Last winter, an impassioned debate about anti-racism broke out in Manhattan’s elite private-school community. It started with Dalton when a document, signed by 120 members of its faculty and staff, and featuring 24 proposals intended to help the school move toward its goal of becoming a more “structurally anti-racist institution,” was made public. Suddenly, Dalton parents were speaking out in protest. “Many of us do not feel welcome at Dalton any more,” a group calling itself “Loving Concern @ Dalton” declared. “That really hurts to write.”

Then the floodgates opened. Riverdale was next on the hot seat. Then came Grace Church. And then Brearley parent Andrew Gutmann fired the shot heard round the Upper East Side—a letter alleging that Brearley was not only requiring “unsophisticated and inane” anti-racism training of its parents, but was suffusing its entire community with anti-intellectual political indoctrination reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution. (He also claimed, “We have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s.”) Head of school Jane Fried replied with a letter of her own, calling Gutmann’s letter “deeply offensive” and reiterating her commitment to “build an inclusive, antiracist school.”