Testing Horace Mann

I have a cover story in New York Magazine this week on the Horace Mann School. The piece goes inside Horace Mann as a series of scandals unfold. When the children of rich and powerful parents created Facebook pages attacking teachers, and the teachers logged into Facebook and discovered the offensive material, Horace Mann confronted issues of privacy, appropriate speech and the influence of wealth on campus. In dealing with the crisis, Horace Mann administrators faced a choice: Discipline the students, or brush the matter aside as some members of the board of trustees wanted. From the piece:

Then, after lunch, McGuire and Sheehy were walking in front of Tillinghast Hall when a woman wearing alligator sunglasses stormed up to them. It was the trustee whose daughter had formed the anti-McGuire club.

“You logged into Facebook under a false name,” the woman said, glaring at McGuire.

“I had a right to defend myself against defamation,” McGuire responded.

“Students are just blowing off steam,” the trustee said. “They’re very stressed; it’s not unusual for them to say racist and sexist things … The site is private.”

“No,” McGuire insisted, “it’s got 9 million users.”

“What you did was like breaking into my daughter’s room and reading her diary … ”

“No,” McGuire said, the emotion rising in her voice, “what your daughter did was the equivalent of posting something in Times Square.”

McGuire could not control herself any longer. “What your daughter did was actionable, and I’m not talking about this anymore,” she said before walking off.

With private education increasingly dependent on donations from wealthy parents, many of whom sit on schools’ board of trustees, some are wondering if the power dynamics on campus have been distorted by the influence of money and power and the furious admissions race to get into top-flight colleges. And, with new technology and the Internet amplifying these pressures, Horace Mann is being tested like never before.

Read the full piece HERE

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6 responses to “Testing Horace Mann

  1. Mr.Sherman, as a current student at Horace Mann I must confess that I am deeply disappointed that this story you have written. Often it is very easy to draw an invisible wall between you, and those you are writing about. Obviously you had done that when you insulted a group of 14-18 teenagers in the national press. You must be so proud. As inexcusable as some of the controversies have been at Horace Mann, we students are grateful to have faculty filled with so many distinguished teachers that truly love their jobs. What Horace Mann needs now is time to heal from our prior mistakes, and take a new, and hopefully less controversial direction. Your article has only added salt to an open wound, and illustrated again how those in the media are just as selfish, spoiled and egotistical as the hundreds of HM students that you have caricatured.

  2. I just read the piece on Horace Mann. I am a graduate from the 70s when I believe we were a more homogenous , tolerant student body. The teachers gave as well as they could take. Sadly, your article rang very true from what I believe the school is today.

  3. I found this article quite interesting, and am glad it was written, as it clarified my view of certain students and staff, and the institution that allows unacceptable behavior. I suspect it is not confined to a few random students, nor is it limited to the upper school. An example: My then six- year old daughter competed in a chess tournament at HM last November. The behavior of the HM team was appalling. One of my daughter’s opponents refused to shake her hand, as is the custom, and made aggressive gestures and guttural sounds, presumably to intimidate her. Another HM player screamed out in the awards ceremony: “There’s the (school name) loser who resigned!” His father half-heartedly scolded him from the audience “If you make fun of one more kid there won’t be any more tournaments!’ All of this (and more) was in the full view of the HM chess team parents and chess team instructors.

    There were several schools represented in this tournament, but the unsportsmanlike and utterly inappropriate conduct seemed to be limited to the HM team. Thankfully it was not our first tournament, otherwise it would have been our last. The “core values” of civility, respect, and “mature behavior” that Horace Mann espouses seem to have gotten lost along the way. If readers of Mr. Sherman’s article think the current students representing the high school have “behavioral issues,” for lack of a better term, wait until they see the “behavior” of the Class of 2018. I’ll be looking the other way.

  4. Fascinating article, thanks.

  5. Dear Mr. Sherman,

    I had the opportunity to read this article the other day and I have to say that it struck a chord in me, I was in a way disturbed.

    Having attended undergrad in the Riverdale neighborhood I am familiar with Horace Mann and the community that it brings together. Not the most respectful individuals to say the least. Aside from the controversies surrounding Facebook I was appalled to hear about the pressures on Health Care that the very comfortable Board of Trustees placed upon the HM staff, the treatment of the staff on a whole was disappointing.

    I admire the position you took on this article, great read. Thanks!

  6. After I posted my comment I was hoping to find your contact information, but have been unsuccessful thus far. My partners and I are interested in talking with you further about this article if you have a moment please contact me at amydepaola@mac.com.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Bests,
    Amy DePaola

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