Parents at An Elite NYC School Claim It's Gone Too Far Teaching Their 8-Year-Olds to Not Be Racist

| MAY 25, 2015 | 10:51 PM
Fieldston School

One of New York City's most elite elementary schools has decided to take a unique approach to preventing racism among its students - and many of the school's wealthy and powerful parents aren't too thrilled about it.

According to New York Magazine, students at Fieldston Lower School on Manhattan's Upper West Side have been recently divided into “affinity groups” based upon the color of their skin.

The goal of the groups, the magazine notes, is for the students - all third, fourth and fifth graders - to feel comfortable discussing race and ethnicity among their “affinity group,” and then bring that discussion to the larger, more racially-diverse classroom to share their feelings.

The program is mandatory for all students in the school and takes place once a week for five weeks. Per the school's website, approximately one in three students at Fieldston - which charges an annual tuition of $43,000 - comes from a minority background.

Parents first learned of the program through an email sent out shortly before winter break by the school's principal, George Burns. Outraged, they let their sentiments become known through emails and at a parents meeting held shortly before the program started in January.

As a result, several parents launched an online petition requesting that the program be dissolved. As of press time, 226 people have signed it.

Response on social media to the idea has been mixed:

Fieldston has a long history of pursuing progressive teaching methods throughout its 130-year history. According to The Daily Mail, it no longer uses Advanced Placement courses at the high school level, and uses a wide range of innovative classwork methods that place an emphasis on ethics, philosophy and community service.

Some of the school's most famous alumni include Stephen Sondheim, Sophia Coppola, Sean Lennon and Barbara Walters.