News

Palo Alto school board to discuss petition to rename Jordan Middle School

Parent groups endorse proposal to change school name

Gunn High School is named after Henry M. Gunn, once a Palo Alto superintendent and longtime educator. Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School's namesake was a co-founder of Stanford University and wife of Leland Stanford. Lucille M. Nixon Elementary School bears the name of a Palo Alto poet and educator.

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Comments

36 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Perhaps they might look into the history of Lewis Terman (namesake of Terman Middle School) as well.


7 people like this
Posted by Real American
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 7, 2015 at 12:20 pm

[Post removed.]


57 people like this
Posted by wow
a resident of Duveneck School
on Dec 7, 2015 at 1:00 pm

[Post removed.]


61 people like this
Posted by what a joke
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 7, 2015 at 1:55 pm

what a waste of time this is. and i can't believe i wasted time reading this article


73 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2015 at 2:00 pm

This is a disgraceful waste of time and probably money for our BoE. I suspect that those behind it are of the opinion that everything in PAUSD is fine and there are no events which are more important to address. We have suicides, over stressed teens, teachers misbehaving, kids falling behind in school, blah, blah, blah, and someone wants to waste time and energy on this?

Priorities are most definitely wrong.

I am personally not for naming schools or anything else after people as generally speaking they can go out of favor. However, since it is named Jordan, that is its name. Deal with it.


75 people like this
Posted by Stockard Channing
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2015 at 2:03 pm

I live on Channing Street and would like to see if we can change the name since it's named after a bad actress.


40 people like this
Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Agree with the above comments...must not have anything else to do!


7 people like this
Posted by Builderone
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 7, 2015 at 2:06 pm

[Post removed.]


46 people like this
Posted by Teachable moment
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 7, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Dad, why did they name Jordan after such a bad person?

Son, i agree he did many bad things but the decision was made a long time ago. You've got other things to worry about such as getting your homework done tonight. So get to work


62 people like this
Posted by Michael Jordan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 7, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Let's just tell the kids it was named after me! Save everyone lots of time and money


68 people like this
Posted by Berry
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Palo Alto translates into Tall Tree but the actual tree of Palo Alto has split in half and has been hit by lightning and is no longer "tall". Therefore, Palo Alto should be called "For Sale to Developers by City Council".


16 people like this
Posted by Former Jordan Student
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Not to mention that the jury is still out on whether or not David Starr Jordan is responsible for the death of Jane Lathrop Stanford: Web Link


28 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm

It does seem odd to be concerned and talk about this, but it does matter.

Maybe not a lot, but taking the time to put it right may seem cumbersome
and a bother, but it imprints in people that it makes sense to name things
right the first time, also to think about other people's feelings. You who are
making fun of this are really ridiculing other people's feelings when they
say they are insulted. Way to be insensitive. There's really no argument
against the fact that today sensitivity in American culture seems to be at
an all time low, and calling it political correctness is just a way to insult
people. Some like to find tricky ways to belittle the idea of sensitivity,
bu they are the first to get upset when someone insults them most of
the time.

Also ... can't anyone think of anyone but themselves ... if this is offensive
or bothersome to other people, why is it that you get to decide that is
a frivolous waste or time?

Now, if it can be shown someone brough the whole subject up to troll
everyone ... OK, but otherwise ... who does it hurt?

We went for over a hundred years honoring the Confederate flag in a
way that was very offensive to a lot of people. I am glad that has
been ended in public places, it is the right thing to do.


49 people like this
Posted by Offensive?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 7, 2015 at 3:18 pm

The American flag is offensive to lots of people.
A school in our own county has banned its display on occasion.


24 people like this
Posted by malia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 7, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Just call our schools P.S. #XX That should solve the naming issue....


38 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2015 at 3:38 pm

307 supporters (out of approx. 20-25K adults in PA). Plus, who is to say that all 307 supporters are from PA?

I don't care one way or another. But it seems that the number of concerned individuals is a very small number.


16 people like this
Posted by Larry
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 7, 2015 at 3:47 pm

If you can accept eugenics for Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger, it's good enough for JMS.


11 people like this
Posted by time to clean house
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2015 at 4:22 pm

We should stop naming schools/buildings/public spaces after people.
Similar to the "Rinconada Library" fiasco, just name it after the area it's in. If the area changes, the name changes.
This applies to Gunn, Hoover, JLS, Jordan, Nixon, Briones, ...


34 people like this
Posted by Sunny
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 7, 2015 at 4:48 pm

The "White House" name is very offensive to me. It hurts my sensitive Oalo Alto feelings.


24 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2015 at 6:02 pm

As well as taking a leading role in the eugenics movement, David Starr Jordan also ignored the application of Stanford's first black student (Ernest Johnson), until Jane Stanford intervened on Johnson's behalf.

Jordan is also the prime suspect, in the unsolved murder of Jane Stanford.

"Regarding Ernest Johnson"
Stanford Alumni Magazine ~ Nov/Dec 2004(?) Web Link

"Who Killed Jane Stanford?"
Stanford Alumni Magazine ~ Sep/Oct 2003(?) Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 7, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Eugenicist and unofficial suspect in the murder of Jane Lathrop Stanford. Very interesting character, who knew!


16 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 7, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Good ol' Palo Alto, letting your true colors shine!


25 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 7, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Elena,

Thanks for including the link to the petition. I just signed.

Names of public buildings are often changed for less significant reasons than this. Different times, different values, different names for public buildings-and school mascots, a related issue. Look at Stanford University with its current multicultural vitality and consider what a distraction retaining the "Stanford Indians" identity and mascot would have been if not rejected in 1972.

We should drop Jordan's name from our school and notify the schools in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Burbank of what we've done and why. Demographics of Jordan High in Los Angeles (per greatschools.org): Hispanic (87%), Black (13%), White (0%). Long Beach: Hispanic (67%), Black (22%), Asian (4%), Pacific Islander (3%), White (2%). It's clearly inappropriate for those students to study in a school named for a white supremacist, no matter how many positive accomplishments he had.

And our own Jordan Middle School? White (52%), Asian (28%), Hispanic (9%), Two or more races (5%), Black (3%), Pacific Islander (2%), American Indian/Alaska Native (1%). If we act fast maybe we can do what should be done while Whites are still in the majority so it can be regarded as a moral triumph instead of a reluctant concession to changing numbers. Time for a name change.


7 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Eruv, anyone?


1 person likes this
Posted by @Lars Johnsson-Another possible trait?
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 7, 2015 at 7:23 pm

@Lars Johnsson-

I'm responding here since the thread titled: "What Harvard, Princeton and Palo Alto have in common" was restricted Link: Web Link

Thank you for your efforts. I noticed that you started before two threads relating to Jordan's name (possibly more). I also noticed that both threads were locked pretty fast.

It is possible that another common trait of the places willing to examine the past is the absence of a local "Big Brother"? Absence of local entity censoring whatever seems to be inappropriate?

Here is quotes posted more than two years:

“… Lately Bill Johnson seems to be editing for content of speech rather than manner or tone. He appears to have particular ideas about what kinds of arguments “help” the “community” and what do not. This is unfortunate since it appears to be a slippery slope with a lot of deletions occurring...." PalyDad, Link: Web Link


I think that PalyDad's comment relates nicely to the issue you are trying to address. That is without trying even to conclude if the name of the school should be changed. It is about the ability to discuss, the legitimacy of a dialog.

[Portion removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by for once i agree with Lars
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm

PA weekly continued deletion of comments that are valid points of debate is disgusting. The editor should come out and articulate exactly why they delete some posts and keep others. What's the point of allowing comments on a particular subject if you don't let the free flow of ideas and comments.


32 people like this
Posted by Discuss
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 7, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Eugenics was wrong, so too was slavery (Thomas Jefferson and others). Let's use this as an opportunity to have conversations with our kids about how things were and how things have changed.

I think we should be careful when viewing the past through today's more enlightened(?) societal norms. Perhaps in the 22nd century the outcry will be to rename schools named after people who ate the flesh of animals.


20 people like this
Posted by change the names!!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2015 at 8:17 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2015 at 10:01 pm

casey is a registered user.

Maybe Jordan should be renamed to Ray Lyman Wilbur Middle School.


6 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

"Maybe Jordan should be renamed to Ray Lyman Wilbur Middle School."

Too risky until somebody thoroughly vets him, and even then who knows what sins he might have committed against future sensibilities. Same goes for anybody else with significant accomplishments.

We better play it safe. Get some really old phone books from random places and pick out a few totally obscure people who left no document trails and nobody remembers. Or, better yet, code up an app to gin up names that never existed before.


34 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 2:01 am

How far do you want to go on this?

George Washington:
- became a slave owner at age 11
- owned 380 slaves when he died
- utilized harsh punishments (e.g., whipping)

Thomas Jefferson:
- inherited 52 slaves at age 21
- by 1773, he owned approx. 190 slaves

Benjamin Franklin:
- owned slaves before becoming an abolitionist

James Madison:
- 100+ slaves

James Monroe:
- 75 slaves

Wm Henry Harrison:
- 11 slaves

John Tyler
- 70 slaves

James Polk
- 25 slaves

Z. Taylor
- approx. 100 slaves

Andrew Johnson:
- 8 slaves

Andrew Jackson:
- owned 150 slaves when he died

US Grant
- owned 1-5 slaves before the Civil War
- advocated for his father-in-law so he (FIL) wouldn't lose his slaves during a bankruptcy settlement


There are countless schools, monuments, roads, parks, towns, landmarks, etc. named after all of the above. Further, various coins and paper money prominently display the images of 5 of the above.

Heck, we have a school named after a US President's daughter - that President broke the law and resigned in shame. Shouldn't we change that school's name as well?

What will be your next mission?


15 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2015 at 3:11 am

George Berkeley was a slave owner.


24 people like this
Posted by bg80
a resident of Los Altos
on Dec 8, 2015 at 7:20 am

bg80 is a registered user.

Looks like PC Principal is in town.

How about we address things in the community that actually make us unsafe, rather than this nonsense?


3 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 7:33 am

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

If the school's going to be renamed, I suggest it be renamed after Mr Seiders (sp?) or Mrs Zimmerman.


5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 8, 2015 at 9:09 am

@CPD, you're kidding about Nixon Elementary, right?


33 people like this
Posted by Midtown Ro
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2015 at 10:30 am

Before reading the article, I thought that the proposal to change the school name might be based on a silly or light-weight reason. But after reading about the eugenics advocacy, I support changing the name just like I respect Southern populations for changing from institutional names of known racists. If they can break tradition and modernize where the issues are so complex, why can't we?


3 people like this
Posted by michael jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:05 am

and,let's change the athletic department back to what it should be--run by the school. the way it is set up now is a joke! in order to participate--you have to stand in line to register or win the lottery. what about all the children have a shot at participating--not just a few. first come first serve?? is that the way to run the athletics which are so important to our youth? if you miss out on the first 20 minutes of registering--you do not get to participate. REALLY?? who's idea is that? oh, the CITY no wonder it is so screwed up.


4 people like this
Posted by michael jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:05 am

and,let's change the athletic department back to what it should be--run by the school. the way it is set up now is a joke! in order to participate--you have to stand in line to register or win the lottery. what about all the children have a shot at participating--not just a few. first come first serve?? is that the way to run the athletics which are so important to our youth? if you miss out on the first 20 minutes of registering--you do not get to participate. REALLY?? who's idea is that? oh, the CITY no wonder it is so screwed up.


23 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:25 am

Waste time and taxpayers' money on this!! Let's focus in something more important.


2 people like this
Posted by Ben Lenail
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:36 am

I have a great idea for a new name for Jordan which will please everyone in our progressive community: Ethel Rosenberg. New York mayor Bill de Blasio just inaugurated a bust honoring her life and legacy. She loved Comrade Stalin more than her own children.


61 people like this
Posted by señor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:38 am

Oh come on
Don't you have anything better to do?

Why don't all you signers of petitions go volunteer in a soup kitchen if you dan't have anything better to do with your time.


9 people like this
Posted by curious
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2015 at 12:11 pm

How many slaves did the Stanford's own? Or did they just underpay American Indian or Mexican American workers on their estates and farms?


19 people like this
Posted by realitycheck
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 8, 2015 at 12:23 pm

What about teaching (and possibly learning from) history instead of ERASING IT?! Take the opportunity to teach students about a topic they may never hear or learn about elsewhere. As adults we need to stop perpetuating a culture of being offended and victimized for things not worthy of our time and attention. Want to take a stand against eugenics, aka BIRTH CONTROL? Protest Planned Parenthood which disproportionately "controls" and terminates the life of black and Latino babies, which was the intention of founder Margaret Sanger.


29 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 12:52 pm

@ musical: Yes, just kidding.

Like I said before - I don't care if we change the name of Jordan Junior High.

But the point is not lost on a broader discussion --- where do we draw the line?

PA has the following streets named after US Presidents who were also slave owners:
Washington (I know - state name...but the state is named for Geo. Washington)
Jefferson
Madison
Monroe
Jackson
Grant

Should we rename those streets?

And we have slave owners featured on the nickel, quarter, $1, $20, $50, $100. Should we take them off all currency ASAP?

The tallest landmark in Wash. DC is for the first president - a slave owner. Jefferson Memorial on the Patomac. Should we tear down those landmarks?

