Ethical Culture Fieldston School
|Ethical Culture Fieldston School|
33 Central Park West
|Type||Private Day School|
(Let there be light)
|Head of school||Jessica L. Bagby|
|Grades||Pre-K through 12|
|Accreditation||National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)|
|Other publications||The Fieldston LP, Fieldston Lit Mag, Middle School News, Dope Ink Prints, The Hill Chronicle, Inklings|
|Song||"Fieldston Lower School" (Fieldston Lower School) "I Walk Through The Doors" (Ethical Culture) "I'm On My Way" (Middle School) "Iam Canamus" (Upper School)|
Ethical Culture Fieldston School (ECFS), also referred to as Fieldston, is a private independent school in New York City. The school is a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League. The school serves approximately 1,700 students with 480 faculty and staff. Jessica L. Bagby has been the Head of School since June 2016.
The school consists of four divisions: Ethical Culture, Fieldston Lower, Fieldston Middle, and Fieldston Upper. Ethical Culture, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Fieldston Lower, located on the Fieldston campus in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, serve Pre-K through 5th Grade. The two lower schools feed into Fieldston Middle (6th – 8th grade) and Fieldston Upper (9th – 12th grade)—also located on the Fieldston campus in Riverdale. Ethical Culture is headed by Principal Rob Cousins, Fieldston Lower is headed by Principal Joe McCauley, Fieldston Middle is headed by Principal Chia-Chee Chiu, and Fieldston Upper is headed by Principal Nigel Furlonge. Tuition and fees for ECFS were $52,993 for the 2019-2020 school year.
The school opened in 1878 as a free kindergarten, founded by Felix Adler at the age of 24. In 1880, elementary grades were added, and the school was then called the Workingman's School. At that time, the idea that the children of the poor should be educated was innovative. By 1890 the school's academic reputation encouraged many more wealthy parents to seek it out, and the school was expanded to accommodate the upper-class as well, and began charging tuition; in 1895 the name changed to "The Ethical Culture School", and in 1903 the New York Society for Ethical Culture became its sponsor. The economic diversity that was important then is threatened by an annual tuition that is $52,993 for the 2019-2020 school year. To help continue the school's original mission, Fieldston awards over $15 million in tuition-based financial aid to 22% of the student body.
The school moved into its landmark Manhattan building at 33 Central Park West in 1904. The entire school was located in that building until 1928 when the high school division (Fieldston) moved to its 18-acre (73,000 m²) campus on Fieldston Road in the exclusive Fieldston section of Riverdale; the Manhattan branch of the Lower School remained there, and in 1932 a second Lower School was opened on the Riverdale campus. In 2007, a new middle school was opened on the same Riverdale campus, for the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.
One of the early faculty members was the famous documentary photographer Lewis Hine.
ECFS is not the only Ethical Culture School in the New York City area. In 1922, an Ethical Culture School was founded in Brooklyn, near Prospect Park, by Julie Wurtzberger Neuman. However, this school is unrelated to the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.
Ethical Culture was said to pursue social justice, racial equality, and intellectual freedom. The school and the affiliated Ethical Culture Society were havens for secular Jews who rejected the mysticism and rituals of Judaism, but accepted many of its ethical teachings. Additionally, because the institutionalized anti-Semitism of the times established rigid quota systems against Jews in private schools, the Ethical Culture School had a disproportionately large number of Jewish students. Ethical was the only one that did not discriminate because of race, color, or creed."
Later, however, the school faced some controversies concerning issues of race and equality. In March 1970, about 60 students occupied the administration building in protest to demand that more Black and Puerto Rican students be admitted to the school. They also aimed to have a greater number of minority courses, teachers, advisors, employees. The school agreed to some of the student demands. After, a joint board of governors faculty committee, warned that students would be penalized with sanctions and expulsion if they will cause similar disruptions.
In February 2019, a video that is believed to be created years previously was discovered by administrators after it was shared during a dispute between students. The students in the video use derogatory and racist language. Students involved who were still enrolled in the school were punished, however some 100 students who thought the actions were not enough staged a sit-in reminiscent of the 1970 protest. The students presented the administrators with twenty demands that included increased racial bias training, more faculty of color, the recruitment of more students of color, and a required ethnic studies course; the students' demands were agreed to and are planned to be implemented over the course of 2–3 years.
