News

Guest Opinion: The inconvenient truth about David Starr Jordan

On the potential renaming of a Palo Alto middle school

On Feb. 9, the Palo Alto Unified School District board decided to form a committee to review whether Jordan Middle School should be renamed, given the eugenics background of its namesake, David Starr Jordan. While talking to Palo Alto residents and community organizations, it became clear to me that a more complete picture of who Jordan was is needed. With this column, I hope to introduce readers to Jordan based on his own writings and that of various historians and Stanford University resources.

Born in 1851, Jordan graduated with a master's degree from Cornell in 1872 and became professor of zoology at the University of Indiana in 1879. He assumed the presidency of Indiana University in 1884, and at age 40 he became the first president of Stanford University, serving from 1891 until 1913. According to the university's website, Jordan "had not only handled the problems of starting a new university but had dealt with academic budgets being cut back in order for an extensive building campaign to progress and handled a major catastrophe (the 1906 earthquake) that had left his university in ruins." (tinyurl.com/DSJ-Stan01) He died in Palo Alto in 1931.

Stanford's eighth president, Donald Kennedy, noted: "Jordan's own scientific accomplishments were, to be fair about it, significant but not monumental. But the institutional seeds of growth he left behind germinated into something more far-reaching than any of his own ideas." (tinyurl.com/DSJ-Ken02)

Jordan's scientific interests spanned natural history, biology and zoology, which were in transition after Darwin postulated the "survival of the fittest" in his "Origin of Species" study (1859). Jordan converted to this evolutionist position and, according to his autobiography, "The Days of a Man," lectured on the "Science of Bionomics" throughout his tenure at Indiana and Stanford. Bionomics, he wrote, deals with "the philosophy of Biology, beginning with the laws of organic life and leading up to Eugenics and Ethics."

Eugenics was a pseudo-science that applied Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest concept to the human race. The movement originated in England where Francis Galton, Darwin's cousin, promoted that the fittest members of society should be selectively married off and reproduce, so that poor heredity would disappear over time. While hotly debated in England, no eugenics laws were enacted, and no actions taken.

In the U.S., Jordan was one of the early leading proponents of eugenics, according to historians Paul Lombardo and Sheldon Olsen. But unlike Galton's selective marriage proposals, Jordan's eugenics sought to prevent the decay of the Anglo-Saxon/Nordic race by limiting racial mixing and by preventing the reproduction of those he deemed unfit.

Jordan's obsession with the "survival of the Anglo-Saxon/Nordic race" was fueled by his deep-seated racism. In his book, "David Starr Jordan: Prophet of Freedom," historian Edward McNall Burns dedicates chapter 3.1, "Superior and Inferior Races," to Jordan's racism, attributing this assertion to Jordan: "To say that one race is superior to another is merely to confirm the common observation of every intelligent citizen."

Even Jordan's "much admired" pacifism was rooted squarely in his eugenics beliefs. Jordan did not reject war on grounds of morality; instead, he feared that during war the nation's strongest die, leaving room for the unfit to reproduce and decay the Anglo-Saxon/Nordic race, according to historian Garland E. Allen. Jordan forcefully argues his "pacifist" convictions in his 1899 newspaper article, "Anti-Imperialism," six months after victory in the Spanish-American War, as the U.S. was about to annex the Philippines: "There is no objection to national expansion, but colonies are not national expansion; slaves are not men. Wherever degenerate, dependent or alien races are within our borders today they are not part of the United States. They constitute a social problem, a menace to peace and welfare." ([http:www.tinyurl.com/DSJ-Call03 tinyurl.com/DSJ-Call03)

Starting with his presidency at Indiana, throughout his 22 years at Stanford and up to his death, Jordan leveraged his reputation and connections to influence lawmakers, organize funding and rally the public to his cause. Specifically, according to historic records and historians cited above:

• 1902: Jordan published one of the first books dedicated to eugenics, "The Blood of the Nation: A study of the decay of races, through the survival of the unfit."

• 1906: Jordan chaired the first U.S. eugenics organization, a chapter in the American Breeders Association.