Hawthorne Street (Nathaniel Hawthorne). He did not own slaves but he was racist and supported slave ownership in his writings.

Kipling Street (Rudyard Kipling). Kipling supported slavery as a means to "colonize and civilize" non-Europeans.

Poe Street (Edgar Allan Poe). He acted as an agent and sold a slave on his aunt's behalf.

Stanford was a robber baron - should we rename that street? Same for Hopkins?

Dartmouth College was the last Ivy League school to admit women (1972). Should we rename that street?

OK, I'll stop now.






4 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2015 at 1:30 pm

What was David Starr Jordan's role in the murder of Jane Lathrop Stanford? If Jordan was involved in her murder, why is a school named in honor of him?

Psychopaths should not have buildings named in their honor.


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Univ. of Maryland to change football stadium name:

Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by Fifth Generation
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 1:41 pm

We are three generations at JORDAN!
We were upset when they no longer were the Dolphins which honored David Starr Jordan. Can't we keep anything from our glorious Palo Alto history?!


8 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Ah, but none of the figures you've you've listed was a pioneer rather than just a participant in the practice of slavery. Jordan <was> a pioneering figure in applying science to justify discrimination and worse. We saw where that went as Germany picked it up and ran with it under the Third Reich.

I first became aware of the connection between America's eugenics movement and the science of Racial Hygiene propounded by the Nazis through a curriculum unit entitled "Race, Membership and the Eugenics Movement" produced by Facing History and Ourselves, a Bay Area pioneer in Holocaust education. At the very least, I hope discussion of this question will assure a look at this locally and historically relevant topic.

Palo Alto may well choose to keep the school name, it's the default choice after all. But the bell of awareness has been rung, and you can't unring the bell. Palo Alto can decide that keeping Jordan's name on our school despite his prominence in the eugenics movement is as important to our community as keeping the names of Washington, Jefferson and Madison on schools is to the country as a whole.

There'll be no hiding the decision, though.


12 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 8, 2015 at 2:08 pm

They already changed the mascot from Dolphins to Jaguars, but maybe that was the students' request.

Keep the Jordan name - our kids do not idolize him or know about him and don't even give the name a second thought.

@Crescent Park Dad: Thanks for spending time on the interesting information!

@Offensive?: Which school forbids the American flag? And how could it be construed as offensive? We would have our students pledging the flag each day until parents who fought to end that. We should have some pride in our wonderful nation. I'm still going to hang my American flag outside on relevant holidays.


12 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Exactly. Do you tear down the Jefferson Memorial or do you find a way to educate others on the obvious conflicts between writing some of the most important papers in the history of the Republic and the fact that he was also a slave owner.

Let's start with education.


8 people like this
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 8, 2015 at 3:00 pm

I support the School Board discussing a topic that hundreds of people have expressed concern about. I hope as they go they'll keep in mind that every person is flawed; that every culture and generation supports ideas that don't stand the test of time; and that acknowledging our history, with all its warts, is to acknowledge who we are as a community.

Mr. Johnsson's petition is highly inflammatory, and I think probably unfair in its representation of David Starr Jordan's philosophy, which seems to have fit neatly within the norms of his time.


25 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Ask the practical questions about renaming:
1. Will renaming the school influence D. S. Jordan's activities/views on eugenics? No. He is dead.
2. Will it change the impression that PAUSD is endorsing Jordan's activities in eugenics? No. Until this petition, most people were unaware of that, so there was no endorsement.

With a few exceptions, the biggest impact of the choice of the name comes at the time it is made, after which it quickly recedes into being a Trivial Pursuits(R) type question.

However, this petition is a good example of the impotence of a particular political mindset: They expend considerable energy on grievances that have little impact (easy, meaningless victories) and ignore issues that produce significant meaningful change.

It would behoove the School Board to use this as a teaching opportunity: That one needs to learn to pick one's battles wisely.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Let's see if we could construct a Miller's Analogies test item (anyone else remember those, are they still in use?) based on the previous post.

Replacing the name of a pioneering eugenicist on a middle school is to X as tearing down the memorial to a father of the nation is to the USA

The well-read and aware student would know that X stands for Palo Alto, at the throbbing heart of Silicon Valley, home to internationally renowned Stanford University, where the honored eugenicist was an early administrator.

I hope PAUSD will act so there is no correct value for X. And by all means let's make sure that people learn the history of the eugenics movement and understand how this pseudo-science, elements of which we still see tossed into public discussions, fails to meet the test for serious consideration.


2 people like this
Posted by Cincy
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Cincy is a registered user.

What was Ray Lyman Wilbur's sin?


13 people like this
Posted by Liberals gone amuck
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2015 at 5:31 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 8, 2015 at 8:38 pm

"What was Ray Lyman Wilbur's sin?"

We don't know yet, which means either he covered it up very cleverly, which is highly suspicious in itself, or it hasn't occurred yet because the social sensibilities it would have offended have not yet come into being.

Therefore it's best to just wait and see what turns up. We cannot be too careful in these matters. Nobody wants a controversy like the present one to recur in 50 years or so.

By the way, this is not intended to deprecate Ray Lyman Wilbur. The foregoing applies to any blemish-free naming candidate.


2 people like this
Posted by rename it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2015 at 9:58 pm

"Also a tribute to [Jordan's] extensive background in biology, Jordan did not agree with contemporaries such as Madison Grant and Charles Gould in their belief that disastrous consequences would occur when races mixed. He regarded racial blending as inseparable from the progress of civilization. He used the United States as his prime example that the crossing of breeds would not harm the progression of a nation. "

Definitely not the sort of person we should be naming a school after!


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2015 at 10:44 pm

Since all this came about from a petition, I would like to sign the petition to prevent this becoming a timewasting and money wasting scenario.

I suppose this is the way trolls work now and it has to work both ways.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 10:59 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

To avoid confusion, my reference to "previous post" was to Crescent Park Dad's post.

@Douglas Moran
"Will it change the impression that PAUSD is endorsing Jordan's activities in eugenics? No. Until this petition, most people were unaware of that, so there was no endorsement."

Precisely. But now that they are aware of his activities in eugenics will a fresh look at naming the middle school after him, brought on by changing demographics and values, result in the same nonchalance? It's another of those those community choices that can update our understanding of where Palo Alto stands today.

Look at the comments on this thread. The vast majority ridicule the idea that we would consider changing the name of the school, with little curiosity about the specifics of concerns raised in the petition. I truly hope this is a skewed sample of local opinion and look forward to seeing what happens when the board takes this up.


10 people like this
Posted by BroaderChange
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:08 pm

Not only do I support the name change for Jordan, I would say we should make this one part of a broader reform of the entire culture of that particular school. I would change the furniture, paint the walls, remodel anything in sight, and commit the staff to a 180 degree change in culture.

Very visibly, very openly and publicly step forward and proclaim with this name change that the staff are committed to radically altering the culture of this school.

Bring in IS from outside, stop teacher abuse of students, focus on improving engagement dramatically - 99% satisfaction on a per-classroom basis. Break the back of bad culture. Move the problem teachers out of Jordan - scatter them in isolation across other schools in the district so they cannot collude to reform pockets of 'Jordan' elsewhere. Bring in enough new talent to lend a majority view to change.

Change the name. Change the look. Change the leadership. Change the goals. Change the culture. Change the expectation. Change the community perception. Do it all at once.


9 people like this
Posted by BroaderChange
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:25 pm

...and if you are looking for names, how about scientists: Albert Einstein, Marie Curie,

Or more in field of silicon/computing:
Alan Turing, John Bardeen (inventor of transistor, TWO Nobel prizes, all-around nice guy, unlike Shokley). Charles Babbage. John Von Neumann.


None of them owned slaves or advocated eugenics. Just saying. There are good people in the world. Why not recognize them?


6 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:35 pm

"The vast majority ridicule the idea that we would consider changing the name of the school, with little curiosity about the specifics of concerns raised in the petition. I truly hope this is a skewed sample of local opinion..."

Welcome to electoral democracy, Mr. Underdal. The "vast majority" of voters prevails in fairly-conducted elections, regardless of how any opinionated individual attempts to nullify the outcome as a "skewed sample" of an imputed majority that, curiously, would have favored the opinionated individual's personal opinion if it had not failed to express itself in the election. In other words, that legendary amorphous Great Silent Majority.

By the way, I for one am not ridiculing the idea that we would consider changing the name of a school, I am roundly ridiculing the rationale for changing the name of this particular school, as is my inherent right as a dues-paying member of this democracy.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 9, 2015 at 12:19 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Commentator
"Welcome to electoral democracy, Mr. Underdal. The "vast majority" of voters prevails in fairly-conducted elections. . ."

How is an online thread of mostly anonymous posts an example of electoral democracy? And how could I have been clearer that I was referring to the vast majority of comments, not Palo Alto voters?

"I for one am not ridiculing the idea that we would consider changing the name of a school, I am roundly ridiculing the rationale for changing the name of this particular school. . ."

Understood. That's why I used the definite article "the" rather than the indefinite article "a" in my phrase "consider changing the name of the school."

Have you given any thought to the concept of eugenics and its effects? Just thought I'd ask. It seems pertinent to this discussion.


3 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 9, 2015 at 12:13 pm

"Have you given any thought to the concept of eugenics and its effects? Just thought I'd ask. It seems pertinent to this discussion."

Not before this very moment. It was one of those intellectual fads of a century ago, a minor offshoot of the deep intellectual racism zeitgeist. Eugenics is quite out of style and forgotten these days.

However, the visceral variety of racism has had a robust revival with the election (that word again, I know) of a member of the least favored race to the top office in the land. So stay tuned.

But, now that you mention it, I do have to wonder why most humans prefer to let, say, an ordinary Santa Rosa plum, sport a genetic pedigree arguably superior to their own. Got any ideas on that?


5 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 9, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Commentator

"Eugenics is quite out of style and forgotten these days."

Circulation of the petition informs us that for many folks it's not forgotten and there are different perspectives that we can learn from on the subject. People whose genetic makeup would have placed them outside the constricted circle of those who met the eugenicists' standards for good Racial Hygiene (Nordic, by and large, and healthy), are less likely to feel comfortable that PAUSD continues to name its middle school after a eugenics pioneer when requested to reconsider than you are.


10 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

> Not before this very moment. It was one of those intellectual fads of a
> century ago, a minor offshoot of the deep intellectual racism zeitgeist.
> Eugenics is quite out of style and forgotten these days.

Not hardly. There is a book by Edwin Black titled
War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

This was not Hitler, this was America ... where we used to do eugenics,
which is the polite name for genocide. People were sterilized without
their knowledge or consent. Hitler liked it so much he based his ideas
on US.

Today the major thing that distinguishes the US from the whole rest of the
developed world is really the offshoot of the eugenics movement if you
think about it. We have the weakest safety net, we have no national health
care, we have no living wage, and very little legal representation for anyone
but the very rich. This is the implicit way to implement eugenics, when you
do not want anyone to know, have any way to discuss, or have any influence
with their vote or public discussion.

If we want to be leaders in the free world, then we need to wake up, open
our eyes, realize what it is we are really doing and supporting by treating
the mere mention of these policies as silly or absurd. If the US wants to be
the world leader, the world has been telling us over and over and louder
and louder to lead by example, not force, not number of bombs or how to
be the most cold blooded liars.


9 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2015 at 3:51 pm

A couple of things in Jordan's defense because even the devil should get an advocate.

First, the jury isn't out on Jordan killing Jane Lathrop Stanford--there's no case, there's just speculation. Jordan was thousands of miles away from Stanford when she died. Someone spiked her bicarbonate of soda, which could have been done in California, but that means Jordan would somehow have had to bribe someone or get into the house himself. No one's come up with a way that he would have done this.

All that's been shown is that Jordan looked for a way to hush up the talk of murder. Given that Stanford was a young school and a murder's a huge scandal he had other reasons for doing this besides being the culprit.

Unless some new piece of evidence showed up, Jordan would be neither tried nor convicted of Jane Stanford's murder. Idle speculation (which is really what this is) is a poor reason on which to base decisions.

Now, he was a eugenicist--but, so far, the worst actual thing he seems to have done was to ignore the application of a black student. Given the time period, with poll taxes and institutionalized and legal racism, this just doesn't quite measure up on on the kerfuffle meter. (The student did, in fact, attend Stanford.)

How extreme did eugenics get? Very--involuntary sterilizations, most of which took place in California. The "feeble-minded" were the main victims, but there were others. I haven't come across anything that shows Jordan was involved in this, but would be interested to know if he was.

Let's fix a couple of other misconceptions while we're at it. Margaret Sanger did believe affluent, educated women should breed and poor women (poverty, not color was the big issue) should have access to birth control and not spawn tons of kids. *However*, unlike more extreme eugenicists, she believed it should be the woman's choice. And, you know something, I also think poor women should have the right to control their reproduction--not because of genetic superiority/inferiority, but because lack of education/lots of kids does lend itself to a cycle of poverty.

So, the eugenics basis for Sanger's beliefs was bad, but her overall aim wasn't--particularly as she believed the women should have the choice.

Many eugenicists were racists, but not all--eugenics also had a following among African-American intellectuals, such as W.E.B. duBois, who believed that the talented top 10 percent of the "negro race" should have kids.

