Ethical Culture Fieldston School

Infobox Secondary school
name = Ethical Culture Fieldston School
native_name =

motto = "Fiat lux" (Let there be light)
established = 1878
city = New York City
state = New York
province =
country = United States
campus =
type = Private Day School
affiliation =
affiliations =
president =
principals = John Love (Fieldston High School); George Burns (Fieldston Lower); Ann Vershbow(Ethical Culture); Luis Ottley (Fieldston Middle School)
headmaster =
rector =
dean =
founder = Felix Adler
chaplain =
chairman =
head_label = Head of School
head = Mark Stanek
faculty =
students =
enrollment = approx. 1,600
enrolment =
grades = Pre-k through 12
address =
district =
oversight =
accreditation =
mascot = Eagle
colors = Orange and blue
colours =
newspaper = Fieldston News
yearbook = the Fieldglass
free_label_1 = Other publications
free_1 = Season Pass, The Gouda, The Fieldston LP, Fieldston Lit Mag, Middle School News, Dope Ink Prints
free_label_2 = Song (Upper)
free_2 = "Iam Canamus"
website =
footnotes =
picture =

The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, known as Fieldston, is a private "independent" school in New York City and a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League. It has about 1600 students and a staff of 400 people (as of 2004), headed by Mark Stanek. [ [ New head of school] ]

In the words of its founder, Felix Adler: "The ideal of the school is to develop individuals who will be competent to change their environment to greater conformity with moral ideals."

The school consists of two lower schools (Pre-k thru 5th grade): Ethical Culture (known as "Ethical" or "Midtown") located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Fieldston Lower (known as "Lower"), located on the Riverdale campus in the Bronx, both of which feed into a middle school (grades 6-8) and an upper school (Forms III thru VI, grades 9-12) - The Fieldston School - also located on the Bronx campus. Ethical Culture is headed by Ann Vershbow, Fieldston Lower is headed by George Burns, and the Fieldston School is headed by Dr. John Love. The Middle School is headed by Dr. Luis Ottley.


The school first opened in 1878, as a free kindergarten. It was 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 which was important then continues today: although the school's tuition is over $30,000 per student per year, Fieldston is said to have one of the largest financial aid funds [ as of 2004] of any independent school in the country. About 1/3 of the students are on full or partial financial aid.

The school moved into its landmark 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 in the Bronx; 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.

Ethical was said to pursue social justice, racial equality, and intellectual freedom.cite news | title=The Ethical Culture School | author=Rosalind Singer | url= | publisher=New York Review of Books| date=2002-04-25 | accessdate=2007-07-02] 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." The school ended its formal ties with the Society in the 1990s, although retaining its name and striving to maintain the ethical tradition of its roots.

One of the early faculty members was the famous documentary photographer Lewis Hine.

Fieldston is not the only Ethical Culture School in the NYC area. In 1922, an Ethical Culture School was founded in the Prospect Park section of Brooklyn by Julie Wurtzberger Neuman. [ [ Brooklyn Ethical Culture School Alumni site ] ]

Philosophy and academics

The school is a prominent part of the Progressive Movement. Part of the school's curriculum, per the philosophy of its founder, Felix Adler, includes courses in ethics and moral philosophy, along with required community service. Drawing heavily on the educational philosophy of John Dewey, hands-on "learning by doing" is emphasized from pre-kindergarten through the senior year of high school. The school is known for its predominantly liberal student body and its commitment to diversity and a well-funded scholarship program. The "senior gift" given by graduating seniors and their families is frequently designated for financial aid funds.

The academic standards are high and virtually 100% of its graduates go on to college. Students in the upper school have to gather credits in a wide range of academic subjects and there are well-developed arts and performing arts programs, as well as many sports teams. There are many elective courses for the upper grades, providing flexibility for students to set their own curricula. The community service program is a cornerstone of the school, with students volunteering within the school, the surrounding community and the city at large. A hallmark of the school's ethics program has been the interaction by older students as peer advisors for younger ones, with 5th graders working with kindergarteners, and 11th and 12th grade students leading 7th and 8th graders in ethics courses (through a program called Student to Student), for example.

Fieldston is well known for being among the first schools to drop its participation in the Advanced Placement Program in 2002 to give its faculty the freedom to offer more challenging and thought-provoking material, rather than to "teach to the test." 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 assure that their students would be evaluated based on the quality of the courses, even without the AP designation.

The upper school's student newspaper is called the "Fieldston News" and the yearbook is the "Fieldglass". The "ECF Reporter" and "Field Notes" provide news of the schools to alumni and parents. There are several student-run literary and art magazines, as well, such as "Litmag", "Dope Ink Prints", the popular satirical publication, "The Gouda", the music magazine, "The Fieldston LP", and the sports magazine [ Season Pass] .


Each year the number of students enrolled in the school system grows. In 2002, talk of expansion began; plans were laid out the following year. A new middle school as well as new gym facilities were planned, and construction began in June 2004 with an estimated date of completion of September 2007. [ [ Middle school brochure] ] Previously, the lower schools started with Pre-K and went up to 6th grade, and the upper school from 7th to 12th grade, with Forms 1 and 2 (7th and 8th grade) somewhat distinct from the high school, but sharing the same space, and with some overlap of faculty and much interaction among students. With the new middle school, located on the Fieldston campus, students in 6th, 7th and 8th grade will be in their own building, with their own curriculum and faculty, and less interaction with the high school. This is expected to have the positive result of additional classrooms for the lower and upper schools which are overcrowded. However, there has been much controversy among the alumni, parent and student body concerning the issue, as some felt that Fieldston was losing its unique identity with this change, but economic and space pressures prevailed. The community remains divided on whether a separate middle school was pedagogically warranted, with strong feelings on both sides.