• 1907: The first U.S. forced-sterilization law was enacted in Indiana, heavily influenced by Jordan's authority.

• 1909: California's eugenics program, driven by Jordan's outsize influence, quickly dwarfed those of all other states.

• 1928: Jordan was a founding member of the Human Betterment Foundation, devoted entirely to the promotion of forced sterilization legislation.

• 1935: The Human Betterment Foundation, led by Jordan protege Paul Popenoe, takes credit for inspiring the eugenics program in Nazi Germany, as historian Anthony Platt writes in "Bloodlines."

In 2003 the California Legislature unanimously "expressed its profound regret over the state's past role in the eugenics movement," which ultimately caused more than 65,000 forced sterilizations in 33 states. This regret was caused in no small part by the eugenics leadership and actions of Jordan.

In its resolution the Legislature also reminds us that we "must honor human rights and treat others with respect regardless of race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic status, disability, or illness."

By continuing to honor Jordan, we dishonor the values of our school community. Each year, in every school, we recognize and honor the diversity, inclusion and acceptance of each other's differences with "Unity Day" and "Not In Our Schools" activities.

And last but not least, Jordan "summarily dismissed the argument that differences in intellectual capacity are the result of opportunity and education," according to historian Burns, undermining our schools' mission to "empower every child to attain his or her highest intellectual, creative and social potential."

As a community, and for our children, we cannot continue to honor the legacy of David Starr Jordan.

Lars Johnsson lives in Palo Alto, where his three children attend Palo Alto Unified schools.

Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 19, 2016 at 12:58 pm

For historical purposes, the name should be kept because no one knows our cares about the person the school is named after. It's just a reason to try to "win" another argument and then move on to the next reason to stir up trouble. Harmony is a better choice for healthy living.


44 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 19, 2016 at 1:10 pm

A century ago, it was fashionable in the US to advocate selective human breeding; many people thought the idea progressive, enlightened. "It's all scientific stuff -- it's been proved!" says a character in Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby" (1925) arguing the superiority of Nordic races.

Currently, it's fashionable in the US to select details from the lives of historic figures out of all context, both of their times, and of most of their life's work; to disdain the whole person thereby as morally inferior; and to consider that view progressive, enlightened. An interesting counterpoint to this op-ed piece is one from the Daily Post by Palo Alto native Anna Powers, pointing out that eugenics was a popular notion in Jordan's era, yet Jordan didn't embrace it as far as many people did, arguing "it would breed out love and initiative." (Powers questioned whether Palo-Alto newcomers, in selectively criticizing Jordan, understood local history and Jordan's many positive roles in it.)

One commenter to a past Weekly story on this subject wrote "Why can't this be used as a learning opportunity for our kids? . . . use this as a way of discussing with students that people are capable of being smart, but believing things that turn out to be false." But another replied "That would involve being able to grasp nuance. These days, playing "gotcha" seems to be more the thing."


9 people like this
Posted by wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 19, 2016 at 1:11 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 19, 2016 at 1:31 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by attention getter
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2016 at 1:44 pm

don't we have better things to do than waste time and money on this. Tell the little kiddies it's named after Michael Jordan.


22 people like this
Posted by good and bad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 19, 2016 at 1:49 pm

An excellent opportunity to educate children on how it's possible for one person to engage in both good and evil deeds, to be respected in one's own time and despised in another (or vice versa), and how it's important to retain some humility about one's own opinions, because often what we think is a good idea turns out not to be such a good idea upon reflection, especially decades of perspective. Good people believe and do bad things, and maybe there isn't really such a thing as a "good" or "bad" person.

If the school is renamed, I hope very much that it is not named after another person.


11 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 1:57 pm

"Currently, it's fashionable in the US to select details from the lives of historic figures out of all context, both of their times, and of most of their life's work; to disdain the whole person thereby as morally inferior; and to consider that view progressive, enlightened. "

Looking at the record, both provided by Mr. Johnson and elsewhere, it is hard to say Jordan's leading role in US and California eugenics is just "select details ... out of all context." This was one of his major passions and he was a national leader in this field - he wrote books, founded organizations, led boards of directors on eugenics and racism. He wasn't one of many, just going with the flow - he was one of the biggest names in the movement.