Humans have a long history of thinking some groups of people are better than others--i.e. hereditary nobility and monarchy. Eugenics was sort of a "modern" spin on something that's very old. Jordan died in 1931, which means he never had a chance to, say, disown his views in the face of rising Nazism.

As I said before, I'm neutral on the name change, but the lack of an historical perspective bothers me.


6 people like this
Posted by names matter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 9, 2015 at 5:16 pm

When I was reading this article, a thought which came to me immediately was the hope that there would be a similar impulse to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest school in Jacksonville, FL. How happy I am to read here that the name has been changed. I was appalled to see a school with his name on it when I went past it 10 years ago.


2 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 9, 2015 at 5:19 pm

"There is a book by Edwin Black titled
War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race"

"Circulation of the petition informs us that for many folks it's not forgotten and there are different perspectives that we can learn from on the subject."


I cannot begin to understand why anyone would try to resurrect this long-discredited, forgotten intellectual fad in order to rename a school. If they don't like the name Jordan, why not just say so upfront? If they're trying to revive eugenics, why not just do it instead of stalking behind this manufactured teapot tempest?


8 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Plane Speaker,

No, eugenics was not a polite term for "genocide", though it was used as justification for it. It came out of Great Britain, not the U.S., by the way, though it was popular here--particularly in California. Darwin's half-cousin, Francis Galton, coined the term after reading his cousin's work. So, basically, the idea was selective breeding could improve the human species.

The problem, of course, was what determined an improved species--there was never, really, a consensus on that. Hitler had his ideas, DuBois had his, Sanger had hers.
Sweden continued sterilizing people involuntarily until 1975; Virginia until 1974.

So, Jordan was a scientist (fish) and a champion of Darwin's theory of evolution. It's not surprising he was taken by the idea of bettering the species. The question, for me, is to what extent was his idea of a better human dependent upon racist ideas and, even more importantly, by what means did he think the species should be improved. Keep in mind that eugenics only began to fall out of fashion with the rise of Nazism in the 1930s--Jordan died in 1931. We don't know if he would have repudiated his views or not.

So, again, to what extent do his troubling views on eugenics undermine his contributions as a scientist and as Stanford's first president?


15 people like this
Posted by Lars Johnsson
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 9, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Lars Johnsson is a registered user.

Jerry Underdal, thank you for trying to argue with the anonymous crowd that prefers sniping over substance. I've tried to engage in an actual 'debate/exchange', asking for dialogue with substance. I was looking for people to give real reasons as to why the school should continue to be named after Jordan, and signed with their names, because that's what people do if they believe what they say. Guess what happened ....

That said there is 1 comment worth responding to: many of our early heroes and founding fathers owned slaves:
"George Washington:
- became a slave owner at age 11
- owned 380 slaves when he died
- utilized harsh punishments (e.g., whipping)

Thomas Jefferson:
- inherited 52 slaves at age 21
- by 1773, he owned approx. 190 slaves"
Excellent point, and it contains the answer as to what is the difference between them and Jordan.
Somebody that became a slave owner at 11 is clearly not a leader of the slave trade or the system of slavery, neither a person that inherited slaves at 21. The evils of slavery were brought to the country long before, but this realization is obviously not intended to condone slavery or owning of slaves at any point in time.
But if that argument 'clears' Washington, Jefferson et al, then why can't we assume that Jordan too was born in a time when Eugenics and racism were all the rage, and everybody did it, so lave him alone. This raises the question of where to draw the line, and the line should be drawn such that it separates the leaders of a movement from its supporters/participants. And Jordan was a leader of the US eugenics movement if ever there was one:
- he wrote his first of 6 books (Blood of the Nation) dedicated to Eugenics in 1902, long before it became fashionable. He worked with Charles Davenport to found the very first US Eugenics organization in 1906 (American Breeders Organization - Eugenics Chapter), and he was still at it in 1928 when he helped co-found the most despicable Human Betterment Foundation with its infamous influence on Nazi Germany's Eugenics program. All the while he used his influence and connections as President of Stanford University to rally industrialist of the time to fund and support Eugenics. The Rockefellers, Kellogs, Henry Ford, the Harriman railroad foundation and many others heeded his calls and funded Eugenics in the US and Germany.
You tell me if that is the work of a passerby caught up in unfortunate times or a visionary and leader of the movement. He was unrelenting in his pursuit and there is no report of Jordan showing any remorse before he died (read the McNall Burns Jordan biography from 1953 for more detail, called David Starr Jordan - Prophet of Freedom").
With that I renew my call to rename Jordan Middle School, to find and honor a role model that reflects our values and inspires our children.


10 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 9, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Thanks, Lars,

So much resistance to serious examination of how notions of eugenics have distorted our understanding of race and membership in American society is discouraging to see. But I am glad that you and others who circulated the petition will have a chance to make the case to the board that we should change the name of the school. It seems to me that this is a history teachers dream, having a consequential question about historical fact and interpretation raised for public discussion and then a decision that represents a sounding of community attitudes in 2015 on inclusion in Palo Alto. Can't wait to see how it goes outside the confines of this online neighborhood.

Tip to educators: The Facing History and Ourselves unit titled "Race and Membership in American Society" is available as a pdf download at facinghistory.org I just skimmed through it again and highly recommend it for background knowledge even if you don't use the materials in class.


5 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Lars,

Thank you for the history lesson. You might want to look into the long and storied history of anonymous, and pseudonymous, authorship. You might find it interesting.


9 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2015 at 12:42 am

O Par, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia (PUBLIC DOMAIN, fyi PAO)

Compulsory Sterilization:
Web Link

Eugenics in the US:
Web Link

--

The United States was the first country to concertedly undertake compulsory
sterilization programs for the purpose of eugenics.[39] The heads of the program
were avid believers in eugenics and frequently argued for their program.

It was shut down due to ethical problems.

The principal targets of the American program were the intellectually disabled
and the mentally ill, but also targeted under many state laws were the deaf, the
blind, people with epilepsy, and the physically deformed.

While the claim was that the focus was mainly the mentally ill and disabled,
the definition of this during that time was much different than today's. At this
time, there were many women that were sent to institutions under the guise
of being “feeble-minded" because they were promiscuous or became pregnant
while unmarried.

According to the activist Angela Davis, women of predominantly ethnic minorities
(such as Native Americans, as well as African-American women)[40] were sterilized
against their will in many states, often without their knowledge while they were in
a hospital for other reasons (e.g. childbirth). For example, in Sunflower County
Mississippi, 60% of black women living there were sterilized at Sunflower City
Hospital without their permission.

--

Influence on Nazi Germany

After the eugenics movement was well established in the United States, it spread to Germany. California eugenicists began producing literature promoting eugenics and sterilization and sending it overseas to German scientists and medical professionals.[66] By 1933, California had subjected more people to forceful sterilization than all other U.S. states combined. The forced sterilization program engineered by the Nazis was partly inspired by California's.[8]

The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs,[77] including the one that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.[7][78]

Upon returning from Germany in 1934, where more than 5,000 people per month were being forcibly sterilized, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe bragged to a colleague:

"You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought . . . I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.

--

This is not something that is easy to look at, and does not fit in well with what
the US wants its international image to be.

And by the way, this does not bear one David Starr Jordan's life either.


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Posted by Knowbody
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:49 pm

"...infamous influence on Nazi Germany's Eugenics program."

No points for the Nazi reference, sir/ma'am. Lurid US and British propaganda notwithstanding, the Lebensborn program was essentially stillborn.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@knowbofy

This is an interesting point. Would you mind sourcing your information so we can compare accounts? Thanks


6 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 10, 2015 at 8:39 pm

"With that I renew my call to rename Jordan Middle School, to find and honor a role model that reflects our values and inspires our children."

None of these, or future Jordan middle school students will care about Jordan the person, only a handful of "our" adults.

The only thing they care about is making it through puberty and fitting in with their peers. Values and inspiration will come from their parents and Justin Bieber.


15 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@opar

"So, again, to what extent do his troubling views on eugenics undermine his contributions as a scientist and as Stanford's first president?"

I'm not aware of criticism of his work as an ichthyologist, so his contributions to that field may appear solid, even stellar to a community looking to name a junior high school for a prominent local. But his work on the pseudo-science of eugenics was deeply flawed and the impact of what he supported has had tragic consequences.

I don't know how much his eugenics work played into his being named Stanford's first president or into how well the fledgling school fared. I'm very glad that the school succeeded. Let Stanford honor him in every way it chooses.

But PAUSD must recognize that Jordan's name is not a good fit for Palo Alto in the 21st century. Our very successful multi-cultural and multi-racial population belies the eugenicists' fanciful ideas that "inferior blood" and "racial impurity" would drag America down as the percentage of Northern Europeans in the population declined. Time to make a better choice.


2 people like this
Posted by what about terman?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 10, 2015 at 10:48 pm

I echo Steve:
"Perhaps they might look into the history of Lewis Terman (namesake of Terman Middle School) as well."

from wikipedia:
quote
Terman came to believe that IQ was, in addition to dependent on education, highly heritable.

His innovative wide-scale IQ testing exposed him to diverse groups of test-takers. Administering the tests to Spanish-speakers and unschooled African-Americans from the Southwest, he concluded:

“High-grade or border-line deficiency... is very, very common among Spanish-Indian and Mexican families of the Southwest and also among negroes. Their dullness seems to be racial, or at least inherent in the family stocks from which they come... Children of this group should be segregated into separate classes... They cannot master abstractions but they can often be made into efficient workers... from a eugenic point of view they constitute a grave problem because of their unusually prolific breeding” (The Measurement of Intelligence, 1916, p. 91-92).

Testing other groups in California, he observed

"Perhaps a median IQ of 80 for Italian, Portuguese, and Mexican school children in the cities of California would be a liberal estimate. How much of this inferiority is due to the language handicap and to other environmental factors it is impossible to say, but the relatively good showing made by certain other immigrant groups similarly handicapped would suggest that the true causes lie deeper than environment." (Mental and Physical Traits of a Thousand Gifted Children, Volume 1, 1925, p. 57)
unquote


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 11, 2015 at 1:17 am

I have no problem with my Alma Mater being renamed. If it is to be named after a person, let it be someone who made a difference to the school or the district, someone "of" the community rather than someone who never set foot in Palo Alto.

Harold T. Santee was superintendent when I attended PAUSD schools from 1960 to 1973. One could do worse than to name the school after him. To the best of my knowledge, Santee did not own slaves or practice eugenics in the 1960's and 1970's.


6 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 11, 2015 at 1:26 am

You could name it "Cesar Luther Mineta Kennedy Middle School". That should please everybody.

JFK did live in Palo Alto during his brief time as a Stanford student.


17 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 11, 2015 at 9:29 am

Yes, let's change this name. People have since learned that Jordan was absolutely wrong in his belief that the white race was superior to all other races. His intellectual pontificating of our need to sterilize "inferior races" (non-whites) was the actual basis for Nazi extermination camps. Surely, we can find a more contemporary figure to name our dear school after.


13 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 13, 2015 at 4:30 pm

One man, and a German immigrant at that compares David Star Jordan to Hitler.
As far as we know Jordan was responsible for no deaths, whereas Mr Hitler,well we know that story.
If we are to follow the logic in this petition, we better tear up the constitution since it was written and signed by slave owning,white supremacist,misogynists.


10 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2015 at 12:48 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Could someone please make the case why David Starr Jordan should have a school named for him in 21st century Palo Alto?

I can see how it would work eighty years ago, when having been the first president of Stanford would've carried a lot of weight. In addition, he was a prominent leader of the eugenics movement, which among other pseudo-scientific findings proclaimed that the northern European blood of early immigrants to the continent was being diluted to the detriment of American civilization by immigrants of other races and cultures. The movement was quite popular, especially among people carrying good northern European genes. Nice match for Palo Alto at the time.

But no longer. Look around, check the demographics of the schools, both actual and projected. Like a good business, a school district should avoid offending potential clients without good reason. What's the good reason for keeping the Jordan name when so many of our families and their children would be offended or angered if they knew how the school's namesake would have characterized them long ago?

There was a chance to slip away from the embarrassment of having a school named for a man who carried the banner of racial superiority for decades when Jordan was closed in 1985 due to declining enrollment. But when the school reopened in 1991, it reassumed the name, out of nostalgia I suspect.


8 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2015 at 1:08 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Jerry Underdal - Since Jordan is already overcrowded, business analysis would indicate the name isn't keep customers away. If we came up with a name that was actually offensive, not fake offensive, it might help reduce class size.


7 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 14, 2015 at 1:21 am

Part of disaster preparedness is to randomly change names of everything so that different age groups cannot communicate locations to each other.


13 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Sure Jerry,

First, we're not talking about naming the school after Jordan, but changing the name--so there's all the rigmarole, time and expense of changing a well-established name. People have their own associations and loyalty to the legacy of Jordan Middle School apart from the name's initial association with David Starr Jordan.

I'll add that the petition's request is all the more problematic in that there's no obvious alternative to the current name. Which means endless time, money etc. would be spent on a debate when the BoE has more pressing matters that actually affect our kids' education.

Second, Jordan had noteworthy accomplishments in the field of education--as Stanford's first president, he created the educational foundation for a world-class university--one that has brought a great deal of prestige to Palo Alto. He defended the teaching of evolution in the Scopes trial--pushing for the separation of the teaching of science from religious dogma. (Something that is still an issue.) He was a notable scientist in his own right.

