Renaming Jefferson school.

SCHOOL DISTRICT OF SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NEW JERSEY PUBLIC BOARD MEETING

August 16, 2021

RESOLUTION 4190

FOR ACTION

SUBJECT: COMMITMENT TO RENAMING JEFFERSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

WHEREAS, the Board of Education may consider a change in the name of an existing school or facility to ensure and model an inclusive, welcoming and respectful learning environment; and

WHEREAS, naming a school for a person is to honor that person and to hold them up as a role model for students; and

WHEREAS, Jefferson Elementary School, located at 518 Ridgewood Road in Maplewood, New Jersey, bears the name of an enslaver committed to upholding the institution of slavery; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Education will no longer hold up an enslaver as a role model for students of the South Orange Maplewood School District; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Education desires to adopt a new name for Jefferson Elementary School, to be selected with the involvement of Jefferson Elementary School students and the District’s student community at large; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Education directs the Superintendent or a designee to work with the students of Jefferson Elementary School to seek input from the District’s student community to propose a new name for that school to the Board of Education by June 30, 2022, so that the Board may vote on the adoption of such name to take effect commencing with the 2022-2023 school year.


I went to Jefferson Elementary School.

Of course, it was in NY.


Seems reasonable.


drummerboy said:

I went to Jefferson Elementary School.

Of course, it was in NY.

 There’s one in Vauxhall also. I wonder if they’re going to change the name also. My eldest son was bussed to Jefferson from Seth Boyden. While kids from Jefferson were being bussed to Seth Boyden. 
I just can’t think of another name for that school other than Ridgewood school. 


---- load of horse pucky.

Here was a guy who put his life on the line to write and sign the Declaration of Independence.That action led us to the government we have today, however imperfect it may be.


As for the people advocating for changing the name of the school, what have they done for anyone's benefit? 


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

---- load of horse pucky.

Here was a guy who put his life on the line to write and sign the Declaration of Independence.That action led us to the government we have today, however imperfect it may be.

As for the people advocating for changing the name of the school, what have they done for anyone's benefit? 

 Where do you stand on Columbus Day, sir?


Jefferson School is named for Jefferson Village, an historic designation give the part of present day Maplewood where Jefferson School is located.  While it is highly likely that Jefferson Village in turn was named for Thomas Jefferson, there is still one degree of separation here.


I have such mixed feelings on plans like this one. While I totally understand not wanting to honor/glorify a man who history has shown to be less than a good guy (can’t think of how else to word it in 5 words or less at the moment…), at the same time, it provides such a great opportunity for education - how about maybe using it as a chance to work more education about Jefferson and his good deeds and misdeeds into the curriculum?


And three hundred years from now most everyone living now is liable to have their name deleted from usage because they owned a gasoline powered vehicle.  That also would be political correctness applied retroactively.


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

---- load of horse pucky.

Here was a guy who put his life on the line to write and sign the Declaration of Independence.That action led us to the government we have today, however imperfect it may be.

As for the people advocating for changing the name of the school, what have they done for anyone's benefit? 

I agreed, FJJ, at first thought.

I’ve edited this post to add that I get it.

I knew he was a slaveholder, but also that he wanted to put the nation on a path to the elimination of slavery. Seems that even given this desire, Jefferson continued the exploitation to a level that had to be against his underlying conscience.

I also agree that it should be a point of education, rather than strictly an erasure.




mrmaplewood said:

And three hundred years from now most everyone living now is liable to have their name deleted from usage because they owned a gasoline powered vehicle.  That also would be political correctness applied retroactively.

 Nah, most people would not equate using an inefficient mode of transportation with buying, abusing and slaughtering human beings…




As can be learned from David McCullough's biography of John Adams (NOT a slave owner):

 When Thomas Jefferson's daughter got married (ya know, the WHITE one) he decided that it would make a very fine wedding present to give her and her husband eleven FAMILIES, -ya know PEOPLE. -"Here ya go honey, -enjoy".

Then upon Jefferson's death, because he could never stop compulsively spending money on wine, renovations and all his fineries, his estate had to auction off one hundred and thirty people right there on the front lawn of the grand Monticello to help pay off his debts. 

And let us not forget that while enjoying himself in Paris, he first started having his way with Sally Hemings when she was all of fourteen years old and he was forty four. 

In other words, if they keep the name of Jefferson school, it might be historically accurate and useful to more widely teach the full account of his achievements and how he lived other than how he wrote the Declaration of Independence while other men went out on the battlefield and paid for it in blood.


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

---- load of horse pucky.

Here was a guy who put his life on the line to write and sign the Declaration of Independence.That action led us to the government we have today, however imperfect it may be.

As for the people advocating for changing the name of the school, what have they done for anyone's benefit? 

 His meals, while he was declaring his "independence" were, of course, entirely funded by the labor of people who lived their lives in slavery.  Kind of puts his "independence" in perspective, doesn't it?


Heynj said:

I have such mixed feelings on plans like this one. While I totally understand not wanting to honor/glorify a man who history has shown to be less than a good guy (can’t think of how else to word it in 5 words or less at the moment…), at the same time, it provides such a great opportunity for education - how about maybe using it as a chance to work more education about Jefferson and his good deeds and misdeeds into the curriculum?