I don't think Jordan is "morally inferior" and yes, we all have our faults - but nor do I think he should be honored by naming a school after him, especially given his outspoken disregard for many who now attend the school.


11 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

How about a generic Jordan?

Jordan Spieth - ATHLETE, GOLFER
Jordan Belfort - AUTHOR, STOCKBROKER
Barbara Jordan - CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE
Jordan Knight - SINGER
Louis Jordan - SAXOPHONIST, SINGER
June Jordan - ACADEMIC, AUTHOR, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, EDITOR, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, EDUCATOR, JOURNALIST


42 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident, descendant
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

I am one of the great grandchildren of David Starr Jordan, and grew up in the area. Very interesting debate. As an offspring of his, and having heard about him my whole life, and avidly against these notions of Eugenics, I've got to say, that either these aspects of his interests are now being blown out of proportion, or were being covered up through out my entire up bringing. Hard to say. But interesting debate, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of it. I know he did a lot of things, and was certainly a parent figure to the university. Seeing as how Leland Stanford, Senior died within about a year or so of the opening of the university. Was up to Jane Stanford, and my great grandfather to make sure the university survived, and later thrived. And did so in the light of progressive values of the time, based more on science, and the potential of individual accomplishment, as opposed to established stature of individuals, or families in those times, and religious affiliations. So this seems like a complex, if not political issue. Kind of hurts, but we'll see where this goes.


21 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Yes, Fred: EXTREMELY selective details. While cataloguing everything he could spin to link Jordan to Eugenics (including implied guilt by association), Johnsson's essay above omits such subjets as Jordan's own evolving views, his various books advocating avoidance of war, his invitation of Abdu' l-Baha to address Stanford on elimination of prejudice (1912), his support of the defense in the Scopes "Monkey Trial" (1925). It shows no attempt to understand "the record" of a life -- just to cherry-pick details supporting Johnsson's pet crusade.

Don't let's start using the same microscope on other local eponym sources, either; who knows where it might lead? For examle, Leland Stanford, his "robber-baron" buddies, his support for restricting Chinese immigration. Wikipedia quotes part of a speech by then-Governor Stanford warning of risks posed by Chinese immigrants (Stanford's words characterizing them would offend many people today) to "the superior race."


2 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 19, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Link for last quotation I mentioned: Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm

I propose keeping the name, but also teaching the students about this man and what his policies mean to history and modern life. Middle school students are old enough to appreciate what this means.


8 people like this
Posted by descendant
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Great debate. We all know that science can be a great tool, but can also go off in wrong directions, such as happened with the Eugenics debate of the late 19th century/early 20th century. And there can be an urge to go with some of these "gotcha" aspects. But again, we wouldn't want to eliminate references to the Stanfords, would we? Or many powerful people of such positions from earlier times. I can't blame anyone for considering such things. But without acknowledging context, it hardly seems like a fair, or balanced approach to revisiting history. Look at what our country has been involved with, with slavery, the treatment of native Americans, or the 20th century California atrocity of the internment camps of Japanese Americans. So much has happened in wrong directions. I believe that the aspects of some of the directions of science in the late 19th century were negative and destructive, unfair, unbalanced in terms of judging the values of humans. But Stanford University was, and is about so much more than that.
So let's take a balanced look at our local heritage.

Thanks again.


9 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 4:50 pm

@Humble - I would expect an op-ed piece is going to be selective by necessity. Having seen Mr. Johnnson's presentation and reviewed some of the sources myself, it seems like a strong body of evidence.

I'm not sure about Jordan's "evolving views" - he was the founding board member of the Human Betterment Foundation, which was a leading California advocate of eugenic sterilization, in 1928, just a few years before his death. I'm sure his views on many things evolved, but his commitment to eugenics seems constant. And I know from my own reading that his anti-war argument was based on the concern that war put the "best of the race" to risk on the battlefield, weakening the breed, not some general pacifist argument.

