To the Editor:
Political correctness run amok has begun to seep into the precincts of Fairfax County. At its Dec. 17, 2015 meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Education voted to change one of its policies to allow it to rename schools "if there's a compelling need." Before this change, the name of a school could only be renamed if the school facilities were being "re-purposed." The motivation for this change has to do with a petition seeking to rename J.E.B. Stuart High School after deceased Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Stuart was a Confederate General. Others are advocating renaming Robert E. Lee High School and W.T. Woodson High School, named after a County Schools' Superintendent who presided during an era of school segregation.
Once this ball gets rolling, where does it stop? I am reminded of the words of George Santayana who wrote in 1905 "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." If the names of these schools are renamed, what does that do to the thousands of alumni who, for example, graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, not Political Correctness high school. We can all recognize that Generals Lee and Stuart fought for the Confederacy. Under the rationale of the petitioners, who else in our nation's history should be erased from view?
Let's start with the father of our country, George Washington. He owned slaves throughout his life and his will did not free them. His will specified that his slaves could be freed after his widow died. They were surely unappreciative of this gesture. She freed his slaves just over a year after his death, but did not free any of her own slaves and, in fact, bequeathed them to her inheritors. Should we close down the Mount Vernon Estate and rename every school, road, and other building named for George Washington? Should we change the name of our nation's capital?
Thomas Jefferson owned slaves throughout his life. What is to become of our magnet school named in his honor? Should the University of Virginia disassociate itself from him? That brings me to George Mason himself. He is credited with authoring descriptions of rights that were incorporated into the Constitution's Bill of Rights, its first ten amendments. His plantation at Gunston Hall was tended by his slaves. Should Gunston Hall be closed? Should George Mason University have its name changed? Should Mason Neck be re-named?
President James Madison was also a slave owner. He did not free his slaves in his will. Should the name of James Madison University be changed? This brings me to Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax after whom Fairfax County was named. He was also a slave owner. Do we have to rename our county now?
My suggestion is that someone with a functioning brain who has been elected to office in Fairfax County should quickly put an end to this nonsense. Making uncomfortable aspects of American history disappear from view will doom future generations to repeat the mistakes made in the lengthy and colorful history of our country. Keeping those symbols of inappropriate behavior front and center (all of whom also had positive aspects as well) will ensure that future generations of students will not have history white-washed from view so that they can learn from the mistakes of the past and not repeat them. Perhaps the chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the chairman of the School Board ought to get together and solve this problem before the ball rolls too far down the hill.
By the way, Thurgood Marshall was truly an American hero and a towering historic figure. Despite these facts, Fairfax County already has a Marshall High School named after General George C. Marshall who also served as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. It is unlikely the Board of Education will create severe confusion by creating a second Marshall High School.
H. Jay Spiegel