The school also attracted attention in November 2019 after it hosted a guest speaker who engaged in antisemitic rhetoric. Some parents have raised concerns about the way the school addressed this issue. U.S. Congressmen Josh Gottheimer and Max Rose also wrote its administrators condemning the incident. In January 2020, the school fired a Jewish teacher who posted tweets opposing Zionism. There were parents who asked for the teacher's reinstatement.
Fieldston dropped its participation in the Advanced Placement Program in 2002 to give its faculty the freedom to offer more innovative, challenging, and thought-provoking material. Students can take AP exams, but the school no longer officially sponsors such courses. While there was some concern that college admissions could be negatively affected, Fieldston's college office worked closely with admissions officers of schools across the country to explain the change and to assure that its students would be evaluated on the quality of its courses, even without the AP designation.
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Fieldston's athletic program includes 62 teams covering 23 sports. The teams, known as the "Fieldston Eagles," play in the Ivy Preparatory School League against other private schools in the region. The school's hockey team as well as the girls and boys ultimate frisbee teams, however, do not play in the league and schedule their own games.
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- Fieldston Outdoors – a six-week environmental day camp
- Weeks of Discovery/Computer Camps – one-week sports, computer, and other activity camps during school breaks
- BeforeSchool and AfterSchool – at the two Lower schools, and AfterSchool in the Middle School
- Fieldston Enrichment Program (FEP) – tutoring program for selected public school students in preparation of public and private high school entrance exams and requirements
- Young Dancemakers Company – acclaimed summer dance program
- City Semester – an interdisciplinary experiential-education based semester program focusing all class on the local: New York City
- STS (Students Teaching Students) – a specialized ethics program where Form V & Form VI students (Juniors and Seniors) teach an ethics curriculum to middle schoolers. This curriculum covers a wide range of topics including community norms, relationships, decision-making, navigating choices encountered in middle and high school situations (e.g., around social media, sex, drugs, alcohol, and bullying).
Ethical Culture Fieldston is a part of the Ivy Preparatory School League, with many of the city's elite private schools. The three high schools Fieldston, Riverdale, and Horace Mann together are known as the "Hill schools," as all three are located within a short walking distance of each other in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, on a hilly area above Van Cortlandt Park. The three are also involved in inter-school sports rivalry.
Notable alumni and former students
Among its many notable alumni and former students are:
- Jill Abramson – former executive editor of The New York Times
- Clifford Alexander Jr. – former Secretary of the Army
- Joseph Amiel – author
- Diane Arbus – photographer
- Leon Black – financier, Apollo Management and Drexel Burnham Lambert
- Nancy Cantor – chancellor, Syracuse University
- Roy Cohn – attorney
- Sofia Coppola – Oscar-winning writer/director (attended middle school at Fieldston)
- Andrew Delbanco – critic and author. Director, American studies, Columbia University 
- Nicholas Delbanco – novelist
- David Denby – film critic, The New Yorker
- Ralph de Toledano – author
- Joseph Leo Doob – mathematician
- Douglas Durst – real estate magnate
- Dorothy Eisner – artist
- John Friedman – film producer, Hotel Terminus, winner of 1988 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature
- Rita Gam – film actress
- Alan Gilbert – music director of the New York Philharmonic
- Ailes Gilmour – dancer
- Leonie Gilmour – educator and writer
- Rob Glaser – internet pioneer
- Matt Goldman, performance artist. Co-founder, Blue Man Group
- Maggie Haberman – New York Times political reporter
- Judith Lewis Herman— psychiatrist
- Susie Linfield - author, critic, editor and NYU Professor
- Charles Herman-Wurmfeld – film director
- Robert Jervis – political scientist. Adlai E. Stevenson Professor, Columbia University
- Rodney Jones – jazz guitarist
- Rich Kleiman – American sports agent and businessman. Co-founder of Thirty Five Ventures