Third, unlike our current lot of notable tycoons, his career was not focused on concentrating the wealth of the world into the hands of the few, but on trying to create a better world--even his tragically mistaken embrace of eugenics was a dark flip side of a desire to create a better world; a better man. We could stand to be reminded that there's more to life than the latest app and the latest disruptive technology.

Fourth, your diversity argument reveals a sort of generational narcissism. You tout our diversity here, but in some ways we are losing diversity--our working class is gone, the middle class nearly so. We have become more and more enclave of the one percent--hell, even Jordan and his like believed in the "talented tenth". Hell, it's not even a wide range of rich people--it's pretty much tech and a smattering of real estate.

There's an odd sort of self-congratulation in this petition--a sort of proof that we are better and wiser than the people who came before us. We're not. We will, some day, look every bit as wrong-minded, blind and foolish to our descendants as Jordan looks to us. And given our generational lack of interest in the greater good, I'm not sure we'll have much to balance out, say, our passivity in the face of climate change, religious oppression, gun violence, and class stratification.

(By the way, eugenics was popular in the U.S. and originated in Britain--both countries were, of course, primary foes of Nazi Germany--so, the eugenics equals Nazism argument really does not wash. There are degrees of wrongmindedness.)

Someday, we might have someone we wish to honor with a school name--and I think Jordan should certainly fall under discussion at that point--but, right now, I think it's an unneeded distraction.


54 people like this
Posted by June Jordan MS
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2015 at 7:51 pm

What about changing the name to "Jane Jordan MS"?
Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2015 at 11:07 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@opar

Thanks for a serious response to my request for a defense of retaining Jordan's name, I hope that others will add to it so there can be a sort of warm-up debate in the Town Square before the petition comes before the board.

I appreciate the strength of your first argument, which is the nostalgia I referred to in an earlier post. Most of us would like it if the schools we went to to endured, names intact, as a memorial to the time we spent there. Ordinarily I'd agree with retaining names of schools over the long term in line with what Doug Moran and others have posted, even if the reasons for the naming have been long forgotten.

But the names we choose to honor tell a great deal about membership and inclusion in a community. At a time when the role of race in determining who has full membership in American society is under intense scrutiny once again, Palo Alto should move proactively to make a different choice than someone who argued strenuously, with shoddy evidence to prove it, that other races and ethnicities are inferior to his own in their intellectual and moral capacities. Social sciences and the humanities had more to tell us about why people are different than did eugenics. PAUSD operates now with a far different set of values than in Jordan's time, and with a vastly different student population. It's time to choose a name for our middle school that reflects the values of acceptance and understanding that our public system of education espouses.

As for there being no other choices, I disagree. Some have suggested that we stop naming schools after individuals in order to avoid a situation later on where society's values change and what was considered a good choice becomes tarnished. Before we go that defeatist route, I'd like the district to explore selecting a Palo Alto educator who represents the many efforts over the years to expand membership in the Palo Alto school community and make it more inclusive of racial, ethnic, economic, linguistic and religious variety.

I'll start out the nominations be suggesting that we name the middle school after long-time district principal Jerry Schmidt, who did so much during his career at Addison, Ventura, Creekside and Juana Briones to prove that all children could learn if properly supported. "Schools Without Failure" by Nathan Glasser was the guiding document for Ventura Elementary School, a pioneering experiment to bring a great education to an economically diverse, multicultural, largely minority school that was the despair of the district due to poor test scores and frequent class disruptions. The program worked and a close community, thought beyond reach when Jerry Schmidt and a band of teachers eager for change came to Ventura, was created. Sadly, the school was closed in 1979 during the great school closure movement.

Much of the ethos of Ventura was carried over, though, to Creekside School (formerly, and later again, Barron Park School) and Juana Briones School under Jerry Schmidt's leadership. Juana Briones had the benefit of sharing a campus with the county's orthopedically handicapped unit, and Jerry and his staff worked hard to mainstream children with special needs into the regular classrooms. For his body of work over many years in PAUSD to expand membership and redefine success, I recommend that we rename David Starr Jordan Middle School to be Jerry Schmidt Middle School.


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Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2015 at 11:54 pm

I have to admit, I went to Jordan Jr. High School, before it was a "middle school", and I have a little of that nostalgia ... negatively tinged as it was, but I agree mostly with Jerry Underdal, BUT ...

1. I think it is a good think to get used to change, and get used to reacting with sincerity about issues of what some cite and other dismiss calling it "political correctness." Political correctness get a bad rap when in a few cases it is convoluted or goes to far, but it is really just respect and being polite. You cannot really knock that, unless you are not.

2. Jordan does have a negative connotation, and would not be suitable for naming the school if we were naming it today.

3. Though I agree with much of what Jerry Underdal said, I personally do not like the name Jerry Schmidt Middle School.

4. I think that since we are in Silicon Valley, and this is a place of technology and since Steve Jobs lived just a few blocks away from this school it might not be a bad idea to at least consider naming it memorial to Jobs. This is an odd thought from me because I generally criticize Jobs for ... well, all thing the negatives about him in terms of relating to people ... but that doesn't undo the lasting effect he has had on the region ... and within a mile of Jordan how many iPhones do we know there must be. I would suggest that as being appropriate naming.

Just a thought.


9 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 15, 2015 at 12:28 am

Jerry,

I'm not saying that there is no other name for Jordan, just saying there's no sort of consensus on it. In other words, there would be an epic waste of time when there are serious issues to debate.

I don't know enough about your nominee's story to comment, though at least he's local. As for the following two:

Does June Jordan have any connection to Palo Alto and education in Palo Alto? Looking at Wikipedia, it looks like her main associations are with New York and Berkeley.

Absolutely not on Steve Jobs. He was a charismatic guy who had an amazing second act, but he was also a selfish bastard whose company has brutally exploited people in China. He also helped lead the push to manufacture overseas which has helped contribute to the ongoing undermining of the working class in this country.

Jordan clearly had some serious issues, but, as far as I know, people weren't killing themselves because of a hellish workplace environment. (Speaking of environment, we can throw in Apple's complicity with the extreme environmental degradation of China.)

As I said, our descendants will see us wrong-minded, foolish and blind as we now view Jordan--suggesting Steve Jobs as a somehow morally less-ambiguous alternative to David Starr Jordan is an example of this.


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2015 at 11:21 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@opar

"there would be an epic waste of time when there are serious issues to debate."

Implying that this is not a serious issue and resolving it would be a waste of time. That depends on where you stand on the issue, doesn't it? Let's hear what the community members who circulated the petition have to say about why for them it is a serious issue before dismissing it out of hand.

This doesn't need to take a lot of time and energy at all if there's general agreement that Jordan's promotion of eugenics is problematic for a school that takes in students of all races, ethnicities, and abilities without drawing invidious distinctions of the sort that Jordan promoted.

I believe the goal of the petition would be achieved with a district commitment to change the name and a process to do so quickly, but I can't speak for the originators of the petition. If it's really hard to name the school for someone from the district who stands out for his/her work to maximize opportunity and achievement for all students don't name it for a person at all.

Here's a suggestion along that line that has the advantage of giving a clue from the name as to where it's located. How about Middlefield Middle School? And if we really wanted to move in this direction we could change Terman Middle School to Arastradero Middle School. That would preclude lengthy discussion about whether Lewis Terman had a positive or negative influence on American education and society. (Note: when Terman was reopened, the point was made that the naming was to honor both Lewis Terman, famous for IQ testing, and Fred Terman, his son, who was a major figure in the development of Silicon Valley and Stanford's role in it.)


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Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 16, 2015 at 7:42 am

Jerry, we have a name of someone who whose work stood out to maximize opportunity and achievement for all students, David Starr Jordan.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2015 at 8:22 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Roger

"we have a name of someone who whose work stood out to maximize opportunity and achievement for all students, David Starr Jordan."

This is an assertion, not an argument. what's your supporting evidence?


2 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 17, 2015 at 1:22 am

"How about Middlefield Middle School?"

Aside from having as little imagination as naming it "P.S. 47", the school address is not on Middlefield Road. It's 750 N. California Avenue.

Besides, would you want to have the word "middle" occur twice in the name?


5 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:03 am

Good golly, not Steve Jobs.

He wasn't from Palo Alto, he didn't attend Palo Alto schools, his company is in Cupertino, the computers his company donates to schools are intended to get students hooked on his company's products, he wasn't an educator. He had lots of money but as far as I know he did nothing for Palo Alto schools, Jordan or the community at large. For all we know he never set foot on the Jordan campus or the campus of any other Palo Alto school. Those are all compelling reasons, in addition to the ones given above, not to name the school after him.

Jerry Schmidt has a laudable resume but none of his accomplishments impacted Jordan -- they were all at other schools.

I have suggested David T. Downs, a teacher at Jordan for over 30 years, from the day the school first opened in 1937. I have also suggested Dr. Harold T. Santee who, as superintendent, guided the district through the turbulent 1960's.


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Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2015 at 4:39 am

I wonder if there is still left over ideology leftover in Palo Alto from this era. It would explain why there are such low expectations for minorities and why they are treated so differently from the "real palo alto students" Minorities can not join in on the honors or ap classes only because they do not have tutors and would have to depend solely on the teachers giving them instruction. Missing instruction and giving teachers full discretion over kids time instead of following state standards is the biggest problem at all the schools. Why not just take a few letters off and call it Joan middle school after Joan Rivers. Or add the work river and change it to River Jordan? Any other jumbles out there? Jan, dan . Challenge- use all the letters in "Jordan Middle School" to come up with a better title.


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Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2015 at 11:03 am

sorry,

eugenics is not a small problem and honoring this person in any way is not ok. Slavery before the civil war was awful, but killing and sterilizing other races seems worse. I am not well versed in either and both are so bad making the comparison even is sickening. Taking the name off and denouncing this behavior would seem appropriate in this climate and would be so public that kids would learn to be careful when naming schools and or streets etc. They should understand exactly why the name is changed and realize why they need to honor their own name. Their own name will be attached to everything they do and say and they should be careful. Look at all we know about this guy without the internet or social media. (palo alto schools do not seem to care what others think of them so act as they wish)


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Outsider,

Eugenics was not the sterilizing of other races. It was a respected field of study aimed at scientifically improving the human race. HOW that was done varied. A lot.

With Jordan, the main expression of his belief in eugenics seemed to have been in the form of pacifism--war would mean the death of too many of the best and brightest. Given what happened to the French, he may have had a point.

I've asked and not seen any data that implicates Jordan in the involuntary sterilization programs in California, which were focused on the feeble-minded, drug addicts (and, later on, mothers on welfare).

As I've pointed out, not all eugenicists were racists--W.E.B. du Bois, a co-founder of the NAACP, was a believer in eugenics.

Or as a friend said to me, "Eugenics is still around, it's called Ivy-League dating services."


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 8:08 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Larry, Plane Speaker, and Opar,

Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

I asked at the district office today whether a school could be named for a living person. The unofficial answer was "don't see why not." So here goes.

We should name the school for someone who by Jordan's eugenicist criteria would not belong here yet has contributed greatly to our community.

This gives us lots of choices among descendants of: southern Europeans (Italians and Portuguese), Eastern European Jews, and Russians; Asians generally and Chinese and Japanese in particular, who were singled out by discriminatory immigration policies; blacks and Latinos, and others who weren't of northern European stock.

My suggestion is that PAUSD name the Middle School for Allan and Mary Seid, key figures in bringing a multicultural approach to education, health, social welfare and community life generally, in Palo Alto and throughout Santa Clara County. They received a Lifetimes of Achievement award from Avenidas this year for their joint efforts, among them the founding in 1974 of Asian Americans for Community Involvement. ACCI has since expanded its services "to cater to other groups besides Asian Americans, including Latinos, African Americans, Caucasians and refugees of international conflicts and torture -- a fact which the Seids are particularly proud of." (PA Weekly, Feb. 13, 2015) He was the first

You can read about their many contributions in a Weekly profile written by Sam Sciolla titled "Allan and Mary Seid: A family affair" (May 1, 2015).

I like this choice because it addresses head-on the key question raised for Palo Alto schools by Jordan and other eugenicists: who belongs here? Dr. and Mrs. Seid's answer is that we all do, and they have worked compassionately and effectively for decades for the betterment of all in our multicultural, multiracial society.


1 person likes this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 8:49 pm

"I've asked and not seen any data that implicates Jordan in the involuntary sterilization programs in California, which were focused on the feeble-minded, drug addicts (and, later on, mothers on welfare)"

I think this is a complicated topic, but I can shed light on this little piece. Jordan was in 1929 a founding Board member of the Human Betterment Foundation in Pasadena (as was Lewis Terman, btw). (Source: Web Link)

The HBF pursued its goals "primarily through the distribution of literature on eugenic sterilization, particularly detailed case studies drawn from the sterilizations of those judged mentally defective under the California sterilization laws passed in 1909. During the period of its operation, the Foundation undertook research on the physiological, mental, and social effects of sterilization, and distributed informational pamphlets on eugenic sterilization and social hygiene."

So there seems little doubt that Jordan was a leader in the eugenics movement, including in promoting the use of California's forced sterilization laws. So was Terman, of course, so if this is enough to disqualify the name, it might be a two-fer.

