Photo by MChe Lee via Unsplash

An English teacher at the Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey, Dana Stengel-Plowe, went public with her resignation this week claiming that the school has strayed away from its mission.

Stengel-Plowe, a Cornell graduate and published poet, began teaching at Dwight-Englewood in 2014. In her resignation letter she stated that she joined the school’s staff because she “loved how the school both nurtured and challenged” the students, but that “over the past few years, the school has embraced an ideology that is damaging to [the] students’ intellectual and emotional growth.”

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The ideology she is referencing is called Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is an intellectual framework which demands that society and its institutions be looked at through the lens of racial and power dynamics. The theory has been around since the 60’s, but it’s been ushered into the mainstream in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Many schools around the nation are adding CRT to the curriculum, and many parents, teachers and administrators, like Stengel-Plowe, are pushing back. Stengel-Plowe claims that it “hinders students’ ability to read, write, and think.”

Echoing that statement, Dr. Karlyn Borysenko, an organizational psychologist and an avid public critic of CRT told Scriberr News, “in many schools, teaching critical race theory, social justice and equity is replacing teaching fundamentals like basic reading comprehension, writing, math, etc.” 

“If it were being taught from an objective standpoint as a philosophy that some people believe and many do not, I would have less trouble with it. But that’s not what’s happening. It’s being taught as objective fact and students are not being given other perspectives,” Dr. Borysenko said. 

Stengel-Plowe’s resignation letter states that “students arrive in [her] classroom accepting this theory as fact: People born with less melanin in their skin are oppressors, and people born with more melanin in their skin are oppressed.”

She doesn’t blame the students, but rather believes that “the school is failing to encourage healthy habits of mind, essential for growth, such as intellectual curiosity, humility, honesty, reason, and the capacity to question ideas and consider multiple perspectives.”

Additionally, Stengel-Plowe claims that the ideology’s pervasiveness doesn’t stop at the students. She wrote that “during a recent faculty meeting, teachers were segregated by skin color. Teachers who had light skin were placed into a ‘white caucus’ group and asked to ‘remember’ that [they] are ‘White’ and to ‘take responsibility for [their] power and privilege.’” 

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Ultimately, Stengel-Plowe rejected Dwight-Englewood’s “racialist thinking” in favor of the desire to “empower all students with the skills and habits of mind that they need to fulfill their potential as learners and human beings.” 

The resignation letter was posted to the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism or FAIR website — an organization which seeks to “bring about a world in which we are all judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin.” 

She ended the letter saying she hopes “administrators and board members awaken in time to prevent this misguided and absolutist ideology from hollowing out D-E, as it has already hollowed out so many other institutions.”

Scriberr News reached out to BLM New Jersey Chapter, Dwight-Englewood and Stengel-Plowe for comment, but none responded in time before press deadline.

Written ByPaige Olexa

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