The question is not whether Jordan ever did good things, or even how to judge "the record of his life," as you put it. It is whether it is appropriate to honor someone who was a leading author, spokesperson, and organizer of the eugenics movement by naming a middle school after him. It seems sensible that some things would disqualify a person from that honor, despite many other accomplishments. It seems to me that Jordan may have crossed that line - not by committing a foot fault or some peccadillo, or by expressing a now unpopular view, but by making one of his life's causes a program that we have come to view as repulsive.


4 people like this
Posted by Moving Forward
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm

One of my children went to Jordan, one to JLS. I'd be happy if the names of both changed. Keep the school system vital with appropriate new names, such as:
Steve Jobs (lived near Jordan; sure he was not perfect, but his failings are instructive today also)
Ellen Fletcher (spearheaded Palo Alto's national-leading bicycle boulevards, a Holocaust survivor)
Anna Zschokke ("The Mother of Palo Alto" per Palo Alto History.org; see her wonderful story on the site)
Birge Clark (architect, also with deep roots in the city; see P A History.org again)
Elinor Cogswell (1938 became editor of Palo Alto Times; see P A History.org)
Grateful Dead (strong P A roots)

It is an interesting lesson for students that someone a century ago like Jordan could parlay into a big career a half-baked, callous, then-trendy theory that claimed to favor an (alleged) meritocracy (often disguising racist and intellectually snobbish subtext) against hereditary property advantage. Always worth learning and re-learning.


30 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

This is the fourth Town Square thread on this issue since the Dec. 7 Weekly article "School Board to discuss petition to rename Jordan Middle School." The 186 comments on that first thread risk being lost to the ongoing debate because it is listed under Palo Alto Issues unlike the others, which are under Schools & Kids..

It would help the debate to have all related threads listed under Schools & Kids, starting with that first thread and going forward.


23 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 19, 2016 at 6:05 pm

"The record" was Fred's phrase earlier, not mine; I quoted. As in, looking at a very selective "the record" to defend (never to examine) the current renaming crusade. Not actually looking at Jordan's whole life. Anna Powers, cited earlier, named other sources that give a different perspective, including Jordan's _criticism_ of eugenics.

What the people now riding this bandwagon firmly refuse to understand is that the one area of Jordan's activities by which they now so selectively judge his whole life isn't just "now-unpopular," it was actually mainstream-popular at the time, and can't even begin to be understood when isolated from the context of its era. (Which is the only way Johnsson, or his sympathizers, ever portray it.) I'm waiting for their next crusade, against the name Stanford -- for likewise associating with notions that in his time were commonplace.

You don't know what views you comfortably espouse today (as enlightened, progressive, etc.) will be vilified in a future era, and used to denigrate your own memory -- rather than as valuable teaching points about how society's norms evolve.


20 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 19, 2016 at 7:09 pm

NO ONE CARES! About the name change except for one outsider who has not lived in this town more than a decade. WHY is this still NEWS. Lets regocus on why kids are offing themselves at an alarming rate!


53 people like this
Posted by Dave Banker
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2016 at 8:37 pm

Lars Johnnson has been such a cornerstone in this movement! Without his intervention, a whole generation of our children would be left agonizing over how those who preceded them could have been so insensitive and shallow in the careless, thoughtless, and even caviler naming of a school. Lifting this burden of doubt and confusion will free children to assimilate values and social understanding that are enlightened, and make them better citizens. For this, we should be grateful to Mr. Johnnson, and it would be appropriate to recognize his contribution by placing his name on the school! Lars Johnnson Middle School!


Like this comment
Posted by Hutch 7.63skiX54R
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 19, 2016 at 8:45 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Reality check
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 19, 2016 at 8:49 pm

And Thomas Jefferson owned slaves... The USA was created on the genicide of native Americans. And we nuked the Japanese. The CIA tortures people. We assassinated Patrice Lumumba in Congo. Why bother with Jordan Middle School?


21 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Palo Alto seems ready to climb onto a me-too, vapid bandwagon of iconoclasm.

