Harpeth Hall, Elite Nashville Prep School, Drops George Washington: ‘Not Relevant to the Way We Teach History Today’


Officials at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville have decided to do away with their annual George Washington Celebration.

Head of School Jess Hill declined to answer The Tennessee Star’s specific questions about the matter in an email Tuesday. She instead sent a statement.

“After much thoughtful dialogue spanning several years, Harpeth Hall has decided to discontinue the annual George Washington Celebration,” Hill wrote, adding many people support the decision.

In her email, Hill said school officials are ending the celebration for the following reasons:

• “It is not consistent with or relevant to the way that we teach history today.”

• “It does not demonstrate the significant role that women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups play in our nation’s history.”

• “A growing number of students, faculty, staff, and alumnae are expressing their discomfort with this tradition.”

“For the past several years, the Leadership Team, faculty, and students have questioned in separate discussions the long-standing tradition of the George Washington Celebration at Harpeth Hall – a place where girls are at the center of our story. During this past school year, we held focus group discussions with our Alumnae Board and Head’s Young Alumnae Council to gather their thoughts. We also conferred with administrators and teachers charged with leading the program over many years,” Hill wrote.

“In consideration of their feedback and our mission, we have decided that the George Washington Celebration held on February 13, 2020 marks our final performance.”

Harpeth Hill is an expensive and elite all-women prep middle school and high school. According to its website, alumnae include actress Reese Witherspoon, singer Amy Grant, and entertainer Sarah Colley Cannon, also known as Minnie Pearl. The school’s website also said that its middle school tuition costs almost $28,000, while upper school tuition costs almost $29,000.

Hill sent an email to school alumni Tuesday, which The Star obtained. The email describes The George Washington Celebration as a social event that originated more than a century ago.

“In 1913, young women at Ward-Belmont lived and studied in a protected enclave where young men were not allowed. In an effort to provide a social activity during a winter weekend that year, Ward-Belmont students planned a party where they imagined the lives of our founding fathers, dressed in colonial costumes, and danced the minuet to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. This social occasion was not a part of the educational program and continued for decades, with a multi-year hiatus during World War II when all citizens were called upon to conserve resources and support the war effort,” the email said.

“When Ward-Belmont closed in 1951 and Harpeth Hall began on the Hobbs Road campus, many former Ward-Belmont teachers brought traditions with them to continue the all-girls experience in Souby Hall, our first classroom building. The George Washington Celebration resumed in 1955 and served as an opportunity for beloved and revered Miss Patty Chadwell to teach dance in her Physical Education class.”

The George Washington Celebration “experienced many evolutions over the decades,” according to the email.

“In 1982 [it] became a seventh grade activity, where girls were assigned to be soldiers, sailors, captains of the guard, or one of the guests at the celebration. Two outstanding students, first in the junior class and later in the eighth grade, were honored each year as George and Martha Washington.”

According to its Facebook page, Harpeth Hall is an independent college preparatory school for girls and young women “whose mission is to teach girls to think critically, to lead confidently, and to live honorably.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Harpeth Hall School” by Harpeth Hall School.






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35 Thoughts to “Harpeth Hall, Elite Nashville Prep School, Drops George Washington: ‘Not Relevant to the Way We Teach History Today’”

  1. Tex Bitterwitz

    While the article states that only a student activity for 7th graders is being eliminated, the three reasons given by headmistress Jess Hill for the elimination of the tradition is disturbing. Not one of those reasons should factor into any scholastic decisions. There should be more importance in maintaining school traditions regardless of how relevant or important they may appear to be in the present. Traditions should be valued more in this country for the same reasons history should not be erased. Knowledge of the past can only enrich our understanding of the present while giving us an understanding of what our future may hold.

  2. Tennessee Budd

    The comments to this article are a sad exhibit of the poor reading comprehension in our country: an extracurricular activity is cancelled, and people berate the school for no longer teaching history. Subject matter was not altered in any way, if we can believe the school (although, admittedly, I’d take that with a grain of salt).

