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LA's Brentwood School: Ground-Zero for Elite Ethno-Masochism
Many of the most exclusive private schools have embraced the woke racial reckoning. For instance Peachy Keenan, who writes about education for the Claremont Institute’s American Mind, reported that “Am hearing that Brentwood, prestigious private school in LA, is in chaos after almost zero white seniors got into to UC schools. When friends went there in happier times, UC acceptance was like 80%. This year, bipoc kids only. Parents who spent $60K/yr+ for 6 years little upset.” While my impression is that this revelation is from talking to parents, rather than admissions data from the school, it demonstrates a cataclysmic shift and a shock for many students and parents who took being admitted into a UC for granted.
Brentwood School, on LA’s Westside’s tuition ranges from $38,000- to $45,000-a-year, though 18% of the school’s families benefit from financial support and there are scholarship programs for diversity. The school’s demographic breakdown is estimated at 78.8 % White, 8.7 % Black, 6.1 % Hispanic, and 5.9 % Asian. However, LA Magazine reports that a faculty member pointed out that“ the number of students of color increased to 41 percent,” though “that it includes Middle Easterners, a group the U.S. Census Bureau classifies as white.” The school’s many celebrity alumni, include Arnold Schwarzenegger’s children Patrick and Katherine Schwarzenegger, actor’s Fred Savage and Jonah Hill, Maroon 5 members including Adam Levine, conservative pundit Andrew Breitbart, and conservative film director Amanda Milius, who has been outspoken about why elite private schools love critical race theory.
My perception is that the woke shift at Brentwood was largely for PR reasons. For instance LA Magazine pointed out that when Brentwood posted a black box for Black Lives Matter on Instagram, they received many negative comments, accusing them of hypocrisy, such as “Brentwood is a toxic racist cesspool for students of color, but an ivory tower for the wealthy, white elite,” and “If you cared about racial justice, you would close your doors and redistribute your obscene wealth.” In response, a group of alumni set out with a campaign on Instagram called, NoBlackoutBrentwood with calls to “hold Brentwood School accountable for its past wrongdoings against Black and minority students,” with one Brentwood alumni of color calling the school an “incredibly racist organization from top to bottom.” The alumni group called for “the expansion of curriculum to include diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives” and “anti-racism education for all parents.”
In response, Brentwood enacted changes to their curriculum with the most controversial being segregated “dialogue sessions” in an attempt to foster “inclusion” and fight against racism by hosting meetings for “faculty, staff and “parents & families.” Whites and blacks have their own meeting in each cohort. Parents and families for “Hispanic & Latinx” and “Asian & Asian American,” as well as meetings for “the Jewish community, the LGBTQIA+ community, families interested in neurodiversity.” However many Brentwood parents were unhappy with the changes such as some were parents “offended by students being encouraged “to read White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” and by the “constant stream of anti-racism email updates,” one parent protested that the new curriculum “borders on child abuse.” A group of parents put forth a petition protesting the new anti-racist curriculum but so far it seems to have had little impact.
This obsession with diversity and inclusion seems convoluted when the very essence of elite private school education is elitism and exclusion. The LA Magazine article pointed out that Brentwood was founded in 1972 “just as affluent white kids were fleeing L.A’.s public schools amid court-ordered desegregation,” and also mentioned that one former prep-school administrator explains that “The joke is that these [schools] are engines for sustaining and strengthening the plutocracy. These schools lecturing about equity and justice is like listening to Swiss bankers and asset managers lecturing the world about tax transparency.” On a similar note, Amanda Milius’ pointed out that it’s an “incoherent dance that won’t last. Aside from them just admitting that exclusivity is good, and that in their world the gathering of the children of the elite, they can have whatever diversity trainings they want but at the end of the day, they do not want their children interacting with the riffraff and the riffraff go to Pali High and they don’t want that near them. They want to put on the clock of pretend diversity and pretend, like egalitarianism, and they don’t actually want any of that.”
Many of the comments on Peachy Keenan’s tweet about Brentwood expressed schadenfreude about the most privileged of White liberals actually having to make sacrifices for their ideology. The trope of pointing out liberal elite hypocrisy is a staple in populist right circles, such as on Tucker Carlson. It is true that elites have been able to throw the middle class under the bus while virtue signaling. So far woke indoctrination has not encouraged a genuine wealth/power transfer to other races as much as training in a kowtowing, self-flagellating moral pose which is perversely used to signal class and sophistication in the world, while maintaining power and wealth. However, it now seems that the most privileged of Whites might have to make actual personal sacrifices. For instance draconian affirmative action quotas for elite universities and high status careers.