Take a hint from one of Oxford University's colleges. Recently, activists like Mr. Johnsson demanded removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes (a 19th century businessman and politician in southern Africa) because, they claimed, Rhodes represents white supremacy and Rhodes' views are not compatible with an "inclusive community" at Oxford.

Oxford kept the statue as a reminder of the complexity of history.


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2016 at 9:23 pm

This is yet another example of social laziness spun as virtue. It is way easier to revile a dead man's views than to help the classes of people he allegedly disparaged to succeed.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

For those who call for more attention to the historical context of Jordan's eugenicist enthusiasm, I recommend Charles Lane's review of Adam Cohen's "Imbecile" in the Feb. 17, 2016 issue of the Washington Post. The title is "Shining a light on one of the high court's darkest moments."

The case is "Buck v. Bell." In 1927, the Supreme Court approved by an 8-1 vote Virginia's involuntary sterilization of "feeble minded," epileptic and other genetically "unfit" citizens. The author, Adam Cohen, points out that the involuntarily sterilized Carrie Buck was found intellectually inferior based on her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, taken as evidence of promiscuity and equated to feeblemindedness. He adds the detail, ignored by the court, that she had been raped by the nephew of her foster parents, who covered their embarrassment by having her sent to a Virginia institution set up to prevent people who threatened "racial hygiene" from breeding.

This decision has never been formally overruled, even though the governors of North Carolina, Virginia and California apologized a decade ago for their involuntary sterilization policies. The reviewer, Charles Lane, comments that "At its peak, in the years before, during and just after World War I, the pseudo-science of "eugenics" was a national fad, almost a mania. . . .and many progressives embraced "racial hygiene" along with pure food and drug laws or urban sanitation."

There's something for both sides in this review as we consider the local question of whether a middle school should be named for a pioneer and tireless advocate of eugenicist beliefs and practices, David Starr Jordan.


4 people like this
Posted by Dave Banker
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2016 at 9:34 pm

Wow! Less than an hour ago I posted a sarcastic bunch of gabble suggesting the school be named "Lars Johnnson Middle School", which I thought surely would be deleted but instead, already two folks have "liked" it. I do hope they liked it because of they were entertained by the sarcasm, otherwise their "likes" would be disappointing to say the least. One other thought.....maybe ol' Lars is banging on the "like" button.


15 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 9:47 pm

@DaveBanker:

An inconvenient truth about a possible "Lars Johnnson Middle School" is that it would be named after a man whose scandanavian ancestors had a raiding culture of rape, pillage, and plunder. Indeed, in the past, the namesakes' ancestors main trade item was slaves. We could not honor that legacy.


5 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Oh, PA does have the Paly Vikings.

Never mind...


12 people like this
Posted by Barry Sortoro
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 20, 2016 at 11:36 am

A (fairly) mainstream scientific view in one era is condemned (or at best, stigmatized) in another era. Not uncommon in the history of science.

It'll be interesting to see how the proponents of the "settled science" of climate change will be viewed a century from now: saviors of the planet, or purveyors of a massive fraud whose names will be removed from local schools.


2 people like this
Posted by Ursula Schnyder
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Excellent opinion piece! Thank you, Lars Johnsson, for shedding light on David Starr Jordan's role in propelling eugenics in the US. It would be interesting to learn whether the earlier committee or officials responsible for naming the school after Jordan knew about his eugenics background. I certainly hope they did not know. But if we expect our children to do their homework thoroughly, committees who name schools should be held to the same standards.


6 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2016 at 3:02 pm

He is also the prime suspect in the murder of Jane Stanford.


15 people like this
Posted by Glenn
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm

I graduated from Jordan in the late 60's. It was a fantastic place back then, and yes, the name means something - its Jordan Junior High School (yes, Mr. Center and Jordan work together not some politically correct changover). If we start going back years and years to drum up troubling thoughts and ideas in todays mores, often ignoring the many great accomplishments of an individual, where do we stop. Having just read a thousand pages on Thomas Jefferson he was a man of many warts, some horrendous, but he remains among the greatest Americans ever - it would be a great disservice to change every school or town named Jefferson! Keep the name and learn from our history.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 20, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Since the C.I.A assassinated the most progressive and democratic African political leader of the 1960's, how about honoring his memory by renaming Jordan Middle School Patrice Lumumba School?