This seems like a more complicated topic to me though, with room for reasonable people to differ.


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Posted by Lars Johnsson
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Lars Johnsson is a registered user.

US Eugenics sought to create/preserve the Master Race (blue eyes, blond hair, Nordic descent ...), and Jordan was one of its earliest leaders. But Jordan did not invent the term or the original thinking (Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin gets the credit for that), but Jordan imported Eugenics from England and helped to popularize Eugenics in the US.

As the previous comment points out Jordan was involved in the founding of the Human Betterment Foundation with its outspoken goal of promoting forced sterilization in the interest of Eugenics. But Jordan already argued that point 26 years earlier. In his 1902 'Blood of the nation: a study of the decay of races through the survival of the unfit' he postulates that "One of the great books of our new century will be some day written on the selection of men, THE SCREENING OF HUMAN LIFE THROUGH THE ACTIONS OF MAN AND THE OPERATION OF THE INSTITUTIONS MEN HAVE BUILT UP". The Human Betterment Foundation is one of those institutions men like Jordan have built up, to screen human life, declare what is fit and root out the unfit.

Some comments in this post occasionally bring up the Pacifism and Environmentalism of Jordan, to his credit and 'defense'. But once you look at the roots of his pacifism and environmentalism you may be surprised to find out that they too are driven by his desire to preserve the Master Race:
- Pacifism since he was against war not because he condemned violence (like most other pacifist) but because he was afraid that the loss of prime stock on the battlefield creates breeding room for the unfit
- Environmentalism (co-founder of the Sierra Club with Muir) because he believed that loss of wilderness would contribute to the degeneration of the cultural and biological superiority of the great Nordic master race

The below is an excerpt of the short biography of David Starr Jordan from the "Embryo Project Encyclopedia" (defined at the bottom of this post):

"Jordan also played a crucial role in the formation and funding of the first eugenics organization in the US, the Eugenics Committee of the American Breeders Association. The Committee was established in 1906 under the direction of Charles Davenport, and based at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Springs, New York. Historian Alexandra Minna Stern has argued that the Committee gained the funding from a wealthy widow, Mrs. E.S. Harriman, who supported eugenics research through the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, largely due to Jordan’s reputation. The Eugenics Record Office collected the hereditary information, or pedigrees, of families in the US. State officials used these studies to justify strict immigration quotas and sterilization legislation in the 1920s.

Jordan continued to work to reform education and later co-founded and directed the Sierra Club, an environmental organization founded in 1882 in San Francisco, California. During the 1910s, Jordan was part of a group that later historians called the Progressive Reformers. These reformers, often holding different political views, shared a faith in scientific solutions to perceived economic and social problems. Jordan argued that war destroyed the best genetic stock of a generation, and that a loss of wilderness contributed to the degeneration of the Anglo-Saxon cultural and biological superiority that had made them the leaders in the US. Jordan was also concerned with the poor condition of California’s mental health institutions. Jordan and fellow eugenicists argued that the hereditary fitness of the upper classes would soon be swamped by the uncontrolled breeding of the lower classes and the mentally ill. After his retirement from Stanford University in 1913, Jordan focused his efforts on publicizing the perceived dangers of Mexican immigration in the national Eugenical News. These ideas led him to advocate for breeding regulations based on eugenic principles and the implementation of immigration quotas in California.

In 1928, Jordan joined others, including philanthropist Charles Goethe, to found the Human Betterment Foundation, based in Pasadena, California. This organization was committed to the sterilization of people they called the genetically unfit—especially inmates of state mental health facilities—and to the dissemination of model legislation and reports on the positive outcomes of sterilization. These studies culminated in a publication produced by agriculturalist Paul Popenoe and financier Ezra Seymour Gosney entitled Sterilization for Human Betterment: a summary of results of 6000 operations in California, 1909-1929, published in 1929. Eugenicists used the results published in that book to advocate for the expansion of sterilization legislation in places like Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Jordan remained a member of the Human Betterment Foundation and a proponent of eugenics until his death in Palo Alto, California on 19 September 1931."


The full Embryo Project 'biography' of DSJ can be found at:
Web Link

The Embryo Project Encyclopedia is a digital and Open Access publication of the Embryo Project. Begun in 2007, the Encyclopedia and the Embryo Project are funded by the US National Science Foundation in Washington D.C., and they are supported by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and by Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. The Embryo Project is a collection of researchers who study the historical and social contexts of reproductive medicine, developmental biology, and embryology.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@opar

To go back to something you said in a previous post: "even his tragically mistaken embrace of eugenics was a dark flip side of a desire to create a better world"

OK, but if it was "tragically mistaken" why labor so hard to keep from dropping his name from a middle school in Palo Alto in 2015. We now know how mistaken it was and what the tragic, if unintended, consequences were.

Imagine trying to defend this choice in 50 years, when by all demographic projections the ratio of Jordan's favored northern European stock to total population will be vastly less than what it is now. Do you see a scenario in which the U.S. can count on the moral and intellectual primacy of its "Nordic" component to argue for its leadership among nations? (important note: we're not talking about the fictive racial category "white," which includes many of the eugenicists' disfavored groups, but the much more limited group of northern Europeans) I believe that our strength lies in our values of inclusion and participation for a diverse population.

Palo Alto should look confidently forward, not awkwardly backward, at this moment. No more Jordan Middle School. It's time for a change.


1 person likes this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 9:53 pm

@Jerry / Lars - do you also advocate getting rid of Terman, who seems to be similarly wrapped up with at least HBF?


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Fred

"do you also advocate getting rid of Terman, who seems to be similarly wrapped up with at least HBF?"

Can't speak for anyone but myself.

If the school were named only after Lewis Terman, another eugenicist who saw little but bad prospects in letting "inferior stock" breed at will and developed the I.Q. test, which largely confirmed what he already believed, I'd argue for a name change.

But when Terman was reconstituted, it was stated that it was to honor two people: Lewis Terman, the psychologist and developer of the flawed I.Q measure of intelligence, and Fred Terman, his son, a very popular electrical engineering professor, former provost of Stanford, and "father of Silicon Valley."

I'd be satisfied to see Jordan's name changed, with community education to explain the move, coupled with education about the cultural bias of Lewis Terman's eugenics-related I.Q. testing program, while keeping the name Terman in honor of Fred Terman's role in Stanford's and Palo Alto's history.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2015 at 11:34 pm

While we're on this trip, perhaps we better vet the namesakes of ALL Palo Alto schools, in case a mass renaming is in order. Then we get to fight out the new (and surely temporary) monnikers. Great fun in store.

Be sure to include Stanford, our first and still premier institution of learning. Since its namesake Leland Stanford Jr was a minor, we'll have to put his parents' views under the cultural microscope. There's got to be something seriously noncompliant with current sensibilities there.

Stanford is out of PAUSD's jurisdiction, but aroused students and faculty could create a major spectacle worthy of global media attention, even in the election year.


8 people like this
Posted by Barron Park parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 7:22 am

@Fred, there are so many people who have contributed so much good to the world in excess of that of Fred Terman, who exists in the name of the school to cover his father's sins and really stands as much for legacy and privilege as anything. Why don't we have a committee to consider the names of these two middle schools and see what is proposed. Honestly, we have only one school named after a person of color. Most districts have at least an MLK or a Cesar Chavez school (did you know that Chavez had strong ties to Palo Alto and in fact used to stay in his secretary's home in Barron Park when fundraising for UFW? We could have Dolores Huerta school. We don't have any schools named after Asian Americans, even though this is California and our schools are half Asian. There are a lot of people more honorable and important out there than Louis and Fred Terman. Time to move on.


4 people like this
Posted by Barron Park parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 7:29 am

How about Larry Itliong? He was an Asian American who led the grape strike with Chavez?

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:50 am

Can't believe there are people who seriously want our school board to devote time to this. They have much more serious stuff warranting their attention.

I said before that naming things after people is not something I think worthwhile. Nearly every person who is honored in this way has something that can be criticized in their lives. Every person has their flaws. Even things that are at some stage thought of as worthy, can at some future date be thought of as the opposite.

From Christopher Columbus to JFK to Father Serra and even Mother Teresa, there are some who will knock their achievements and try to blemish their characters as well as their motives.

For all those students in Jordan Middle School who are suffering with bullying from peers (or teachers), to those who are just getting on with their academics and looking forward to their next stage in life, this issue is a non-issue. If anything, getting them to learn about some local history and understanding the fact that every saint is also a sinner (to use a religious analogy) we can dig up dirt about anyone. People will continue to become famous and they will all have pasts that one day may not be as PC as it is today.

Please, forget this nonsense and try and build this school district into a better, compassionate place for the future, rather than worry about has beens who are forgotten by nearly everyone other than those in the family or are in the same field.


4 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:56 am

Just extend the idea of Midtown and call it Midtown Middle School.


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Posted by @Jerry UnderdaI --
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 3:58 pm


I am re-posting parts of my comment as it was censored, a few trials vanished. I am trying to relate only to the ability to discuss, the legitimacy of a dialogue. I do see the irony here. Trying to post a comment about the importance of an uncensored dialogue under the censor's watch.

@Lars Johnsson-
Thank you for your efforts. I noticed that you started before two threads relating to Jordan's name (possibly more). I also noticed that both threads were locked pretty fast.

It is possible that another common trait of the places willing to examine the past is the absence of a local "Big Brother"? Absence of local entity censoring whatever seems to be inappropriate?

Here is quotes posted more than two years:

"... Lately Bill Johnson seems to be editing for content of speech rather than manner or tone. He appears to have particular ideas about what kinds of arguments â€Å"help" the â€Å"community" and what do not. This is unfortunate since it appears to be a slippery slope with a lot of deletions occurring...." PalyDad, Link:
Web Link

I think that PalyDad's comment relates nicely to the issue you are trying to address. That is without trying even to conclude if the name of the school should be changed. It is about the ability to discuss, the legitimacy of a dialog.

The ongoing censoring took me to starting my own blog, a place were I cannot be deleted. I have dedicated a page to the ongoing censoring on this board, posting comments before & after being censored. This page includes many samples of censoring where the Terms of Use were not violated.

Here is a link, censored comments Before & After: Web Link

I hope you'll see this comment. It will vanish soon. It's the Censorship....

Thank you for caring

\/iIIIage fIffooI!I

And -

For your viewing pleasure here are three quotes which were removed/censored by PA online.
Good company..., Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw and G. OrweII, All vanished after I posted. I saw Shakespeare disappear as well.

"The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it" ― Mark Twain

“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.” George Bernard Shaw

“… The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.
Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady.
Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness.
…” G. OrweII


25 people like this
Posted by bid for name?
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Maybe PAUSD could set up an auction for PA residents who'd like Jordan or Terman to be re-named after them. The highest bid would then be accepted, provided that this bidder had views that were consistent with current progressive norms. This would also raise needed funds for PAUSD.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Resident

"I said before that naming things after people is not something I think worthwhile."

And you made a strong argument for your position. Would you be OK with Plane Speaker's Midtown Middle School?

@bid for name?

That would tie in well with the current practice of selling naming rights for auditoriums, stadiums and the like. I'm sure there's a model for this that could be developed. Free market enthusiasts would object to the interference in the marketplace represented by the subjective, progressive norms requirement though.


4 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:13 pm

"How about Larry Itliong? He was an Asian American who led the grape strike with Chavez?"

No, for the same reasons I objected to Steve Jobs.

Did Larry Itliong even reside in Palo Alto? Did he contribute anything to the community or its schools? What are his qualifications other than his ethnic background and his association with Cesar Chavez? He may have been active in labor but what did he bring to education in Palo Alto?

I strongly object to using someone's ethnic background as the main selection criterion.


7 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2015 at 2:29 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Let's call it the Montgolfier Middle School, with all the nonsensical hot air being blown around here.

Also, why is a Barron Park resident (zoned for Terman), telling us who are actually zoned for Jordan to change the name of our school?

All people are products of their time, and no one is perfect. MLK was a philanderer and Chavez was a believer in Synanon-methods (and was a vegan - ugh).

Leave it alone.


1 person likes this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Kilgore Trout Middle School!


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2015 at 12:15 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@PAModerate

"All people are products of their time, and no one is perfect.

We agree on this.

"MLK was a philanderer and Chavez was a believer in Synanon-methods (and was a vegan - ugh)"

My mind continues from what you've written here, . . ."and Jordan was a white supremacist pioneer of eugenics. So what? No one's perfect. Get over it."

I reject the parallels you suggest. MLK holds his place in American history, not because of his episodes of unfaithfulness to his marriage vows but despite them. If a curious student, perhaps African-American, wanted to know why the community had chosen to name her school after the civil rights giant, she would learn of the values he lived and died for and could be proud. The school's name would suggest that membership in the school community was inclusive and that she belongs.

Same reasoning for Chavez. If a curious student, perhaps Latino, wanted to know why the school was named for the farm labor organizer and civil rights activist, he would learn of the values Chavez represented, probably not his dietary choices or "Synanon methods" and be proud. This name, too, would suggest that membership was inclusive and that he belongs.

Now for Jordan. Those same curious students, attending Jordan Middle School, would find that the school's namesake was famous for arguing that science proves that people's race determines their mental and moral capacities and that Anglo-Saxon genes are top of the line and need to be defended from dilution.

