Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
On the 5th of May, the American Freedom Alliance convened a conference on leftist radicalism. Before David Horowitz stepped up to the podium to discuss the threat of leftist extremism, Dr. Karen Siegemund, the president of the AFA, welcomed the attendees by speaking to our common values.
“Each of us here believes in the unparalleled force for good that is Western Civilization, that is our heritage, whether we were born here or not,” she said.
After Dr. Siegemund and Horowitz’s remarks, a panel discussed radicalism in the school system.
The day after this event, Dr. Siegemund was informed by Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles, the school where she had taught mathematics for four years and where she had studied as a child, that her contract would not be renewed because she had praised western civilization.
The conference, which had addressed leftist radicalism in educational institutions, had struck home.
“On Monday, I was informed that my teaching contract won’t be renewed because of my ‘widely publicized views,’” Dr. Siegemund said. “You know, I’d always known I was vulnerable – of course. We on the right all know how vulnerable we are. But when it happens – when you actually become a victim, a casualty of this Long March, of the Left’s silencing tactics, it’s truly breathtaking.”
The French and English school set up and run by the Kabbaz family took as its motto, Cogito ergo sum or I think, therefore I am. These days, the radicalized institution has become hostile to the independent thinking that it claims to inculcate in its students. And to the cultural heritage of its origins.
Dr. Siegemund was told that her remarks about the good of Western Civilization were part of the problem.
“Give us your child and we will give you back two children: one European and one American,” Esther Kabbaz, the co-founder of the school, had promised parents.
But neither of the two children, the European one or the American one, is allowed to be Western. And what does being American or European even mean without the context of Western Civilization?
Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles’s learning materials repeatedly emphasize its global, rather than European, heritage. But a Lycée is not the product of global, but of French and Western roots. That’s why the school, which disavows Western Civilization, still offers courses in classical Latin and Greek.
Even the name of Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles comes from the Latin, lyceum or the Greek, lykeion, dating back to Aristotle. The Lycée curriculum that is the school's selling point dates back to 1801 France, where it was established to produce "citizens who are attached to their religion, their prince, their country and their family."
The goal was an educational system based on enduring values. As Napoleon, who established the system put it, “The morals and political ideas of the generation which is now growing up should no longer be dependent upon the news of the day or the circumstances of the moment.”
But there’s no room at Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles for the heritage on which it was built.
Dr. Siegemund was purged by the leadership of Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles for advocating precisely those values on which the entire Lycée system was built. And which the school has abandoned.
She was not pushed out the door for advocating for religion, family and country in the school, but outside it, through her leadership of the American Freedom Alliance.
Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles is certainly not an apolitical environment.
Clara-Lisa Kabbaz, the daughter of the school’s founders, who now runs it, donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Her husband, as well the school’s Dean of Admissions, are ActBlue donors.
Dr. Siegemund recalls being cautious about wearing clothes with an American flag on them while "other teachers who denigrate the president in the classroom, who wear ‘resist’ tee-shirts, who promote all kinds of various leftist policies in the classroom" felt free to spout their political views.
But that’s not surprising considering that Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles is a celebrity school. Kabbaz is friends with Jodie Foster. And celebrities were instrumental in its founding and continued existence.
With pre-K tuition coming in at $17,500, going into the twenties for elementary and middle school, and climaxing at $28,000 for high school, it’s an exclusive school that caters to a cultural and political elite. Hollywood parents of the institution include Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, its galas feature celebrity performances, and its compounds are meant to protect the children of celebrities from the paparazzi.
Did Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles feel pressured to purge a conservative educator to avoid offending some of its wealthy and famous clientele? If so, it may have made a serious mistake.
California is one of the very few places in the country where political affiliation is a protected class.
California Labor Code Section 1101 prohibits employers from interfering with employees who are engaging in politics and forbids them from trying to control their political affiliations. Section 1102 warns against attempts to coerce employees in regard to any "political action or political activity."
Dr. Siegemund is being represented by famed conservative civil rights attorney Harmeet Dhillon. Her supporters have launched a fundraiser on her behalf and her work at the American Freedom Alliance goes on. On August 18th, the AFA will honor Dr. Siegemund as its 2019 Hero of Conscience.
The real harm has been inflicted on the students of Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles who have been denied the opportunity to meet and learn from her. Dr. Siegemund is a renaissance woman who speaks French, German, and Italian; who worked as a computer programmer on Navy sonar system; and holds degrees in Applied Mathematics, International Relations, and Education.
Dr. Siegemund is a scientist and a scholar, and in an age where schools emphasize STEM learning for girls, she's a role model.
But none of that mattered to Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles because she is a conservative.
Once Dr. Siegemund’s views were brought to the attention of the school’s leadership, a talented teacher did not have her contract renewed because her belief in the value of what the school claimed to teach offended some combination of its leadership, some of its parents, and, possibly, some of its celebrities.
There is a French phrase that the bilingual educators and leaders of Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles ought to learn.
Trahison des clercs.
When educators start behaving like political operatives, they betray their calling and the children in their care. The Left’s long march that Dr. Siegemund’s conference addressed is an act of intellectual betrayal.
Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles has betrayed its ethical responsibilities to its employees, to the children, and to the heritage that it claims to teach, but, in its betrayal, has instead come to hate.