Like this comment
Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2016 at 11:23 pm

Perhaps the schools should be named after a local characteristic rather than an individual?


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 20, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Several posters have brought up the fact that eugenics was a popular notion in the early 1900s. I'd like to suggest that we think of different segments of American society in considering how popular it was.

I'm pretty sure that Chinese-Americans at the time, stung by anti-Chinese immigration policies, would have dissented. African-Americans, burdened by racist Jim Crow laws in the South and racial antipathy all around, would not have cared much for Jordan's white supremacist beliefs. Native Americans, just decades removed from genocidal attacks and dealing with a dominant white society that was capturing their kids and sending them to boarding schools to be "civilized" and lose their cultural groundings would have answered "no" to a survey question asking if they agreed with Jordan's eugenicist beliefs. Latinos and Eastern European Jews would not recognize themselves in the stereotyped pseudo-scientific ramblings of Mr. Jordan either.

In fact, anyone who wasn't within the charmed circle of people with Nordic European ancestry would have taken serious offense at Mr. Jordan's campaign to dismiss them as mentally inferior and morally degraded beings. But their opinions didn't matter at the time Jordan's name was affixed to the junior high school. Now they do.


7 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2016 at 10:25 am

Why don't we put this on the ballot? Let the citizens of PAUSD decide.

Many people dislikes Donald Trump. I think the chance of naming a middle school after him in Palo Alto is much less than Jordan. Yet we may see him becoming the president. So what? We have democracy. If we allow people to vote for Donald Trump, why we cannot let the citizens of Palo Alto to vote on the decision of striking Jordan out of our history?

People of Palo Alto are supposedly very well educated. I trust they can make the right decision.


11 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2016 at 4:45 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2016 at 6:09 pm

The Democratic Party use to be the party of Jim Crow, the party who supported slavery, the party who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, who supported Senator Robert Byrd, a member of the Ku Klux Klan; do we decide that anyone belonging to the Democratic party is unworthy and morally deficient?


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@M2grs

"Why don't we put this on the ballot? Let the citizens of PAUSD decide."

In a way they have, through electing five board members who listened to the initial petition and follow-up public comment and decided unanimously to form a committee of twenty to consider name changes and make a recommendation by December 31, 2016.

Carrying out a plebiscite on everything that comes before the board for a decision would be inefficient and wasteful, but if you really want one on this particular matter, give it a try. But remember that circulators of a petition would have to be willing to be public advocates for it.

I understand that the board committee process will provide ample opportunity for members of the public to express their ideas and concerns, but perhaps the Weekly or some other entity could sponsor a panel discussion where people can hear the issues discussed from different points of view and have a chance to ask questions as well as present their own ideas.


16 people like this
Posted by descentent
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2016 at 11:33 pm

A vote seems like a simple solution. Plus, I have another question, and another point. My question is: Isn't it relevant at all, what proposals there are for a new name? This whole thing seems strangely political, so I'm wondering what are the proposals for a new name?

Also another point, researching the history of the philosophy of Eugenics in the United States, in particular, from wikipedia, it lists dozens of scientists, and scholars in the United States and Great Britain who were supporters of the (now clearly, unfortunate un respectable) attempted science of Eugenics. Nowhere in the fairly lengthy article about Eugenics is David Starr Jordan listed as a major supporter of Eugenics. However it does list: Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt and Stanford's own Herbert Hoover as major supporters of the Eugenics movement. And Don't we have a school in the PAUSD named "Hoover"? Also check out the books of David Starr Jordan in Wikipedia. Only one (out of about 50) seems to be dedicated to Eugenics. Certainly not his life's main focus, by a long shot. But rather, an element. And clearly, at that time a lot of the interest in Eugenics were questions of disease and huge out breaks of plagues, etc, in the decades before. The racial aspect which we so rightly abhor now, wasn't necessarily the center of the misguided research. Just Saying! If we're to be actually truthful, about such accusations, and being guilty of such things by association, or interest, discourse at the time.