 If I kidnap your kids, your grand kids and your great grandkids and keep them on my farm as my slaves, does that make me a "less than good guy"?  What if I beat them every now and then?  What if I sell some of them to folks who will rape them and sell the resulting babies?  What if I rape them every once in a  while myself?

"Less than a good guy" seems kind of weak to me.


mrmaplewood said:

And three hundred years from now most everyone living now is liable to have their name deleted from usage because they owned a gasoline powered vehicle.  That also would be political correctness applied retroactively.

 There were plenty of people at the time who understood that slavery was very wrong.  Its not like that is some sort of new discovery.

You don't have to have a school named after Jefferson to educate people about what a hypocrite he was.


steel said:


And let us not forget that while enjoying himself in Paris, he first started having his way with Sally Hemings when she was all of fourteen years old and he was forty four. 


Founding Fathers Fun Fact! Sally Hemings was Martha Jefferson's sister. Martha's dad John Wayles fathered Sally with one of his own slaves, then Sally was part of Martha's dowry when she married Tom!

Now you know.


mrincredible said:

Now you know.

Speaking for myself only, -I did know, but that's a good public service announcement on how they shared such family values at the time.

 


Klinker said:

Formerlyjerseyjack said:

---- load of horse pucky.

Here was a guy who put his life on the line to write and sign the Declaration of Independence.That action led us to the government we have today, however imperfect it may be.

As for the people advocating for changing the name of the school, what have they done for anyone's benefit? 

 His meals, while he was declaring his "independence" were, of course, entirely funded by the labor of people who lived their lives in slavery.  Kind of puts his "independence" in perspective, doesn't it?

 No, it doesn't.

Carry on.


Soul_29 said:

 Where do you stand on Columbus Day, sir?

 The "Admiral Of The Ocean Sea" was an ****. First of all, mariners knew Earth was a globe. His first error was in underestimating the size of the planet. Second error, he thought he was in the Orient.

His treatment of West Indian natives included cutting off the hands of natives who didn't bring him enough gold. His governing of "Hispanola" was such that when word of it reached the Spanish crown, he was arrested and brought back to Spain in chains.

The only reason he became famous or that anyone gave a **** about his "discovery," was that he brought back gold and the story that there was a city of gold that was farther inland.

That's all I remember about Columbus.


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

Here was a guy who put his life on the line to write and sign the Declaration of Independence. That action led us to the government we have today, however imperfect it may be.

He didn’t do it to get his name on schools.

What do we lose as a community, or as a country, by removing it?


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

 No, it doesn't.

Carry on.

Do great deeds wipe away the stain of vile ones?  If so, perhaps we should rename the school after Harvey Weinstein. I mean, a lot of people really enjoyed "The Crying Game" and Weinstein was a big force behind the launch of Tarantino's career.


And to think DB questioned your Afghan analogy.


DaveSchmidt said:

And to think DB questioned your Afghan analogy.

 It does seem unfair to compare a serial rapist to a man who not only raped women but also sold their children.


There is a difference between injecting moral standards back into a time when the standard did not exist or when the norm was the opposite of what it is today, and doing so about evils that were recognized to be such at the time, even by the evildoers.  Abolitionism was already a big thing in Jefferson's time and he himself spoke and worked against slavery to some extent (although obviously not too hard in the case of his own holdings):

https://www.monticello.org/thomas-jefferson/jefferson-slavery/jefferson-s-attitudes-toward-slavery/



maybe we should try to put ourselves in the place of Black students walking into Jefferson school every day and knowing the man whose name is on the building literally bought, sold, and owned people who looked like them.


ml1 said:

maybe we should try to put ourselves in the place of Black students walking into Jefferson school every day and knowing the man whose name is on the building literally bought, sold, and owned people who looked like them.

It would almost be like being a Black person in a country dominated by white people who collectively grew rich on the backs of POC.

Having said that, a school named after Jefferson is hardly equivalent to a school named after Confederate leaders whose defining acts in their lives was the defense of a slave-owning society.


tjohn said:

ml1 said:

maybe we should try to put ourselves in the place of Black students walking into Jefferson school every day and knowing the man whose name is on the building literally bought, sold, and owned people who looked like them.

It would almost be like being a Black person in a country dominated by white people who collectively grew rich on the backs of POC.

Having said that, a school named after Jefferson is hardly equivalent to a school named after Confederate leaders whose defining acts in their lives was the defense of a slave-owning society.

  no it's not.  but as daveschmidt asked, what is our loss in taking Jefferson's name off a school in Maplewood?  I can't think of anything aside from maybe pissing off some of the more conservative-leaning members of the community.  And from my observation, a lot of them spend a decent amount of effort looking for things to be pissed off about.  So if we didn't remove Jeffeson's name from a school, they'd find something else to get their blood going anyhow.


Let's wait until we find someone perfect, then name everything after them. But attach the signs with velcro, you never know when the dirty truth will come out that offsets everything good they ever did. 


tom said:

Let's wait until we find someone perfect, then name everything after them. But attach the signs with velcro, you never know when the dirty truth will come out that offsets everything good they ever did.

Chalk tom up, I guess, in the Slaveholding? Nobody’s Perfect camp.


One can imagine a world in which buildings are not named after people. 

My kids went to South Mountain Elementary and they were unscarred by the experience. 


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