What inference could our curious students (and others not of northern European stock) reasonably draw about inclusiveness in Palo Alto schools for people like them in the past based on the school’s namesake? What about the present?

We should either not name our middle school for a person, as several posters suggest, or choose someone who better represents our inclusive, multicultural values. Palo Alto's history is rich in figures whose accomplishments belie Jordan's dismal theories. There's no need to look outside Palo Alto to find someone to honor if we go that route.


2 people like this
Posted by N and S PA MSs
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2015 at 10:45 am

How about changing Jordan and Terman MSs to North Palo Alto MS and South Palo Alto MS, respectively?


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2015 at 10:59 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"I reject the parallels you suggest."

Whatever, Jerry.

What happens if we find out that Synanon methods 30 years from now incited some large genocide? Or something leaks about MLK that goes beyond his philandering?

You never know.

That's why this whole thing is preposterous. You seem intent on greenwashing the past. Why the liberal guilt?

Feel free to sit from your perch in Barron Park to tell us over on this side of El Camino what our school is named. Focus on your own schools.


13 people like this
Posted by Lars Johnsson
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 21, 2015 at 11:17 am

Lars Johnsson is a registered user.

PAmoderate,

this has nothing to do with green or whitewashing our history. This is all about facing up to our history and making sense of it, no matter which side of El Camino.

In Jordan's case he is remembered for his administrative contributions to Stanford at Stanford. He is remembered for his scientific contributions to the Study of American Fish by the Smithsonian Institute.
For his 30 years of misguided Eugenics leadership, racism and believe that only the white race is capable of being a great race, he is "remembered" in the appropriate history records/books. He certainly has done nothing to endear him to PAUSD to the point where we need to honor his legacy in the name of one of our schools.

And if future generations find fault in what we are doing today, then I really hope they have the courage to put it in perspective the same way we are trying today. If we teach them anything with this renaming discussion, then it should be that they need to be true to themselves and live by their values, and choose their role models to honor what they stand for.


7 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@PAmoderate

You make such a strong case for not naming schools for people with flaws (everyone), yet refuse to espouse a move to replace David Starr Jordan Middle School with a name that honors no individual. That would be the middle position so far: (1) reaffirm the choice of 193(2?), (2) choose a Palo Alto-related name that honors no one, (3) rename the school for someone with roots in Palo Alto who represents the multiracial and multicultural inclusiveness of our schools.

"Feel free to sit from your perch in Barron Park to tell us over on this side of El Camino what our school is named. Focus on your own schools."

It's PAU(unified)SD, all grades, all neighborhoods. The reputation of the district and community rides on these kinds of decisions, which tell outsiders and ourselves what our values are. Furthermore, I challenge whether your position on this topic aligns with the values of the current Jordan community. In an earlier post I mentioned the demographics of Jordan when last entered at greatschools.org,: white (52%) other (48%). Of those identified as white, how many would've been dismissed under Jordan's eugenic principles as unsuited for Palo Alto? And how many of all races, religions and economic circumstances have had family members with traits that would have made them targets for the eugenicists?


6 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"this has nothing to do with green or whitewashing our history."

Yes it is. This is the same nonsense that students are trying to do at Princeton and Woodrow Wilson, and what the Soviets did when certain leaders were erased from history when they fell out of favor.

In the end, this is a feel-good measure from folks who feel guilty about their own ethnicity and does absolutely nothing to change the world we live in.

Do something meaningful. Changing a school's name does nothing. Go put your intellectual energy and do something positive in say, the Ravenswood School District. That has more positive impact than all this intellectual nonsense being bantered about here.


6 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:15 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

And, if you're going to go all out on Eugenics, then you aren't going to vote for Hillary Clinton, right? She admires Margaret Sanger, who was also a proponent of eugenics.

I think it would be very hypocritical for all of you who are pushing for a name change at Jordan to also vote for Hillary.

But you will anyway right? It's "different."

How you guys twist yourselves up in intellectual ribbons is hilarious.


1 person likes this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:18 pm

"Changing a school's name does nothing."

Maybe - but in that case, spending your energy opposing a name change seems like less than nothing. It's probably not an issue I would spend my time on, but if others do, I am not going to invest extra effort to push back, unless it is truly without merit. In this case, it seems worth considering.


3 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:26 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"Maybe - but in that case, spending your energy opposing a name change seems like less than nothing."

Right, like all those schools named after people like MLK and Cesar Chavez around the Bay Area. I'm sure it made a huge difference in the quality of the school.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Well I know that I won't be popular here, but I am getting very fed up with businesses that use things other than the 26 letters of the alphabet or have incorrect spelling in their names. It is no wonder that the younger generation can't spell ever since Toys R Us started using a backward R.

I almost won't use a business if its name confounds me.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Sorry, wrong thread. No idea how I managed that.


3 people like this
Posted by Good respite
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2015 at 4:16 pm

I agree looking for a new name is another long, useless waste of staff time, and money. Give the school a street name or a number and be done with it.

This debate is a nice respite from the stress of the season, the huge tragedies in the world, the shenanigans of Palo Alto government and on and on.

Beats football for getting away from reality and responsibilities. Keep it up, guys!


Like this comment
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2015 at 7:11 pm

challenge. Use all the same letters and come up with different names. David Starr Jordan Middle school.


3 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2015 at 12:57 am

Does Itilong have any connection to Palo Alto or education?

Also, the idea of changing a school's name from Jordan to a number is a terrible thing to do the people at Jordan. Complete lack of respect to that community and its sense of school identity.

Lars,

I think a bit of the problem here is that it's not "our" history--you're from Germany, your wife is from Jamaica. You have your own set of cultural filters--eugenics and fascism made for a lethal combination in your land of birth. In the U.S., we're looking at a history of institutionalized racism that we've dealt and not dealt with in various fits and starts--Jordan's attitudes were an improvement over those of his predecessors. He was, for his time, a progressive, heading up a private school that was co-educational and nonsectarian. So far, I've not seen evidence that shows Jordan was involved in the more draconian aspects of American eugenics--i.e involuntary sterilizations.

Neither fascism nor Nazism ever took hold here--we fought those things--even the eugenicists--so an association with the American eugenics movement just doesn't carry the same cultural baggage as it would in Germany.

Jerry,

Half the students in the schools are female--if you're going to match school names to demographics, maybe you can start with sex. But I really don't see the need to play matchy-matchy demographic games--many of the families with kids at Jordan do have a connection to Stanford and, thus, to the house that Jordan helped build.

While I don't have strong feelings about renaming Jordan, I do think that A) it's clear the majority of Jordan's community has no interest in renaming the school and B)any renaming should wait until there's someone we actually wish to honor.


6 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2015 at 8:42 am

@Opar, I think you hit an off-note in suggesting that Lars' history isn't "ours." I value his perspective as much as that of a native Palo Altan. I'm a native Californian and I find this every bit as inappropriate as he appears to, as do many others. The idea that more recent immigrants (since all our families are immigrants at some point) don't have a contribution to make to this discussion seems somewhat xenophobic to me, and I hope you let it just pass.


7 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2015 at 11:21 am

Fred,

I didn't say Lars had no contribution to make to the discussion. Indeed, he started it and I've joined in. But I don't consider it xenophobic to acknowledge that Lars comes from a different country with a different history that has probably influenced his views. The idea that we're somehow not influenced by where we grew up and how we were educated is illogical.

Like most Europeans I've known, Lars thinks history matters; what's been very American is the attitude here that we should just make the parts of history we don't like go away instead of trying to see something like the eugenics movement in its context and Jordan, both good and bad, as a man of his time.


7 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2015 at 11:42 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Opar,

You've made my point about this issue raising the question of membership, whose perspective matters and whose doesn't. You've identified two district parents who have issues with memorializing Jordan as "from Germany" and "from Jamaica" in order to argue that their opinions about eugenics aren't as legitimate in discussing "our history" as yours is. You don't identify what your own entry point to this discussion is. That would be helpful to balance the discussion.

Your dismissive criticism that sex (gender) should come first is odd in light of my recommendation that we consider honoring the multicultural work of Dr. Allan and Mary Seid by naming the school for them.


5 people like this
Posted by Rename it!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2015 at 11:51 am

Nothing wrong with renaming a school. Name it after the Perrys or Arrillagas. They are rich and they have given our schools a lot of money, so those are good reasons.


5 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2015 at 12:32 pm

@Opar - When you start distinguishing "our" history (who are "we" exactly?) from the person you are debating, it comes across as xenophobic. Lars is here now; he is part of "us." You imply he doesn't understand "our" history - maybe he understands better than many who have been here far longer. I suggest you just leave it alone.

And since I guess you missed it, here again is my earlier post about Jordan's prominent involvement with HBF, which promoted eugenic sterilization for the "mentally defective" under California law. It's a part of "our" history of which I am not especially proud.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jordan was in 1929 a founding Board member of the Human Betterment Foundation in Pasadena (as was Lewis Terman, btw). (Source: Web Link)

The HBF pursued its goals "primarily through the distribution of literature on eugenic sterilization, particularly detailed case studies drawn from the sterilizations of those judged mentally defective under the California sterilization laws passed in 1909. During the period of its operation, the Foundation undertook research on the physiological, mental, and social effects of sterilization, and distributed informational pamphlets on eugenic sterilization and social hygiene."


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 23, 2015 at 4:11 pm

"Name it after the Perrys or Arrillagas. They are rich and they have given our schools a lot of money, so those are good reasons."

Uh-uh. We don't know what offenses to sensibilities present or future lurks unrevealed deep in their souls, whose revelation would cause great wailing and consternation, even though, as with Dr. Jordan, the nature of the offense must be explained at length to a largely unwitting and indifferent populace.

Our only even remotely safe option is a totally fictional personage, whose character and beliefs are fully circumscribed and can be thoroughly vetted by a committee assigned to scour the appurtenant literature under the procterage of a detailed preapproved study guide. To forestall potential disqualifying revelations in forthcoming works by the author, this vetting should be done posthumously.

Done properly, this process should take at least a decade. Meantime, avoid possible interim embarrassments by adopting the monniker Name Pending Middle School.


1 person likes this
Posted by With you on that
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 23, 2015 at 4:59 pm

I like it as a school name.

Nampending. Or "Nampending Utopia."

That would allow any discussion of the school name to include the history of eugenics, Stanford, our school board, and local politics and local population political correctness problems.


3 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Just as Stanford has a mascot that is a Color..(Cardinal)
Why don't we rename Jordan after the color of Palo Alto.. Which turns out to be like a Beige Taupe color..
Beigy Taupy Middle School, Yeah, thats it...


1 person likes this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 23, 2015 at 7:22 pm

still thinking the word jumble is the only real solution.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Anyone else posting on this thread ever been a teacher?

If we keep the Jordan name after all this attention I think a curriculum unit should be developed for the middle school which explores the life and times of David Starr Jordan, with particular attention to his eugenics studies. After all, that's what he seems to have been most enthusiastic about in the latter stages of life.

It would be interesting to see the kids' response and what kind of feedback PAUSD got from parents and community.


1 person likes this
Posted by GM Mama
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 23, 2015 at 10:47 pm

In the event that the name of David Starr Jordan Middle School is changed, I propose renaming the school in honor of a great American and former slave, Jane Johnson. See: Web Link)
Web Link
Web Link

Jane Johnson and her sons escaped slavery in Philadelphia in 1855, with the aid of the Underground Railroad. At great personal risk of recapture, she later returned to Philadelphia to testify on behalf of the imprisoned abolitionists who had participated in her rescue, resulting in their acquittal.

The case received extensive national attention and involved pivotal figures in the anti-slavery movement, including Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott, and Horace Greeley. Jane Johnson subsequently supported the Underground Railroad by providing shelter to fugitive slaves at her home in Boston.

She has largely been forgotten now, but in my opinion Jane Johnson is an outstanding example of values we would like our children to emulate: courage, honor, and altruism. Just my two cents.


1 person likes this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 24, 2015 at 12:39 am

@jerry u.

Yes, more dark thoughts for our students. that will be best.


1 person likes this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 24, 2015 at 7:47 am

Time to take a page out of old NYC naming: PS#

Oh! Wait!

There are /bad/ numbers, also.
No schools. So NO ONE is offended


2 people like this
Posted by jerry underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 24, 2015 at 9:19 am

@outsider

"Yes, more dark thoughts for our students. that will be best."

How about this, outsider? Just teach the ideas and the idealistic impulses behind them and answer kids' questions during the middle school unit. No need to be too heavy and "dark" about it. After all, we would still be talking about the school's namesake.

But it would be good background for the Holocaust Studies unit in their high school world history class. Some good compare and contrast opportunities there: benign eugenicists of America on the one hand, Racial Hygiene practitioners of Germany on the other.


10 people like this
Posted by Chance
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 24, 2015 at 10:51 am

I am truly shocked at the sarcasm and vitriol that has erupted from these residents of a supposedly liberal and educated city. I will sign that petition! Those of you spewing ( fill in the blank) have shown your true colors. You sound like those in the American South who still cling to the Confederate Flag. Apparently there are many her in this most liberal part of a liberal state are no better.