Fieldston's athletic program includes 44 teams covering 14 sports. The teams, known as the "Fieldston Eagles", play in the Ivy Prep League against other private schools in the region. (The school's hockey team, however, does not play in the league and schedules its own games.)

pecial programs

*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
*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

Notable alumni and former students

Among its many notable alumni and former students are the following:
* Jill Abramson - managing editor for news, "The New York Times"
* Clifford Alexander Jr - former Secretary of the Army
* Joseph Amiel - author
* Diane Arbus - renowned photographer
* Alan Bergman - member, Songwriter's Hall of Fame
* Leon Black - financier, Apollo Management and Drexel Burnham
* Jordan Bratman - music producer
* Nancy Cantor - Chancellor, Syracuse University
* Roy Cohn - attorney [ [ "In a Neutral Corner; Roy Marcus Cohn"] , "The New York Times", April 22, 1960. Accessed August 5, 2008.]
* Sofia Coppola - Oscar winning writer/director (attended middle school at Fieldston)
* Andrew Delbanco - critic and author
* Nicholas Delbanco - novelist
* David Denby - film critic, "The New Yorker"
* Ralph de Toledano - author
* David Emil - restaurateur, owner of Windows on the World [ Comfort Food ] ]
* Samuel C. Florman - engineer, author
* Darcy Frey - author
* John S. Friedman - Oscar-winning documentary film producer (for "")
* Rita Gam - film actress
* Alan Gilbert - Music Director-designate of the New York Philharmonic, 2009
* Rob Glaser - Internet pioneer
* Rodney Jones - Jazz guitarist
* Jeffrey Katzenberg - film producer, media mogul
* Matt Goldman and Chris Wink - Two of the Three Founders of Blue Man Group
* Yosuke Kawasaki - Orchestral violinist, chamber musician, and soloist
* Charlie King - New York civic leader and politician
* Arthur Kinoy - prominent civil rights lawyer
* Ernest Kinoy - screenwriter of early TV ("Roots", "The Defenders", "Dr. Kildare")
* Walter Koenig - actor, played Pavel Chekov on TV's "Star Trek"; he held a school record in track and field until the late '80s.
* Joseph Kraft - public affairs columnist
* Joan Kron - author and editor
* Christopher Lehmann-Haupt - author, "The New York Times" book reviewer
* Sean Ono Lennon - musician
* Eda LeShan - child psychologist and author of books on parenting
* Carl P. Leubsdorf - Washington bureau chief, "Dallas Morning News"
* Robert Levey - columnist, "The Washington Post"
* Doug Liman - Director of the film "Swingers"
* Andrew Litton - Conductor, Dallas Symphony
* Douglas Lowy, M.D. - Co-creator of the HPV vaccine
* Jeffrey Lyons - film critic, WNBC-TV, New York
* Bob Marshall - conservationist, writer, and the principal founder of The Wilderness Society
* Jane Mayer - staff writer, "The New Yorker"
* Steven Mayer - pianist
* Nicholas Meyer - noted film Director, directed Fieldston Alumnus Walter Koenig in both "Star Trek II" and "Star Trek VI"
* Jo Mielziner - stage designer ("South Pacific", "Guys and Dolls")
* Marvin Minsky - pioneer in artificial intelligence
* Frederic S. Mishkin - Governor of the Federal Reserve Board
* Robert M. Morgenthau - New York County District Attorney
* Robert Moses - (attended for two years, per Robert Caro's "Power Broker")
* Howard Nemerov - former United States Poet Laureate
* Hugh Nissenson - author
* J. Robert Oppenheimer - Father of the atomic bomb
* Emanuel R. Piore - Chief Scientist of IBM, and noted pioneer of electical engineering.
* Belva Plain - author
* Letty Cottin Pogrebin - author
* Edward R. Pressman - film producer
* Richard Ravitch - business and civic leader
* Dan Rottenberg - author and editor
* Muriel Rukeyser - poet and playwright
* James H. Scheuer - U.S. Congressman (N.Y.)
* Gil Scott-Heron - Musician
* Stephen Slesinger - creator of the Red Ryder comic strip
* Tess Slesinger - author/screenwriter
* Alan B. Slifka - Investor and philanthropist
* Stephen Sondheim - composer, attended the Fieldston Lower School
* Andy Stein - Musician frequently on "Prairie Home Companion"
* Stewart Stern - screenwriter (e.g., "Rebel Without a Cause")
* Paul Strand - photographer and filmmaker
* Thomas Strauss - former president, Salomon Brothers
* James Toback - Filmmaker
* Richard Tofel - author
* Doris Ulmann - photographer of Appalachia
* Jane Cooke Wright - pioneering African-American physician and cancer researcher
* Sheryl WuDunn - former award-winning writer for the NYTimes
* Eden Wurmfeld - producer of the film "Kissing Jessica Stein"
* Eli Zabar - gourmet food purveyor

Because of its prominence as one of New York City's top independent schools, many famous "movers and shakers" in entertainment, politics, news, business and the arts have sent their children to ECS-Fieldston over the past 100 years; many families have multi-generational alumni.

Peer schools

Ethical Culture Fieldston is a part of the Ivy Preparatory School League, with many of the city's elite private schools. The high schools of 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 also share perhaps the greatest amount of inter-school sports rivalry.

ee also

*Education in New York City


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