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Mona Charen: New Trier H.S. swings too far left on civil rights

New Trier High School in Winnetka will hold a seminar for students Feb. 28 titled "Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights." | WBEZ via Google Images

There is no way to prove this, but see if you agree with me: The average American parent would be glad to see his public high school celebrate Martin Luther King Day with tributes to the civil rights movement, lectures on the history of slavery and Jim Crow and discussions of the challenges faced by blacks and other minorities in America today.

Actually, it’s not really a guess, because curricula like that are found throughout the nation.

The program that is being imposed on Winnetka, Illinois, by contrast, is a hard-left indoctrination that could have come straight from the pages of Howard Zinn. Held on MLK Day itself in 2016, this year’s seminar day on race, “Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights,” is scheduled for Feb. 28.


The school-wide program will feature a full day of lectures and seminars, and as the title betrays, the slant is built in. As one of the parents who has protested the content noted, civil rights are for everyone, aren’t they? There are no “racial” rights. That was Martin Luther King Jr.’s point, or one of them.

New Trier High School has scheduled two keynote speakers and dozens of seminars from which to choose for its 4,000 students. One or two are unobjectionable, like “Black Gospel Music: Make a Joyful Noise!” or “Rap With a Social Conscience” (though much would depend upon which rap was discussed). But the rest of the offerings are thoroughly turgid agitprop.

Students can attend a session titled “Seeing the Unseen: The Bias All Around You” or learn to “recognize our own implicit biases.” They can attend seminars about “cultural appropriation,” “trans people of color navigating the U.S.,” “race, class, and police interactions,” “systemic racism in housing,” “myths” about affirmative action in college admissions, and “21st century voter suppression.”

High school students range in age from 14 to 18, so you might imagine that some care would be taken to avoid speakers whose social media are rife with profanity, racial epithets and sexual content. No. Political radicalism means all is permitted. John the Author, one of the invited speakers, has a song titled “Blackenomics,” which includes the following lyrics: “I don’t wanna be king, but I’m the only one ready for it now/ Cause all these other n—– selling out/ Individualism is all these (obscenity) yelling about/ Divide and conquer. White supremacy the silent monster.”

One might have hoped, in a program dedicated to civil rights and mutual understanding, that the guests might steer clear of racism and anti-Semitism themselves. Kevin Coval’s poem “Occupation” says this about Israel: “Fascist ones believe in one monotheism, a walled prison/ Israelis sleep through the night.”

Monica Trinidad will conduct a talk titled “We Charge Genocide: An Emergence of a Continued Movement.” Her Twitter feed encourages people to boycott an Israeli dance troupe (“Don’t dance with Israeli apartheid!”) with a link to the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) hashtag. She tweeted a picture of mounted police officers with the comment: “Get them animals off those horses.”

So, one might suppose that New Trier parents would be enraged. Yet the pushback has been about as polite, substantive and reasonable as you could possibly wish (especially in our bitter era). On their website (, they suggest adding other speakers to achieve — wait for it — intellectual diversity. They note that, in contrast to what the seminars hammer home, people of the same race do not necessarily think alike. Among the speakers the parents group recommends: Shelby Steele, Jason Riley, John McWhorter and Star Parker.

Rather than marinate in doctrinaire leftism heavily inflected with a Black Lives Matter sensibility, the parents object, why not have students volunteer for the day (Chicago is 16 miles south)? The website offers other volunteering suggestions: “Good News Partners (Rogers Park), Connections for the Homeless (Evanston), Pastor Corey Brooks from New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn and ‘’ ”

Despite multiple requests, school officials have refused every appeal from dismayed parents. No to additional speakers. No to adding another seminar at a later date for different viewpoints. No to requiring that parents sign off on their children’s seminar panel choices. No to postponing the program until parental input could be considered.

New Trier has very few black students, but the father of one wrote this: “This group (the small group of faculty and students who developed the program) does NOT represent the best of black Americans and does not advocate anything that has a track record of making black lives better.”

These “check your privilege” brainwashing sessions have become commonplace at colleges. Parents don’t seem to know or care enough to protest. The New Trier parents’ group is a sign that resistance to deadening propaganda is alive and well — and polite.

Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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