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Communications and Marketing

Letter to the editor

Professor Emeritus of American history Michael H. Ebner reacts to civil rights seminar controversy in a Chicago Tribune Letter to the Editor on February 15.

Readers react: New Trier’s civil rights seminar


The opposition to New Trier Township High School’s civil rights seminar day, like so much of our American history, is enveloped in ironies.

This is not just another secondary school. Ever since it opened its doors in 1901, this duly constituted public institution has attained its much-deserved reputation for excellence in American public education.

The faculty and administration — under the aegis of the elected Board of Education in New Trier Township — have the legal responsibility furnished by the state of Illinois to design and implement a suitable curriculum for New Trier High School.

I wholeheartedly acknowledge the prerogatives of the aggrieved parents who have enlisted in the oppositional campaign to thwart the civil rights seminar day.

Certainly they are entitled to petition the school board as well as express their fervent opinions. After all, vigorous dissent — a core value of our cherished American political system — extends back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

I have a pertinent question for the dissenters to contemplate: Once your daughters and sons receive their highly valued baccalaureate degrees from New Trier High School, will you closely monitor the content of the curricular offerings and extracurricular activities at the esteemed colleges and universities in which they choose to enroll?

I taught American history at colleges and universities in New York City and Illinois for 40 years. Never did I encounter criticism from parents — or administrators — about the design of the courses I offered or the content of their subject matter.

— Michael H. Ebner, professor emeritus of American history, Lake Forest College