One day last week, I had breakfast while reading the latest Substack post by Undercover Mother (UM). For those who are not familiar with the group, here is their “About” statement:
“We are a Mom Collective with children in independent schools. We circle our young to protect them from the abuse being inflicted by schools and the cartels of the regional and National Association of Independent Schools.”
Having read their posts for several months, it was clear they have an audience and are influencing the views of a segment of families during one of the most critical times in the history of independent schools. This week, they’ve chosen to associate school COVID responses with enrollment contracts and censorship, concluding with a brief action plan for parents. That’s a broad range of topics (grievances), indicating that they have made their overall position clear in earlier posts and are now providing continuing evidence of that position. At the end of the day, I ask myself whether their writing, exposing the foibles of prestigious independent schools, might result in purposeful change.
Regarding the first topic of the post, COVID responses in January, there is little to say that has not already been said. Private day school COVID policies are generally designed to keep students in school if appropriate safety policies can be maintained. Of course, there is never agreement on what policies are safest if one considers the overall well-being of the students offset by the corresponding risks for both students and adults. As a result, nothing conclusive can come from the disputes, even though UM is framing the responses as an example of schools not listening to parents and a means of synthesizing the famous school enrollment contract with the broader question of censorship at schools. So rather than revisiting the virus disputes, let’s begin with the enrollment contract and then move to the related topic of censorship. Applying a narrative to both will help to understand whether Undercover Mother can play a constructive role for our schools, despite the veracity of their criticism.
In the 1973 film, “The Paper Chase,” Professor Kingsfield (John Houseman) explains to his contract law class that a contract is an agreement that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Surely the attorneys for most independent schools missed that film. Essentially, the enrollment contract tells families what schools expect of them. There is little language about…