Letters to the Editor from July 2 – 8, 2020
The Time Is Now To Change Mason & TJ’s School Names
The school board is considering having a public discussion about changing the names of George Mason and Thomas Jefferson schools. 2020 has taught me that discussion isn’t good enough. Only action is good enough.
In the last two weeks, Princeton has removed Woodrow Wilson from its public policy school, Fairfax County is considering removal of Robert E. Lee and Mosby from two schools, Alexandria may remove TC Williams and other districts are considering similar moves.
Removing names of leaders who were unrepentant slaveholders or segregationists from schools does not erase their history. It leaves them simply to history, good and bad.
No school should continue to be named in honor of someone who owned another human being. How can a discussion continue beyond this fact?
How will people in 2040 look back at Falls Church in 2020? The school board needs to do the right thing. Change the names.
New School Names Should Start Talks Of Racial Equity in F.C.
I’m tired of hearing discussions about whether our local schools ought to be renamed to better reflect our values.
Not because I’m neutral on the issue — I think they should. Students have plenty of opportunity to learn about the history of George Mason or Thomas Jefferson’s contributions without honoring these deeply flawed individuals with a school name. And if you think that leads to debates about every founding fathers’ namesakes well, you’re starting to get the point. However, what I really want to hear about is what our school system, and more importantly our city, is doing to promote racial equity beyond the naming issue.
If we are to learn anything from the recent protests of police brutality, it is that communities of color have been hurting for too long, with their messages too often falling on deaf ears. Is Falls Church, as a predominately white and wealthy suburb, ready to do the work required to educate ourselves on how our Black and Brown brothers and sisters have been legally and systemically oppressed for hundreds of years? It’s a lot of catching up to do, and it requires the active participation of our government officials, community organizations, schools, businesses and community members.
I want to see our library highlight Black and Brown authors and justice issues in their programming. I want to see representatives from the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation as regular guests and lecturers in our schools. I want to see an informational booth at the farmer’s market about how communities of color have less access to healthy foods, and how climate change disproportionately affects poor communities of color. I want to see a class at the community center dedicated to racial reconciliation and sharing social justice resources. I want to see our City Council conduct a needs analysis on how to better serve our most vulnerable residents.
Learning about and dismantling racism in the United States will be a continuous project. Falls Church has a role to play, as do we all. So let’s get to work.
Mason Alumni: School Name Should Change With World
Regarding the renaming of George Mason High School, I am an alumnus, the first president of the alumni association and its current co-chair. In other words, I have a long history of interest in its continued success. The world has changed since GMHS was named and, given the timing of the new high school, we have an opportunity to send a clear educational message to our students…we discriminate against no one.
Research has shown that, throughout our country, educational systems have adopted the following policy “School names must not discriminate and/or cause offense on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexuality, or gender.” There are five (5) races: Black/African American, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, & White. The last school named in Falls Church was Mary Ellen Henderson, a female black/African American. If we name another school based on one race, the clear message is that we are racist…if not today, in the future. We should not select a name based upon what it means to one race, but what it means to all races.
If the name is changed, what should the options be? In researching the top High Schools the majority are named after their Town or City, which is not an option for Falls Church. Following are a few ideas:
1) Horizon High
2) Virginia High (Wyoming High in top 100)
3) Academic High
4) University High
5) Providence High.
I’m certain that your readers will have great ideas.
Judy Fischer White
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