Skip to comments.Students defend plea to rename Woodrow Wilson School
Posted on 01/08/2004 9:37:56 AM PST by jordan8
MIDDLETOWN -- Low-key is the byword for the 11-member committee that has begun considering whether the citys middle school should keep President Woodrow Wilson as a namesake.
The Board of Education formed the committee after Middletown High School students Vincent Crawford, 18, and Andy Beatman, 17, requested the board rename the school in May, saying that based on historical evidence the 28th president was racist.
"Our charge is to determine whether well ask the Board of Education to consider renaming the middle school," said committee chairman John Hennelly, the assistant superintendent of schools for curriculum and instruction.
"Its not to recommend other names," he said.
The committee is also charged with determining whether to change the middle schools mascot, the ram, because a resident had complained to the board in September that the animal was too gender specific.
The charge to rename the school comes at an opportune time as the present Woodrow Wilson Middle School at Wildermans Way will be demolished to make way for a new $79.9 million high school.
The Board of Education plans to move the middle school students to the present high school on Hunting Hill Avenue.
Crawford and Beatman, vice president and president of the high school student council respectively, iterated their request to the committee on Tuesday, submitting evidence they believe highlights Wilsons racism.
First, Wilson and his administration submitted a legislative program intended to curtail the civil rights of African Americans, which Congress did not pass. However, Wilson used his powers as chief executive to segregate the federal government, the first segregation since Reconstruction.
Second, Wilson personally vetoed a motion on racial equality in the covenant of the League of Nations.
Third, Wilson publicly endorsed and arranged screenings for his cabinet, for Congress and the Supeme Court of the Birth of a Nation, a film known for its romantic portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan.
Fourth, as president of the Princeton University, Wilson turned away black applicants, regarding their desire for education as "unwarranted."
Pointing out that the districts student body is 40 percent minorities, Beatman said, "Continuing to honor a man who stood for things that the school system does not, is not appropriate."
Committee members praised the students for taking the initiative to challenge the schools name.
"Its not easy for adults, let alone youths, to stand up to anything," said committee member and middle school representative Karen Nocera. "I admire your courage."
Committee member Willard McRae said, "I accept the challenge theyve given us and applaud the research theyve done. I think we should rename the school as a way of empowering the students to do things like this in the future."
Beatman said their venture germinated from a side comment made about Wilsons acts as president by their social studies teacher.
"That created a spark and we just ran with it," he said.
Crawford said the two of them scoured the Russell Library to determine why the middle school bears Wilsons name, and to research his relations with minorities throughout his life.
Committee member John Geary said Wilson served as a professor and football coach at Wesleyan University from 1888 to 1890, and his daughter Nellie was born in Middletown.
Nocera noted, "He lived on High Street for two years."
Geary said schools in Middletown had borne Wilsons name since the 1960s. The present middle school received the nomenclature in 1984 when Wilson and Keigwin middle schools and Wilson and Middletown high schools were combined.
"I think the sense of history was the main factor for naming the school," Geary said. "Therere a lot of parents who had gone to Woodrow Wilson and they wanted to keep that tradition alive."
When asked about what new name the middle school should bear, Beatman said, "We think the school should be named after a local person who was prominent in the community. Someone who represents what Middletown is about."
Hennelly questioned Beatman and Crawford on the sources they used to build their case, and asked them to bring as many primary sources to support Wilsons actions and statements to the committee as possible.
"We need to have sources that are valid and reliable," he said.
The two agreed to submit a list of source materials they found via books and the Internet.
The question of research ran into the thornier question of how the committee will reach a decision without turning the matter into an referendum on race.
Many members pointed out that Wilsons attitude toward minorities was not rare during late 19th and early 20th centuries.
"This information (about Wilson) is not a shock, its realistic," Geary said. "I would think these beliefs were shared by 98 percent of the white population at the time."
Geary also noted that history never gives simple answers, pointing out that the fledgling NAACP endorsed Wilson, a Democrat, in his run for the presidency because blacks were leaving the Republican party in droves.
Franklin said he did not want the committees deliberations to move into an emotionally charged area where Board of Education members are forced into a vote where the only main motivation to vote aye or nay is whether the public will perceive them as racists.
"Do we not name buildings after JFK because of evidence he was philanderer, or for Washington because he owned slaves?" Hennelly asked. "Thats why we need to do this in a dispassionate manner."
In a lighter moment, committee member Bob Rosenbaum said the committee should leave out Wilsons role as football coach, because "while he was a football enthusiast, all he did was run up and down the sideline waving an unfurled umbrella."
To contact John Christie, call (860) 347-3331 ext. 220 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I think the best way to repudiate Wilson's racism would be for the minority students at this high school to earn good grades and go to college -- since Wilson found that so distasteful when he was at Princeton. Incidentally, at Princeton's graduation a few years ago, the Woodrow Wilson award for public service/achievement was presented to a young Asian man. Bill Cosby was the speaker -- he said Wilson would be turning over in his grave. And that was a good thing.
You're kidding, right?
Never. Liberals live and breath on making themselves feel good. By calling someone a racist then eliminating their name liberals will, once again, feel good. The naming of things after Bill Clinton will be interesting. A womanizer/rapist president who was impeached. Liberals will have a feel-good dilemma on their hands over this one. No doubt their honoring of a Democrat will override doing what is right.
SEGREGATION = DEMOCRAT
JIM CROW = DEMOCRAT
INTELLIGENCE TESTS FOR VOTING = DEMOCRAT
NO SCHOOL VOUCHERS = DEMOCRAT
When we live in a vanilla world where everything is vanilla and all the people look vanilla and speak vanilla and think vanilla.
Unless of course, you happen to like chocolate. Then the vanillas will send you to a re-education camp.