    1. Theresa

      Your comment is a prime example of a liberal who thinks he or she is better than everyone else while it is really proof that you have low self esteem. HH has always been a communist leaning school for liberal hippies and drunks like Reese Witherspoon.

  3. Rick Williams

    I just hope someone at Harpeth Hall is reading these comments. Sad people spend thousands of dollars to have true American History erased from their minds.

  4. Dennis Stepanovich

    Jess Hill says the celebration is not relevant to the way they teach history today after conferring with staff and teachers. She is correct. Schools from K up through college teach Socialism/Communism is superior to our Democratic Republic. Recent survey indicates that college professors and lower level instructors are at a ratio of 48 to one, Leftists to Conservative/Constitutionalists. Well Jess, your snooty school would likely not exists if there were not fearless Patriots like George Washington who fought for and help found the United States.

  5. Teri Peacock

    The headline is misleading. The article clears up what is actually being cancelled. Read the article before you comment, friends.

  6. Julie Hays

    Please read the article, folks. I went to HH as did my daughter. We were both in this pageant which is a snapshot of a birthday party that was held for Washington. It has always been an odd tradition (started in 1913) and HH has been considering eliminating it for several years. It is very outdated. It is fascinating to see such a knee-jerk reaction from people who may or may not know that much about Washington themselves beyond the cherry tree. Yes, HH still teaches about the first president…only the pageant is being phased out. I actually visited Mount Vernon when I was a student there. I believe there is still a trip to Washington in the 8th grade. Chill out, people.

    1. Lydia Hubbell

      Thank you. I never understood that tradition and I do not think the students got much benefit from it. The timing makes it look like appeasement and political correctness. My daughter graduated 2015 from Harpeth Hall.

    2. Alicia Bettany

      Having read the entire article I would say it is not the removal of the celebration that is the concern, but some of the reasons given for that decision (especially with the current push by many misguided, and often lawlessness groups that are pushing for the removal of our history). It reads as pandering at best.

  7. James Stier

    What percentage are showing their discomfort?

  8. Oneil Gray

    Hawkina they win when people like you defend their actions of dishonorig Washington. Without his leadership there would be no USA.. Oneil Gray

  9. RLABruce

    How can they teach about the American Revolution without mentioning the foremost Founder of our country?

    1. A Smith

      Harpeth Hall’s statement in no way indicated that they would be striking George Washington from their curriculum. I attended this school and received the mentioned email. The George Washington celebration is an event where seventh graders dress up as either founding fathers and their wives or soldiers and do little choreographed dances/processions. There was very little educational value to it. It was just a beloved tradition at the school. It took up weeks of students’ time practicing the choreography which could perhaps be put to better use.

      1. Futility

        Timing. It’s all about the timing.

        If they had done this a year ago, I’d probably agree with you.

    2. MC Claverie

      Hello. We are not getting rid of George Washington from the History curriculum. We are getting rid of a boring and outdated pageant put on by 7th graders that does not provide the larger context of our countries founders. Re-read the article

    3. LC Essary

      George Washington will be taught in the classroom! There will just not be an annual pageant that does not offer anything to the students other than time taken from their normal curriculum.

  10. David A Gwinn

    This is very unfortunate. A hero of the Revolution, patriot and founder of our country is unworthy of recognition in these days of revisionist history. How sad!

  11. Billy Cherry. SSG Ret. TN & TX ARNG. 66-06. SCV

    Looks like social left wing indoctrination comes at a hefty price. If my daughter attended this school I would quickly remove her and find one that taught real history. Not one where it was taught the way the Left wants it taught.

    1. John Magee

      These WASP snobs deserve their fate when Antifa/BLM mobs help bring down our republic and cart them off to a labor camp the first time they complain about their 4 bedroom 3 bath homes in some all white elite suburb is taken from them to house the homeless and millions of migrants.

