Who is John McWhorter? Columbia prof slams NJ school's 'antiracism' lessons as teacher quits

Columbia University professor John McWhorter tweeted in support for teacher Dwight-Englewood School who quit NJ school over critical race theory lessons


                            Who is John McWhorter? Columbia prof slams NJ school's 'antiracism' lessons as teacher quits
John McWhorter showed his support for NJ teacher Dana Stangel-Plowe (Columbia University/ FAIR YouTube video)

Dana Stangel-Plowe, an English teacher who recently quit a private school in Englewood, New Jersey, has found support from one Columbia University professor. On June 9, John McWhorter tweeted in support of Stangel-Plowe and asked parents to take their children out of the school, calling them "misguided Elect parishioners".

Stangel-Plowe's much-publicized walking out came as a result of the school's drastic shift towards critical race theory (CRT). Stangel-Plowe alleged that the school's adoption of CRT has been "damaging to students' intellectual and emotional growth". CRT has become a major flashpoint in recent months, as more liberal schools attempt to adopt it while conservatives have slammed it for making White people feel "ashamed". 

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CRT has led to some parents pulling their kids out of schools, and one parent even slammed it as "indoctrination". Stangel-Plowe's resignation has divided the community, but now she can count an academic and journalist as her ally. McWhorter slammed the school, as well as parents in a series of tweets. 

John McWhorter during a TED Talk in 2016. (TED)

Who is John McWhorter?

McWhorter is a noted linguist who currently works as an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. A Philadelphia native, McWhorter earned his BA from Rutgers University, his MA from New York University and his PhD in linguistics from Stanford University. He has also taught at Cornell University and was an associate professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Apart from being a noted academic, McWhorter is also an author and journalist. Over the years, he has authored over a dozen books including 'Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language', 'Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English', and 'Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America'. He has also written for TIME, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, The New York Times and National Geographic among other publications

In the past, McWhorter had drawn some interest for his political views. McWhorter has frequently criticized works that critique racism. Back in 2001, he wrote that Black people's attitudes were what held them back. "These beliefs, rather than what remains of racism itself, are the biggest obstacle to further black progress in today’s America," he wrote. In 2018, he debated that 'antiracism' has become as harmful as racism itself. He's also one of the few people to call out 'racist' technology for being a bug, rather than an issue, contrary to what most technologists believe. "Machines cannot, themselves, be racists. Even equipped with artificial intelligence, they have neither brains nor intention," he wrote in a TIME article

Not everyone has agreed with his views, but that hasn't held him back. In 2020, he wrote, "We cannot allow ‘1619’ to dumb down America," referring to the controversial project by The New York Times to change how the US views its history. It should be no surprise then, that McWhorter is no fan of CRT, which takes a similar path to calling out racism. 

John McWhorter at a conference in Leiden, The Netherlands in 2008 (Jasy jatere/Wikimedia Commons)

McWhorter slams 'misguided Elect parishioners'

McWhorter's latest tweets come in response to Stangel-Plowe's open letter to the Dwight-Englewood School. In the letter, Stangel-Plowe says, "I reject the hostile culture of conformity and fear that has taken hold of our school." She says the school "requires students to see themselves not as individuals, but as representatives of a group, forcing them to adopt the status of privilege or victimhood." 

Responding to that letter, McWhorter wrote two tweets. In the first, he said, "All hail Dana Stangel-Plowe, who has resigned from the Dwight-Englewood school, which teaches students "antiracism" that sees life as nothing but abuse of power, and teaches that cringing, hostile group identity against oppression is the essence of a self." He then tweeted, "Truly antiracist parents, in the name of love of their kids, should pull them from the Dwight-Englewood school as of next fall. Only this will arrest these misguided Elect parishioners from their quest to forge a new reality for us all."



 

The incident is just the latest in a national battle to perceive racism. Conservatives have slammed CRT and the 1619 Project, but some liberals have pushed for it to be included in school materials to teach children about the consequences of racism, that exist to this day. "Students have internalized the message that this is the way we read and think about the world, and as a result, they fixate on power and group identity," Stangel-Plowe wrote.

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