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Posted by Lars Johnsson
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 24, 2015 at 11:52 am

The New York Times just published a thoughtfull opinion piece on everyman, everyday racism in the US today. Worth a read.
Good time to reflect and do the right thing in 2016. Happy holidays

Dear White America Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Racism
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 24, 2015 at 12:49 pm

While we are at it can we please address the issue of blatant racism in the schools towards the Spanish speaking, Pacific Islander, African American and African communities? As an educated mother of a child who fits into one of these categories I have been horrified by the treatment of my high schooler by the school counselors, by some teachers and the overt racial comments by her peers.

Changing the name of a school is not going to change people's attitudes or racial discrimination. Most people were completely unaware of Jordan's Eugenics background. It sounds like this person really has nothing better to do with his time.


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 24, 2015 at 1:51 pm

"She has largely been forgotten now, but in my opinion Jane Johnson is an outstanding example of values we would like our children to emulate: courage, honor, and altruism."

Jane Johnson would be a fine choice to name a school in Boston or Philadelphia. However, she has no connection whatsoever to Palo Alto or its schools. I am opposed.

Surely there is someone who has made a contribution to Palo Alto's schools after whom my Alma Mater could be named. I have already suggested two: Harold T. Santee and David T. Downs.


2 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Why attach a name on a school decided by conflicting political factions or the loudest voices at the time? Names that many if not most of us do not even know of.

- Midtown Middle School

Start a new tradition, name things after location or a landmark.


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 24, 2015 at 2:12 pm

"still thinking the word jumble is the only real solution."

Having attended Jordan, I find your sarcastic and facetious posts objectionable and offensive. Get serious or don't post in this thread, please.


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 24, 2015 at 2:37 pm

"Midtown Middle School

Start a new tradition, name things after location or a landmark."

Too generic, and to my mind the midtown district ends at Oregon Expressway, but you might be onto something.

Newell Middle School works. Newell Road takes you to the campus, ending near the tennis courts where I hated playing tennis as a student there.

Some Google searching reveals a town in Modoc County named after a Frederic Haynes Newell, the first diector of the U.S. Reclamation Service. I don't know whether he owned slaves, practiced eugenics. I'll leave it to others to find the skeletons in his closet, if any.

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 25, 2015 at 10:29 am

Erasing this history doesn't help us too see how far we've come as a nation regarding acceptance and tolerance.


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Posted by history
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Follow ISIL's lead and rename it.


4 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 26, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Jerry,

Oh give it a rest. I wouldn't move to Germany and assume I knew all the nuances of being German. I wouldn't move to Hawaii (which I've visited numerous times) and assume I knew what it was really like to be a Hawaiian. I wouldn't tell Hawaiians that they shouldn't have schools named after members of Hawaiian royalty because there are aspects of native Hawaiian history and culture that are out of sync with our contemporary values.

You may choose to ignore it, but this country does have its own history and culture. And, yes, someone who didn't grow up here is going to have a different cultural filter.

I'm with Racism. Even as the district becomes technically more diverse, the school atmosphere has become less open. There really is this focus on the top tenth, which is considered to be Asian and white--and kids who don't fit those categories are just kind of not seen as contenders. Oh, and can we talk about how much you're expected to donate if your kid does some quasi-extracurricular activity? Yes, there are "scholarships", but I keep thinking that if I were a VTA parent, I'd feel like I was seeing a "poor-not-welcome" sign a lot of the time.



7 people like this
Posted by another outsider who thinks she knows about this country!!
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 26, 2015 at 7:29 pm

10 years ago, when I went to Paly because of my son's absences (I had forgotten to call in) I saw what @Racism described: white kids in the quad, black kids by the cafeteria. I'm sad to hear it still goes on. or is it getting owrse? @outsider wrote:"Minorities can not join in on the honors or ap classes only because they do not have tutors and would have to depend solely on the teachers giving them instruction"
@OPar I am white and not born in this country, I would argue I bring a diverse perspective, as valid as the natives' perspectives.
And in my view this name change is giving us and the school board the opportunity to reexamine our present and work towards a more perfect future. So, @Racism I don't agree that "Changing the name of a school is not going to change people's attitudes or racial discrimination". If we don't try this time and every time, then nothing ever will. Would you go to the board meeting and read your post? If your daughter feels the same way and has friends ready to testify , tell them to go too. All can speak or all stand behind one speaker. For the good of this community your voices need to be heard and loudly.
@Jerry Underdal: Thanks. (and thanks for the local history lesson, I knew nothing about principal Jerry Schmidt and Palo Alto's attempt at eradicating the opportunity gap. I have the same problem at my historically underperforming school so I it is important to hear stories that show que sí, se puede.
C'mon everyone, let's get it done- change the name and then change the culture!


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 26, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Opar,

How many generations does it take to acquire the perspective needed to understand the nuances of American culture? Would the children of the couple you called out by nation of origin be better placed to speak from an American perspective than the parents? What if they agreed with their parents on the significance of keeping the name?

I'm sure that Germany does not have eugenics pioneers' names on schools. They rethought that whole business in a fundamental way after WWII and denazification. So an immigrant child from China or Turkey or Romania or India or Israel, for that matter, may face discriminatory behavior or prejudice, but is not likely to see it represented in the name of the school he/she attends.


@Racism

"While we are at it can we please address the issue of blatant racism in the schools towards the Spanish speaking, Pacific Islander, African American and African communities?"

I believe you will find allies among the signatories and supporters of the petition. Listen to the arguments made by the petition's backers and the discussion among the board members. It may change your opinion on the relevance of this effort.

@Resident

"Erasing this history doesn't help us too see how far we've come as a nation regarding acceptance and tolerance."

This isn't talking about erasing history. To the contrary, it's talking about facing our history without defensiveness, to the extent possible. Changing the name of the school would be one way of acknowledging that, as far as this country has gone regarding acceptance and tolerance, we still have far to go in promoting true inclusiveness.







2 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 26, 2015 at 8:39 pm

Jerry,

You mention the precise reason why someone with Germany would have a significantly different perspective--Germany's post-war programs. Thank you for conceding my point.

In the U.S., it helps to be raised here. In other places, it takes longer, sometimes much longer.

You talk about facing our history, but the fact is, you and most of the people who have posted here are ignorant about the eugenics movement in the United States. You're not facing history, you're pushing for a snap judgment on something about which you don't actually know that much.

And why, by the way, if Jordan's life were to be taught at school would there be extra emphasis on his involvement in eugenics--particularly when other interests of his were arguably of much greater influence--being a founding member of the Sierra Club and helping build Stanford? Because he's on the wrong side of history re: eugenics and not in other areas?

Jordan aside, I actually *do* think it would be a good idea to teach kids about Scopes, eugenics, environmentalism and progressivism. It's an interesting era of U.S. history. History's gotten way too short a shrift in schools--partly because it's the most political of school subjects.

another outsider,

You and anyone else is free to have a perspective, but will there be nuances you don't get about the U.S. because you didn't grow up here? Yes. Just ask your kids.






1 person likes this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 26, 2015 at 11:08 pm

@Opar, it's too bad you are sticking with your "only Americans can truly understand America" perspective. I am happy to hear anyone's views, based on facts and reasoning - I don't really care where they grew up, and frankly value a diversity of outlooks. At least you don't seem to any longer be saying that you haven't seen the evidence of Jordan's involvement with promoting eugenic sterilization.

"You and most of the people who have posted here are ignorant about the eugenics movement in the United States." That's a pretty strong statement, not sure based on what evidence. It sounds like you feel you are better informed, so please, educate us - what do you think others need to know to better appreciate the US eugenics movement?



14 people like this
Posted by eugenics vs assortative mating
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 26, 2015 at 11:20 pm

I wonder how the holier-than-thou folks advocating changing the name of Jordan MS feel about assortative mating (Web Link. pairing of those of higher socioecomonic status, which can produce a similar outcome to eugenics.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2015 at 10:24 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@eugenics vs assortative mating
"I wonder how the holier-than-thou folks advocating changing the name of Jordan MS feel about assortative mating"

What an odd way to introduce an interesting and related topic. The Economist article you've linked to is excellent in pointing out its link to declining economic mobility and increased inequality. Thanks for bringing it up, but it's not clear how you want it to fit into the discussion


1 person likes this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2015 at 3:22 pm

@Larry Cohn

I was totally serious. The notion that there is no money to change a name or that the name should be kept now is a joke. Attending Jordan gives you no authority or better realization of how offensive the name is to many in this present day. [Portion removed.]

It would be a really good idea to explain to all the kids how every action and how every piece of writing gets attached to names. With the social media explosion for these kids, this lesson is so important. The way kids perceive this and they way it is handled by adults for them to see is the only important thing. They should name the school and have an essay contest and research project attached or a jumble.


9 people like this
Posted by COMMUNITY MEMBER
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2015 at 11:31 am

MR.JERRY UNDERDAL'S SUGGESTION OF DR. ALLAN & MARY SEID AS WORTHY LONG-TIME PALO ALTANS (55+ YEARS) AS ONE OF MANY SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTORS TOWARD ENHANCEMENT OF OUR MULTI-CULTURAL AND ETHNIC PLURALISTIC CITY AND STATE IS NOTEWORTHY. THEY ARE BOTH OF 4TH AND THIRD GENERATION CALIFORNIANS RESPECTIVELY WHOSE GREAT GRAND PARENTS IMMIGRATED FROM SOUTHERN CHINA AS EARLY AS 1863. MR.UNDERDAL'S SUGGESTION OF BOTH
ALLAN AND MARY TOGETHER ADDRESSES THE "MALE BIAS NAMING" CONCERN OF THE "BARON PARK PARENT" AS WELL AS THE DUEL REALITY OF THE LARGE AND GROWING ASIAN AMERICAN STUDENT BODY AT JORDAN MIDDLE SCHOOL ,PAUSD AND CALIFORNIA CAMPUSES AND THE SHAMEFUL FEW IF ANY EDUCATIONAL SITES NAMED AFTER AN ASIAN ANCESTRY PERSON(s).


19 people like this
Posted by Seid Middle School!
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 30, 2015 at 8:56 am

As someone who knows Dr. Allan Seid, I also think that the fact that he is a child psychiatrist who founded an organization devoted to providing mental health services in the underserved Asian American community (AACI) is another reason to support this naming idea. He is someone who has exhibited a lifetime of concern for student well-being for students of all ethnicities. He worked to get anti-Japanese bias out of California textbooks as the first Asian American member of the California State Board of Education. Recently Alan and Mary received the lifetime achievement award from Avenidas.

Dr. Seid's work against ethnic bias in textbooks as a member of the State Board of Ed would be the perfect antidote to the racist eugenicist and Nazi sympathizer David Starr Jordan. Hard to think of a better candidate!!!

And of course, it is high time to recognize our Asian American population and their important contributions to the state of California.

Read about the Seids here: Web Link

Mary Seid founded a battered women's shelter in the Peninsula, and Dr. Seid founded one of the first drug rehab centers in the Bay Area in 1968. And, they are lovely people who still reside in Palo Alto at Channing House, where they are still involved and engaged in Palo Alto. They are model citizens.

Allan and Mary Seid Middle School (Seid Middle School) is a great idea! Wholehearted support!!!


4 people like this
Posted by No
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 30, 2015 at 11:12 am

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Fred,

It's annoying to have my views distorted and simplified. We're discussing history, but the idea that our backgrounds inform our views and how we see things is met with reductionism.

You *really* think growing up in post-Nazi Germany wouldn't influence Mr. Larsson's viewpoint? Really?

And, yes, I stand by my statement about the general ignorance about the eugenics movement. It shouldn't have been a surprise to people--"Stanford-Binet" test anyone? Steven Jay Gould's *The Mismeasure of Man*?

That said, the Seid suggestion is one of the better ones--involvement in education and local. I prefer schools to be named after someone non-living, but that's more of a quibble.

Seid Middle School,

I see no evidence that Jordan was a Nazi sympathizer. He died in 1931. Hitler became chancellor in 1933. Nazism wasn't really on the radar in the U.S.

Fred--that's a perfect example of what I mean by ignorance.


Like this comment
Posted by murder
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 30, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Jane Stanford was murdered....and it seems David Starr Jordan had his hands in it.....

Web Link

I read the book a few years ago.... rather compelling evidence.... perhaps not enough to convict....but interesting.


13 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 30, 2015 at 4:39 pm

@No

Only you know your heart and intentions when you posted the tragic personal information you did. I can only comment that I could imagine someone posting the same information under the identity "Yes" that you have posted under the identity "No."


1 person likes this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 30, 2015 at 5:58 pm

@Opar, I don't see why Lars' background is relevant to the discussion; he and many others have signed his petition and they use their facts and arguments to persuade us. You suggest that those born outside the US cannot understand "our" history because of their "filters" - I'm sorry that it annoys you, but that comes across as xenophobic and I don't think has any relevance in the discussions. You could be from the moon, for all I know, but I take your arguments at face value, as someone who now lives here. You say I am simplifying your view - I am trying to just quote you. Perhaps your arguments are too subtle for me; perhaps you should just let it go.


6 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 30, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Troy Seid, RIP.


8 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Allan and Mary Seid sound like fine candidates for the school's new name.