      1. Scott Aiman

        Your comment is spot on.

    2. Joy Cooper

      Read the article…it does not say that history classes won’t teach about him…it says that an extracurricular event that celebrates him on his birthday will not be held anymore…very different thing

      1. GF phillips

        Well, they have dropped WWII out of the history books because it scares the little people. 25 years ago, in my city, high school kids could not answer any question relating to the Bill of Rights. Some kids thought that Martin Luther King was the founder of America, etc. so, yes, why did we let this happen. Our children are being indoctrinated not educated.

  12. Cannoneer2

    George Washington was a Southerner and a slave owner from the future Confederate state of Virginia. He didn’t stand a chance Guess we’ll just have to declare John Adams THE Founding Father of the U.S.. He was from the Good and Holy state of Massachusetts, which has never been involved in any wrongdoing whatsoever.

  13. John Smith

    Unlike the people who run this school, I don’t believe that a current political narrative alters reality, especially the significance of historical figures such as Washington. It will be stunning if parents continue to fork over big money to send their daughters to this place. If they are being misled about American history, what else are they being misled about to advance someone’s pseudo-academic political agenda? This can’t possibly be worth paying for.

  14. Jim Hawkins

    I implore all of you commenters to read, at the very least, the second last paragraph before you knee-jerk into thinking that they’re removing Washington from the history curriculum. They’re cancelling an annual roleplay event, not striking him from the books.

  15. 83ragtop50

    ““In 1913, young women at Ward-Belmont lived and studied in a protected enclave where young men were not allowed. ”

    In 2020 Harpeth Hall declared to protect young women from the truth.

  16. Mimi

    Thank God I graduated from Harpeth Hall before it became a left wing indoctrination camp. I will never give it a dime. The same goes for Vanderbilt. .

  17. Teddy

    Thank the good Lord my daughters went to school there prior to the left wingers taking over. Teach history whether you like it or not.

  18. Kevin

    I’m really sorry that the “powers at be” in this little bastion of “white privilege” feel shame and guilt for something that they believe may or may not have happened in the past. But, the last thing we need is for them to artificially re-write history!

    Picking and choosing specific aspects of history to be deleted does one thing, it commits future generations to relive and remake any and all mistakes that our forefather made.

  19. Beatrice Shaw

    They should not discontinue teaching who George Washington was in history. They can maybe add some more relevant facts-like how he acquired his wealth and what role people of color and women played in his ability to leave work for so long at a time.

  20. Karen

    Well, sounds like the school is intent on ruining the education of these young gals and turn out a bunch of poorly-educated snowflakes who can’t think or make decisions for themselves. Oh wait…this is how they treated young women before women’s suffrage. If I were the parent of a student, I’d be pulling them out of school instead of wasting money on their form of education. I wonder if there will be a mass exodus of students.

    1. Honey

      Karen, I am sure you are right…parents of this school will most certainly be pulling their kids out. Is your real name Karen?

      1. Karen

        Yes it is. My full name is Karen Kirkpatrick. I grew up in Nashville. Is your real name Honey?

    2. Mary Morris

      My daughter graduated from Harpeth Hall a few years ago. She was an “eight year girl,” having started there in the 5th grade. She participated in the George Washington Day pagent/celebration. That event is being discontinued because was a scripted event that did not provide the historical prospective of women, or people of color. Harpeth Hall provides an excellent education for young women, and most of all it teaches them to think critically and for themselves. Before forming opinions, my daughter researches the facts and comes to intelligent conclusions. I am so proud of her for that, and so glad she learned that at Harpeth Hall. I am also proud of Harpeth Hall and its leadership for putting the interest of students ahead of “tradition.”

  21. Mike Johnson

    Since when is ANY history “not relevant”? When does the book burning start ladies? Why does “diversity” exclude white males? Sounds like a camp for leftist brainwashing of white women…