood that transcended the facts of the Sharks vs. Jets neighborhood characteristics that still held forth. Able to walk in only my own shoes, I look back and find Regis to have been a place of e pluribus unum, of sanctuary, a haven, of true camaraderie — a thing set against the backdrop of a New York choked by unrelenting racial tensions. I feel blessed to have gone there, to have run the race, to have crossed the finish line, no matter how distant from most of my classmates. Come 1978, about a third of them were graduating into Ivy League institutions. For many, the four years of academic rigor might have had a little something to do with that outcome. So slapping the “prestigious” label on Regis is a legit thing to do. It is also the legit thing to do to draw attention to the progressive turmoil that seems to have enveloped this school — as it has most institutions — in an attempt, either blind or willful, to supplant its mission (here, a Catholic education) with the leftist ideology that is Critical Race Theory. The elites have demanded it, and Regis complies. Don’t, and you are indeed a racist institution. That’s how the rationale goes, right? At its essence, Christianity is a belief in salvation, love, redemption, and forgiveness. At its essence, CRT is about classification, vilification, repudiation, and being unforgiving. How a Catholic institution such as Regis can replace one with the other is a scandal of monstrous proportion and an act of utter sinfulness. (It is interesting to note that the school is named after a 17th century French Jesuit, John Francis Regis, a remarkable evangelist who converted many to Catholicism and worked tirelessly to reinvigorate the faith throughout France; his great disappointment being he was never to go to the New World to convert Indians, a task that resulted in the martyrdom of many other Jesuits, but let us not talk further of that annoying topic of defending the faith.) There is a letter. It seems to this alumnus (who had no role in this document) a proper thing to give it attention. It is the voice of parents of current Regis students who are starting to say: “Enough. This is not what our sons signed up for. What you are doing is wrong and bad.” The letter began circulating among the alumni community last week. Its authorship is unknown (to me, anyway) at this time, although its charges and intimations are indeed reflective of at least some Regis parents. It is a tale of how a storied institution of learning may be crippling itself, of a school of a distinct purpose consumed by the insatiable era of wokeness and cancellation and 1619 hatred for God and country. Good for these parents. Bravo. Their letter is published in full here as received (except for “superscripts” replaced): This is an open letter from a group of concerned alumni and parents. Up until July 8th of last year, we were thankful that Regis remained faithful to its mission of academic excellence and fostering a spirit of generosity and service to those in need, and had resisted the fashionable racism inherent in Critical Race Theory (CRT) that has been embraced by other educational institutions. We felt confident that the academic rigor and focus on critical thinking that Regis has instilled in its graduates for over a century made Regis immune to the anti-rational, anti-liberal, anti-meritocratic, neo-racist ideology that is Critical Race Theory. Regis’ reckoning came last summer when an anonymous group created an Instagram page called @BlackatRegis in response to a letter Regis emailed to the entire Regis community on June 3, 2020. Many of the stories on @BlackatRegis are awful, and we want to be clear that racial harassment and discrimination are unacceptable. We expect Regis to address any incidents swiftly and decisively. However, the @BlackatRegis site does not simply draw attention to these incidents. It prescribes, as the remedy, the adoption of CRT ideology. The @BlackatRegis site contains links to two letters to Regis. The first letter is anonymous and states that the “mission of this project (@BlackatRegis) is to highlight the experiences of Black alumni, current students, faculty, and staff at a school that perpetuates racism and explicit anti-Blackness.” The second letter, a document called “Dear Regis — Black Lives Matter,” was signed by over 600 Regis and REACH alumni and faculty. It is also full of CRT jargon and condemnations of Regis’ behavior: It calls the reasonable and measured June 3rd letter from Regis “a slap in the face from an institution that prides itself on forming students into Men for Others” (emphasis theirs). Rather than praising Regis for creating, guiding, funding and running the visionary REACH Program since 2002, these alumni write “Simply put, REACH cannot be Regis’s absolution from taking a clear stand against white supremacy or addressing the realities of race within the country, the city, and the four walls of the school.” “If Regis really stands in solidarity with its Black students and is seriously committed to racial justice, it will use its privilege, take concrete action and encourage the Regis community to do the same. While Regis has many flaws in its curriculum, in the culture it fosters, and in its engagement with its community, the purpose of this letter is not to harp on those failures but rather to hold the school accountable…Provide the resources necessary to properly educate all your students about the realities of race, power, and privilege in America.” These alumni chastise Regis’ (which gave them all an entirely tuition-free education) request for donations in the letter as “not only ill-timed but extremely inappropriate and disrespectful to the communities who are experiencing a great deal of anguish.” Instead, these signatories “call on (Regis) to do (its) part and use (its) resources to donate to any number of organizations committed to the liberation of Black lives and the dismantling of white supremacy. The following links provide lists of possibilities compiled by organizers toward which Regis can focus its efforts and resources. https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/#donate https://sites.google.com/view/blm-petitionsfunds/home Like so many schools around the country, Regis appears to have immediately surrendered to this particular prescription for addressing the racial climate on campus. This is evidenced by the July 8th letter sent to alumni, the Race at Regis Initiative, multiple new Diversity steering committees, and the March 19th announcement of the school’s decision to hire a full-time Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI Officer) in addition to another full-time hire focused on recruiting more “diverse” students. CRT proponents coined the phrase “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” the April 11th announcement of a new Interim President who is a staunch CRT advocate (see next paragraph) In fact, it appears that Regis has embraced CRT ever since @BlackatRegis emerged. Many decisions were made during a time when Regis had no president. On April 11, 2021, the Regis community was informed that Christian Talbot, a current board member who attended Regis and also spent 13 years teaching at the school, is now our Interim