2 people like this
Posted by Kat4
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2015 at 11:49 pm

Why do newcomers or are they newcomers ??? come into Palo Alto with these ridiculous ideas and cause these uproars?? [Portion removed.] We have other problems that need attention.
Believe me, if the School Board falls for this, a recall may be a good solution to restore sanity. In fact, this school board has been skating on thin public opinion ice for sometime.


2 people like this
Posted by Seid Middle School!
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 31, 2015 at 12:08 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2015 at 12:14 am

As an an alum of Jordan, although it was Jordan Jr. High at the time, how about Palo Alto Middle School?


3 people like this
Posted by TRUTH
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2015 at 9:18 am

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 31, 2015 at 1:14 pm

@Alex, if "Palo Alto Middle School" then it's nickname would be Paly.
Could be confusing.


5 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 31, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Murder,

There is no compelling evidence of Jordan actually murdering Stanford. There's good evidence that he tried to cover up the evidence of a murder, but for his actually pulling off a murder that would involve getting into her household and poisoning her bicarbonate of soda so that she died thousands of miles away?

Well, it's a fun speculation, but you'd never get a conviction or even a case. Not in the real world.

Fred,

So, you're saying that background and experience make no difference--so if I were a person of color from the South I'd have no particular insight into what it's like to experience racism in the South?

Do-gooders who don't understand historical and cultural contexts have long created problems--the situation's just a little unusual here in that the natives aren't exotic. Are you claiming that every ethnic group that resisted European colonialism was xenophobic?

I have never said that Lars couldn't express his views or have them considered. I said, in fact, the opposite--why do you insist on ignoring that? I said his views are affected by his background.

As are yours.

As are mine.

Now why did I bother mentioning this? To explain why the attitudes toward Jordan and eugenics were so different.

Did you consider for a minute *why* I said what I said, or were you too eager to slap a label on me as a means of discrediting my views.

Jerry likes to talk about our changing demographics--given that Stanford's presence is one of the big draws (per Ken DeLeon) for Chinese buyers, I wonder if removing the name of Stanford's first president from one of our middle schools is really something that's desired by those newcomers (They'd probably actively dislike changing the name to a Japanese surname, but that's a whole 'nother ball of wax, the Seids sound like admirable and local Americans to me. I am sort of amused, though, by the notion that Asians-- i.e. where two-thirds of humanity lives should all be lumped together.)

It's not xenophobic to consider how different backgrounds lead to legitimately different viewpoints. It is ethnocentric, in my opinion, to pretend that this isn't the case.



11 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 31, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Opar

"It's not xenophobic to consider how different backgrounds lead to legitimately different viewpoints."

I don't disagree with you on this score. I've considered how a modern German background may make one more sensitive than the average Palo Altan to ideas and practices, whatever their source, that contributed to the excesses of the Third Reich, for which Germans have been laboring for a seventy years to atone.

And a person from Jamaica, where the Spanish presided over the genocide of the indigenous Arawak and Taina peoples, and their British successors developed a plantation economy based on enslaved Africans, and indentured Chinese and Indians, will certainly have a different viewpoint than the average Palo Altan on a eugenicist's argument about the moral and intellectual superiority of Northern Europeans.

So we bring the different viewpoints together in Palo Alto in 2016 to determine the best course forward at this moment. That's the strength of Palo Alto.


5 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 31, 2015 at 6:14 pm

How about naming it AJ's Middle School after Aj tutoring as they are doing so much of the teaching and help the kids get through high school too.


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Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 1, 2016 at 8:27 am

As a former student of Jordan and Paly (class of 99) I found the racism as mentioned by some parents at these schools to be the exact opposite. Usually it was minority students from East Palo Alto who were racist against whites. And excluded whites from hanging out. Back in 91-95 Jordan was a pretty rough school having just reopened after being closed for many years. And a faculty who often did'nt want to address the issues of troubled preteens from EPA as they themselves were close to retirement. Multiculturalism doesnt work when you have the poor vs the rich and vise versa


3 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2016 at 9:11 am

@Opar, you, I , Jerry, everybody else - we don't have to disclose our birth country, education, ancestry, socioeconomic background, religion, etc. in order to allow others to assess our "cultural filters." Yes, everyone has a background and experiences; no, they don't matter in evaluating the quality of other people's arguments. It is clear to me (though apparently not you) that when you say that Lars doesn't understand "our" history (specifically telling him is is not "his"), that you are trying to discredit his view - he's not one of "us" so he doesn't understand and therefore "we" (who are "we" again?) should discount him. That's just flat out wrong in my opinion. How would you feel if someone wrote, "Oh, so and so is Jewish - that's why she is concerned about fascism." Seems pretty bad, doesn't it - she isn't opposed not because she is well-informed or has thought about it, etc. - it is for an idiosyncratic reason that doesn't necessarily apply to "us." To me, that's equivalent to what you are writing.

I don't care about Lars' background, or your's, or Jerry's, or anyone else's. We don't have to post our resumes to have our opinions taken at face value. Based on what you've posted, your values seem to include that immigrants are not entitled to assess "our" history (at least without disclosing their origins), which seems unfortunate. I will discount your opinions on this topic to reflect this.


3 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 1, 2016 at 9:43 am

OPar .... something of interest?

>> Nazi eugenics quickly outpaced American eugenics in both velocity and ferocity. In the 1930s,
>> Germany assumed the lead in the international movement. Hitler’s eugenics was backed by
>> brutal decrees, custom-designed IBM data processing machines, eugenical courts, mass
>> sterilization mills, concentration camps, and virulent biological anti-Semitism-all of which
>> enjoyed the open approval of leading American eugenicists and their institutions.

Black, Edwin (2012-11-30). War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race, Expanded Edition (Kindle Locations 204-207). Dialog Press. Kindle Edition.

--

The thing missing from this discussion is the precise nature of Jordan's support and
involvement in the eugenic's movement. It seems to be edited down to concern about
birth defects or inherited weakness or disease in what I have found in cursory searches.

I do think the school should be renamed, and no it is not super important or urgent, but
then it doesn't take a lot of time or energy to do that. It might take paperwork and
behind the scenes reconfiguring of data, but I would think there must be some kind of
process in place to rename a school at the various levels.

I just do not like naming schools after people. Above I made the suggestion of Midtown
Middle School as kind of a quip, but the more I think about it the more I think it is a decent
suggestion. Or if there is a better more fitting location based name like Newell, Middlefield,
Rinconada, etc.

What did the land that Jordan Jr. High is one used to be? Orchard?

Happy 2016


11 people like this
Posted by Children Advocate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 2, 2016 at 2:25 pm

I wholeheartedly support the idea of naming the school after the Seids. I am a great admirer of them as they are generous people and have a fierce dedication for inclusive quality public school programs for children. They have been residents of Palo Alto since 1962. I want to highlight some of the service Mary has provided over the years that many may be unaware of. In 1972 Mary Seid was named "volunteer of the year" by the Green Gables (Duveneck) elementary school and similarly honored by the Ventura elementary school IN 1974. She assisted East Palo Alto and Palo Alto needy Latino families with children struggling to succeed in Palo Alto Schools. She continued with similar efforts as a board member of the Mid-Peninsula YWCA for twelve years and was honored as board chairperson in 1981 and 1982. With great passion she advocated for a decade for the organization's goal and policy of "eliminating racism at all cost", she then turned her focus in the early 1980s to establishing and developing the first community based counseling program for battered Asian women in Santa Clara County; She followed by opening the first and only Asian women shelter in the region in 1992.

Mary was recognized in the mid-1980s by the Santa Clara County Human Relation Commission for her school-based education and social services to needy Latino and southeast Asian refugee children attending public schools in East San Jose and Mountain View.The region's "Women's fund" organization honored Mary as the counties "1990 woman of the year" for exemplary community service.


8 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 5, 2016 at 7:22 am

As a close friend of Mary Seid, I concur fully with the sentiments of previous writer "Children Advocate"; I add the following: Mary was a deeply involved member of the Palo Alto PTA Council "Standing Committee on the Evaluation of Textbooks from a Multicultural Perspective" (1972-75).The group's three year long lobbying effort succeeded in bringing about the establishment of the historic education code requiring publishers selling texts to California public schools to produce material that accurately portray the diversity of our society as well as prohibit inclusion of material that adversely affect persons on the basis of race,sex,color,creed, national origin or ancestry. Enforcement of the code was placed in the jurisdiction of the California Curriculum Commission and assisted by statewide local "legal compliance panels."

In 1980-81, Mary, assisted by her husband Allan, other PTA members and PAUSD administrators defeated a concerted effort by the publishing industry to weaken the education code and dismantle the legal compliance process.

All of the Seids' Children attended and graduated from Palo Alto public schools and currently has one grandson attending Jordan Middle School.

Although Mary's contribution to Palo Alto schools and families were substantial, she was able to play a key role with a few others in giving birth to the "SANTA CLARA COUNTY DOMESTIC COUNCIL" in 1993. She was appointed to serve as a commissioner on the founding board.


4 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 10, 2016 at 3:03 pm

If our school board decides to rename "Jordan Middle School", the suggestion of Dr. Allan and Mary Seid as the school's new name is a superb one. Dr Seid and Mary have been residents of Palo Alto since the early 1960s, during which time they were involved with the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) and our PTAs, schools, students and families. Mary's contributions to our local schools and PTA, along with various PAUSD initiatives and regional children's welfare projects have been previously mentioned. However, of value repeating was Mary's vital service on the PTA Council 'Task Force on Curricula Reform From a Multi-Cultural Perspective'. (1972-75).

Allan's activities with multiple local school campuses and their "Site PTAs", specific PAUSD community wide educational endeavors and children-focused benevolent efforts of grass root groups were intense and substantial between the early 1970s to to mid 80's. As shown below, additional recognitions were bestowed for service to children and families during these decades:

* In 1970, Dr.Seid was recognized by The Palo Alto PTA Council with a "Lifetime
Membership Award".
* One year later, he was honored with the 6th Congressional District PTA "Lifetime
Membership Award".
* As chairman of the Palo Alto City Council's "Task Force on Drug Abuse" in 1971-
-72, Dr. Seid and committee members brought about a city funded teen drug
abuse prevention facility, a separate treatment-rehabilitation house and
other joint City/PAUSD partnership programs to combat Palo Alto's substance
abuse.
* Co-founded THE Santa Clara County "Human Relation Commission (1972) and the
County Drug Abuse Coordinating Commission (1973) and served on each for
eight years and chaired each for two years.
* THE Santa Clara County Mental Health Association honored Dr.Seid as "1975
Volunteer of The Year".
* THE California State Mental Health Association named Dr.Seid "1978 State
Volunteer of The Year."
* U.S. House of Representatives issued a "Resolution of Commendation" to Dr.Seid
in 1978 for "outstanding leadership and community service."
* Governor Jerry Brown appointed Dr.Seid in 1979 to the California State Board
of Education--the first Asian American to serve on this educational body.
* Dr.Seid co-founded the Washington D.C.based Jewish inspired multi-racial
"National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence" in 1980; he was
recognized for "Distinguished Visionary Leadership" following ten years of
national board service.
* The California State Senate appointed Dr.Seid to the California State Mental
Health Citizens Board in 1983.
* The following year, Dr.Seid was honored by the California Chinese American
Parents and Teachers Association fOR "Exemplary Leadership".
* The California Association of County Drug Abuse Program Administrators
recognized Dr.Seid as its "California State 1985 Volunteer of The Year".
* Last but not least, he served on the Board of Regents of the University of Santa
Clara for ten years (1987-96).

The team of Dr.Allan and Mary Seid is one whom Palo Altans can be proud.


Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Jan 10, 2016 at 4:12 pm


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2 people like this
Posted by Jordan Middle School Student
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 19, 2016 at 9:09 pm

To be honest, I believe that the name should NOT be changed for the following reasons:
Even though David Starr Jordan was an advocate of "eugenics" I still don't think it should be changed. There are schools all over the country that have names of racism. For example, there is Robert E. Lee high school in the South. There are people whom we must know what they have done, and not keep only good names in society. As a student I believe that we must learn about people who are infamous. Changing the name of David Starr Jordan to me is pointless. I see a point of view, but the district has many more things to worry about. They need to worry about if enough people are getting a better education, we have suicides now and then, families complaining about the curriculum taught in classes. We have so much to work on, and changing the name of a school? Because it's named after someone who believed in "eugenics". People have the right to believe what they want, and changing a name of a school because of their belief does not satisfy me. What would satisfy me was if he was an advocate of Genocide.
For example: Adolf Hitler, Adolf Eichmann, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich.
They were all i the Nazi Party during World War II, and were top Nazi officials with the genocide of the "non-aryan" population.
They were motivated by Eugenics which was founded in the United States, and we can't use the Nazi's used Eugenics reason to change the name because us Americans, founded the topic of Eugenics. To me David Starr Jordan Middle School is an okay name of our school.
Think about this...
The founding fathers of our nation, The United States Of America.
George Washington.
* Owned slaves
* Punished them harshly
Thomas Jefferson
* Owned Slaves
* Allegedly accused of raping them
How terrible does this seem?
And there is a person who believed in Eugenics.
Why do we change the names of schools and areas named after them. Those people are monstrous for what they have done. The owned people as property, I understand that it was what an average rich white man would do in the 1700's. Now it seems terrible for they done. Have we changed their names? No. Do we think we need to change out school name? No.
Do we have more things to worry? Yes.
Come back another day.


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