- Jeffrey Katzenberg – film producer, media mogul
- Yosuke Kawasaki – violinist
- Sinah Estelle Kelley – chemist
- William Melvin Kelley – author (A Different Drummer, Dunfords Travels Everywhere)
- Charlie King – New York civic leader and politician
- Arthur Kinoy – civil rights lawyer
- Ernest Kinoy – screenwriter
- Walter Koenig – actor
- Joseph Kraft – public affairs columnist
- Louise Lasser – actress
- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt – author, The New York Times book reviewer
- Sean Ono Lennon – musician (did not graduate from Fieldston)
- Eda LeShan – child psychologist and author
- Carl P. Leubsdorf – Washington bureau chief, Dallas Morning News
- Doug Liman – film director (Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith)
- Andrew Litton – conductor, New York City Ballet
- Beulah Livingstone – motion picture publicist
- Douglas Lowenstein – president and CEO of Private Equity Council, founder and former president of Entertainment Software Association
- Douglas Lowy – cancer biologist; director of U.S. National Cancer Institute
- Staughton Lynd – peace activist and civil rights activist
- Jeffrey Lyons – film critic, WNBC-TV, New York City
- Mark A. Michaels- author and sexuality educator
- Bob Marshall – conservationist, writer, and the founder of The Wilderness Society
- Andy Marvel – award-winning musician
- Grace M. Mayer – curator at The Museum of the City of New York and The Museum of Modern Art
- Jane Mayer – best selling author, investigative journalist, The New Yorker
- Marguerita Mergentime – industrial designer
- Nicholas Meyer – film director
- Jo Mielziner – stage designer
- Marvin Minsky – pioneer in artificial intelligence at MIT
- Tim Minton – television journalist and media executive
- Alfred Mirsky – cell biologist
- Jeannette Mirsky – writer
- Frederic S. Mishkin – governor of the Federal Reserve Board
- Robert M. Morgenthau – retired New York County District Attorney
- Howard Nemerov – former United States Poet Laureate
- Gabriel Olds – actor, writer
- J. Robert Oppenheimer – physicist, Scientific Director of the Manhattan Project, "Father of the Atomic Bomb"
- Emanuel R. Piore – chief scientist of IBM, and electrical engineering pioneer
- Belva Plain – author
- Letty Cottin Pogrebin – author
- Edward R. Pressman – film producer
- Richard Ravitch – business and civic leader
- Michael Rauch - screenwriter of Royal Pains of USA Network and Instinct of PBS
- Nancy Reiner - graduating as Nancy Russek, cover artist of Jimi Hendrix album The Cry of Love (1971), among others
- Menachem Z. Rosensaft – attorney and founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Survivors
- Dan Rottenberg — journalist and author
- Muriel Rukeyser – poet and playwright
- David Sarasohn – associate editor and syndicated columnist for The Oregonian newspaper
- James H. Scheuer – US Congressman (NY)
- Gil Scott-Heron – musician
- Nicole Seligman – lawyer, Sony executive
- Cynthia Propper Seton – novelist
- Robert B. Sherman – composer, lyricist, screenwriter, painter
- Stephen Slesinger – creator of the Red Ryder comic strip
- Tess Slesinger – author/screenwriter
- Jay Smooth – radio host and cultural commentator
- Donald J. Sobol – author of juvenile short stories; creator of Encyclopedia Brown
- Stephen Sondheim – composer; attended the Fieldston Lower School
- Dan Squadron – New York State Senator
- Andy Stein – musician
- Stewart Stern – screenwriter
- Paul Strand – photographer and filmmaker
- James Toback – filmmaker
- Richard Tofel – journalist, attorney, administrator, non fiction writer
- Doris Ulmann – photographer of Appalachia
- Laurence Urdang – lexicographer, dictionary editor
- Helen Valentine – founder of Seventeen magazine
- Elliot Villar – actor
- Barbara Walters – TV news
- Andrew Weisblum – Oscar-nominated film editor
- Chris Wink, performance artist; co-founder, Blue Man Group
- Howard Wolfson – deputy mayor of New York City
- Jane C. Wright – oncologist
- Keith L. T. Wright – New York State Assemblyman
- Sheryl WuDunn – investment banker, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
- Adam Yarmolinsky – academic and author who served in the Kennedy, Johnson and Carter administrations
- Eli Zabar – New York City restaurateur
- Lynn Zelevansky - contemporary art curator and Carnegie Museum of Art director
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- JTA, Ben Sales: Elite N.Y. Prep School Fires Teacher Who Posted anti-Zionist Tweets In: Haaretz, 11 January 2020.
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