For Princeton that would be the debate concerning the renaming of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, for Harvard that is the renaming of their campus â€œHouse Mastersâ€, and for Palo Alto that is the renaming of Jordan Middle School.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have launched the petition to rename Jordan Middle School. The argument in favor of renaming is that, despite his many other accomplishments, David Starr Jordanâ€™s Eugenics and racist background disqualify him as a role model for 21st century Palo Alto public school.
I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the most common and extremely relevant concern people bring up why the school should not be renamed: "Eugenics was a broad and unfortunate movement in the early part of the 20th century, David Starr Jordan was just one of many. So the question is if and where to draw the line with any potential renaming, or since nobody is perfect everything will have to be named after a letter in the alphabet."
Where to draw the renaming line raises the question of leadership versus follower-ship, and David Starr Jordan was one of the undisputed, most vocal and influential leaders of the Eugenics movement. He wrote one of the first US books rallying others to the cause (Blood of the Nation â€“ the decay of races through the survival of the unfit, 1902), he co-founded and chaired the first Eugenics Organization (The Eugenics Section of the American Breeders Association, with Charles Davenport in 1906). He worked with the Kelloggâ€™s, Rockefellers, Harriman Railroad Foundation, Henry Ford and many other leading industrialist of the time to secure funding and support for Eugenics research and institutions. He wrote many Eugenics books (Blood of the Nation, the Human Harvest, War and the Breed, the Heredity of Richard Roe, etc), published many more papers on the topic, co-hosted and spoke at Eugenics conferences, bestowing credibility based on his status as President of Stanford University.
Even worse was his Eugenics vision and his relentless agitation in its favor. In his 1902 Blood of the Nation he foresaw an age where an enlightened society would rise up and create the mechanisms to ensure the purity and survival of the master race. Throughout much of America that resulted in >60,000 forced sterilizations based on laws passed in more than 30 states. In addition, the Human Betterment Foundation, which he helped co-found in the later stage of his life, made this mission one of its main focal points. Attached is a picture of a letter between 2 directors of the HBF congratulating themselves for the great work they have done inspiring the Eugenics policies of Nazi Germany (this was truly the crowning achievement of his lifelong obsession).
David Starr Jordan was not a casual bystander caught up in the Eugenics craze of the time, he was an early an life-long leader of the movement, and the time to rename Jordan Middle School after a more suitable role-model is now, so please visit the petition website and support the motion!