Social change that negatively impacts the most privileged, eg the White upper class, is when we will start to see a major social and political paradigm shift. Draconian racial quotas for jobs and universities will only accelerate the process of elite overproduction. Cataclysmic societal change is more likely to happen through disaffected elites rather than the working class. California’s downwardly mobile middle class Whites are either demoralized and ineffective or have just left the state. However, the White upper class has a strong sense of entitlement and it will be interesting to see how they react to incoming social changes, that until recently have only impacted the White middle class.
Prop 16 Votes
Blue: White voters for Affirmative Action
Red: White voters against Affirmative Action
There is a perception that woke culture has a hegemony on LA’s Westside, but the Brentwood area’s vote on the failed Prop 16, that would have reinstated affirmative, was mixed. The moderately wealthy flats of Brentwood voted yes while the ultra-wealthy hills leaned no. In the 2020 Democratic Primary, Brentwood was a stronghold of support for centrist billionaire, Michael Bloomberg. These electoral stats reflect how Brentwood parents were divided over the woke curriculum and show that many of LA’s wealthy enclaves are more moderate than stereotyped and that a lot of wokeness is cynically for show.
LA has a very stratified class dynamic with people paying a premium to live in the right area and have their children attend the right school. I have a personal anecdote, as I grew up in Brentwood, a few blocks away from Brentwood School. However, my family were middle class and I ended up attending the public school that serves Brentwood, University High School. While University High’s attendance area includes Brentwood and other wealthy neighborhoods including Westwood, Bel Aire, and Beverly Hills Post Office, it actually had a reputation as a lower income school, with only 12.8% of the student body being White and a whopping 74% that are economically disadvantaged. Many of Uni High’s students are from poorer parts of LA, outside of the district, and the school is worlds apart from Brentwood School, despite serving Brentwood.
There are widespread reports of highly qualified White and Asian students getting rejected from the UCs. Blogger Steve Sailer reports that at a “Jesuit high school in one of California’s richest cities,” where “Alumni have names like Getty and Brown,” a commenter pointed out that “More college admissions discrimination against Whites and Asians. The boy (I mean man) twin told me that all the kids, especially boys , with 4.2 averages and all AP courses didn’t get into any, not one of the 9 UC universities Not one in their senior class that he knows of.”
While Prop 16 failed to reinstate Affirmative Action, there are other measures used to “diversify” enrollment. For instance the UC System has changed their admissions policy to no longer consider SATs. While the SAT system was deeply flawed, in its place is an implicit version of affirmative action that uses personal admissions essays rather than racial quotas. The admissions officers’ biases likely factor in. There are also quotas on schools, a geographic based affirmative action. For instance students from exclusive private schools like Brentwood may have had a better chance at getting admitted to a UC if they attended Uni High.
Many conservatives are predicting that the UC system will become a glorified community college system due to woke politics. This sounds a bit farfetched but who knows. Then you have billionaire Peter Thiel paying people to drop out of college to encourage entrepreneurship, as part of a broader anti-higher education movement. Woke culture could undermine respect for elite institutions, both elite private schools and universities, as well as belief in the meritocracy. Both rightwing populists like Tucker Carlson and leftwing populists, like pointing out how elite nepotism threatens the meritocracy. However, what society needs is not a hypercompetitive meritocracy under centralized institutions but rather decentralized patronage networks, as well as a specialization-based approach to education and the economy, to help all groups find their niche.
As far as sacrifice, obviously students from California’s elite private schools won’t see a big decline in their economic and social status. Perhaps these change might just be modest setbacks. Most will do well in life. Many of these students will likely attend decent colleges, and find long-term success, just more likely in other parts of the nation. An entire generation of younger Whites from affluent backgrounds abandoning California could have deleterious impacts on the State’s demographic future. The high costs of housing and education on top of affirmative action policies is placing a tremendous economic and demographic strain on White Californians, even the seemingly well off. California’s policies have amounted to a soft ethnic cleansing of Whites, with more people bailing on California rather than fighting for change.
There is a big push to diversify the elites rather than actually redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. If this model triumphs, then it will only create an even more cutthroat and oppressive version of managerial capitalism. The issue of affluent White people embracing woke culture isn’t so much the hypocrisy but rather that using wealth as a substitute for more genuine forms of identity and community, is simply unsustainable. Affluent Whites are getting a much needed rude awakening about that reality.
If accelerating White flight out of California is the main downside to these changes, the upside is that elite overproduction as well as woke segregation, such as Whites only school groups for allies to people of color, could lead to the coming apart of liberal mass society. Colorblind meritocracy is obsolete and never coming back and the future will likely be all groups playing the identity politics game. We could see greater economic and political decentralization or a new version of multiculturalism where Whites successfully play the identity politics game. This could include patronage networks and enclavism. Another upside is the potential for the disaffected wealthy to invest in alternative institutions, endeavors that have failed due to not attracting the right economic or human capital, which is also great for innovation. Regardless, I do see a long-term trend towards decentralization in education and also a shift in which private schools and universities are considered prestigious.