President. A quick perusal of Mr. Talbot’s internet presence (he is the founder of a consulting company called Basecamp) indicates that he seems to be a strong supporter of CRT who recommends books by Ibram Kendi (a leading proponent of CRT), and is against standardized tests like the SAT. Unless alumni speak up, we fear our Interim President, the to-be-hired Director of DEI, and the Diversity Steering Committee are going to do irreparable damage to our alma mater, despite their good intentions. CRT advocates work to weaken or eliminate entrance exams, reduce curricular focus on the Western Canon, set firm racial quotas for students and faculty (regardless of qualifications), and achieve “Equity” (equality of outcomes) by reducing all students’ performance to that of the weakest. As alumni and parents, to the extent there is any racism at Regis, we want it eliminated. We want to ensure that ALL students feel safe and welcome. Regis’ sudden embrace of CRT is particularly upsetting when those of us who have been involved with Regis for decades know how hard Regis has worked to address the concerns of the black Regis community. Regis has been trying to hire more black faculty for over a decade. There is an enormous amount of competition for black teachers. 20 years ago, Regis designed the REACH Program to help more students of color prepare for the rigors of a Regis education when their local schools may not have been up to the task. Regis opens a Pandora’s Box when it pledges to ensure that the Regis culture is “free from any racial or other bias, either implicit or explicit” in its July 8th missive to alumni. Pledging to eliminate IMPLICIT bias gives the CRT advocates control over all aspects of life at Regis, from admissions to curriculum, pedagogy, teacher training, grading, and discipline. All objective standards become subjective, and decisions are based on emotion rather than reason. From the CRT perspective, you cannot defend yourself against a charge of implicit racism, because the feelings of the accuser are given greater weight than an objective view of what actually transpired. From the CRT perspective, to challenge implicit racism is evidence of racism. Once CRT is given a foothold, it impacts all aspects of a school. Indeed, the job description posted by Regis mandates that the new Director of DEI be involved in every aspect of the school (admissions, curriculum, “professional development for all faculty and staff”, strategic planning, hiring, and “programming for student formation”). We have provided links to numerous articles and essays on CRT in the appendix to this letter. We whole-heartedly encourage Regis in its efforts to become a more inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds. Students who engage in racial harassment must face consequences for their actions. Regis should discuss these issues and the importance of judging people on their character and putting ourselves in others’ shoes with the students when they first arrive freshman year. But that does not require embracing CRT and going down the same path as Grace Church High School, Dalton and Brearley. We much prefer the common humanity approach to dealing with racism and hope the Regis administrators, faculty, and Board of Trustees agree. OUR REQUESTS: We have seen at other institutions that when a school restructures its educational philosophy around the principles of CRT, free and open debate is quickly replaced by a climate of fear and silence. We want to ensure this does not happen at Regis. We ask the Board of Directors and Regis Administration (including the Interim President) to be wholly transparent about any plans to implement CRT-based training or curriculum at Regis. We want to know what this will mean for the school, specifically in terms of admissions, curriculum, pedagogy, grading, discipline and the overall mission of the school. We request that they agree to take proactive steps to ensure that Regis remains a place where rigorous pedagogy, critical thinking, and free and open discussion remain the norm. In particular, we request that before anything related to race at Regis is implemented by the school, it retain a consultant of the common humanity approach to racism to review such decisions and policies. These matters would include candidates for DEI Officer, candidates for the new full-time admissions hire, any race-related policies or policy changes including, but not limited to all race-related proposals from any Board committee or sub-committee, all proposals from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee and Diversity Steering Committees, all proposals, programs, recommendations and other suggestions from the to-be-hired Director of DEI proposed speakers at the school — whether to the Board, faculty, or students (CRT experts would be permitted, but only with equal time given to an equally qualified opposing voice) The consultant would have to be associated with a common humanity inspired group such as 1776 Unites, FAIR, Counterweight, — groups that work to eliminate racism without resorting to the fatalistic, neo-racist, CRT ideology that is so divisive and pervasive at the moment. This consultant would share their view on these matters with the Board, administration and alumni. Their recommendations would not be binding on Regis — just as Regis should not hand over the reins to those who support CRT, it should not hand them to those who oppose it. We would also like the school to agree that the to-be-hired Director of DEI will be responsible for teaching at least half a full-time teacher’s workload (two classes). A full-time DEI officer will feel obligated to find “implicit” racism and bias everywhere in order to justify their continued employment. No other peer school we looked at (Xavier, Fordham Prep, Cristo Rey Harlem, St Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, and Iona Prep) had a full-time DEI officer — they were all part-time obligations. If Regis does not promote CRT, we request that the school stop using CRT terminology, both within Regis and in communications with alumni and the broader community. We request that the Board vote on this and all race-related issues anonymously. CRT proponents call anyone who refuses to comply with their demands racist — voting anonymously is the only way Board members can vote their conscience without fear of retribution. We request that the school give us equal treatment by sending this Open Letter to all alumni and posting it (or a link to it) on the Regis.org website, just as it sent the @BlackatRegis Instagram page to all alumni in its July 8, 2020 letter and currently directs people there on the school’s website. If you are a member of the Regis Community and support the opinions expressed in this letter, please send an email to the law firm of Allen Harris PLLC at [email protected] with your name and year of graduation or relationship to the school. Allen Harris PLLC will not share anyone’s name with us or the school, unless you specifically request that your name be shared. It will only inform Regis how many people emailed them in support of this letter. Thank you for caring enough about Regis to read this letter. May ours be the noble heart, strong to endure . . .