New Trier High School's Seminar Day continues despite opposition
New Trier High School’s controversial all-day seminar billed as “Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights” went on as scheduled Monday despite the objections of local parents and taxpayers.
The controversy centered on whether the event was truly intended to promote understanding of civil rights or whether it was meant to provide students with a leftist point-of-view. Prior to the event, more than 700 people packed the school’s Cornog Auditorium to voice their opinions its program.
The New Trier High School Board of Education hosted more than 38 speakers who held workshops such as “21st Century Voter Suppression,” “Affirmative Action in Elite College Admissions,” “Blackenomics 101” and “Theft or Homage? A Discussion of Cultural Appropriation” at a cost to New Trier School District of $27,200.
Also controversial was the identity of the group that circulated a petition in support of the board’s decision. The group billed itself as “Support Seminar Day" and the effort was backed by a group called Stand for Children, which is helmed by local resident and Democrat Mimi Rodman, who advocates for increased spending on public schools.
Throughout the day, the conversations weren’t confined to just the walls of the suburban Chicago school. A pair of area residents who’ve come to know the prestigious institution’s inner workings well had a televised exchange
Tony Duncan’s children attend the school, and he was a guest on a CNN segment hosted by anchor Michael Smerconish during which they discussed his thoughts on the situation.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody against Seminar Day,” Duncan told CNN. “What it is most are against is the politicizing of a very nonpartisan issue,” he said. “Racial equality is something that should not be left or right. It should be something we approach for one simple value, that is, access to equal education and economic opportunity.”
Duncan said he's not sure why more conservative voices weren’t added to the mix of what was being discussed.
“Conservative voices make up a fabric of America. Why shouldn’t they have a voice?” he said.
Susan Berger, who was a New Trier student herself, was also a guest on the show. For the most part, Berger steered clear of the politics now figuring into the equation. Rather, her message pointed to the need for greater inclusion.
“What makes New Trier is the intellectual curiosity it’s known for,” she said. “I think all of it makes kids think, question, debate and that’s really good.”
Berger added that value of such experiences can continue to serve them far after their days at New Trier are over.
“One speaker said she was embarrassingly uninformed and she’s now a teacher in Boston,” she said. “She said she wishes she had had this experience.”