2 people like this
Posted by Dave Banker
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2016 at 7:17 am

@ descentent

EXCELLENT! How refreshing to read something well researched and thought out.


Like this comment
Posted by Dave Banker
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2016 at 8:03 am

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Make Palo Alto great again
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2016 at 8:53 am

[Post removed.]




Like this comment
Posted by Make Palo Alto great again
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2016 at 9:24 am

Dave, descentent

revised and abridged comment:

Really, 5 minutes on Wikipedia counts as well thought out research. Why not try this (Wikipedia) source: Web Link

Dave, hold a spot for me on Barstow, if you make it there before they (too) build a wall on their southern border ...


4 people like this
Posted by that Descendant
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2016 at 10:08 pm

I'd like to share what I just found online in a fairly extensive article called "The Life, Works, and Eugenics Outlook of David Starr Jordan". Check this out:

"Jordan was also explicit in his separation between Darwin and Social Darwinism:
"natural selection means the survival of those individuals fitted to their surroundings and the persistence through heredity of their traits. The dogma of "Social Darwinism" which would apply this principle to international or inter-racial rivalries has no foundation in the theories or discoveries of Darwin. The "struggle for existence," properly understood, is primarily the tendency or effort towards self-maintenance amid more or less adverse conditions of life; and mutual aid is a factor as necessary as any of the varied forms of competition. (#3 p. 417)
As a result, Jordan did not support many of the Social Darwinism movements during the era, such as sterilization and anti-immigration."

And:

"Also a tribute to his extensive background in biology, Jordan did not agree with contemporaries such as Madison Grant and Charles Gould in their belief that disastrous consequences would occur when races mixed. He regarded racial blending as inseparable from the progress of civilization. He used the United States as his prime example that the crossing of breeds would not harm the progression of a nation."

His concepts seem to lend themselves to the survival and progress of those with superior moral, intelligent attributes that lead to the survival of a culture, society or even nation, and not along racial, or divisive cultural lines. And to encourage education, and the development of general intelligence and progress in the human race. And of course these positive ideas were extremely present in his much more prevalent works on peace, and tireless anti war issues. Put another way, those with better ideas, should, and hopefully will prevail.

So attempts to label Jordan as a modern day racist, just don't seem to make a whole lot of sense, and more importantly, aren't very true. Yet if folks want to change the names of schools, to inspire and up lift students, that doesn't seem like a bad idea. But seems a shame to do it under false, dishonest or misleading pretenses, right?


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Posted by descendant
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2016 at 10:57 pm

And as one of the great grandchildren of David Starr Jordan, the above were the values I know of, were raised with, and believe. And is a lot of what Stanford University was based on. To attempt to better one's self, better those around us, become smarter and spread the words of good ideas. Not bad ones.

That's what my mother always said to me, who was the granddaughter of David Starr Jordan, knew him when she was young, and claimed these values to be descended from him.


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Posted by Lars Johnsson
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2016 at 9:05 am

Dear descendants,
While it is unclear who authored the website describing the “Life, Works and Eugenics Outlook of DSJ” it is clear that the tone is one of praise. Nevertheless even these authors were apparently unable to avoid citing historian Alan Garland’s summary of Jordan’s pacifist/immigration views, which is a direct contradiction to your point that Jordan considered the US melting pot being a good idea:
“In tandem with opposing war, he opposed imperialism. For instance, Jordan staunchly opposed the prospect that the US would annex the Philippines. Once again, his opposition was not on grounds of morality but on grounds that relate to eugenics. If the US annexed the Philippines, he feared that Filipinos would threaten the racial superiority of the Anglo-Saxons through interbreeding in the US. By introducing them as equals into society, they would assimilate and give birth to an inferior strain of people (#1 p. 78). This was inherently threatening to the democratic system because only morally and genetically superior individuals could sustain this form of government. His views on imperialism parallel his hesitation on immigration.”
If we prefer to ignore what others said, then I suggest we go back to what DSJ himself wrote, said and did himself. For a taste of that I defer to the article we are all commenting on “The inconvenient truth about David Starr Jordan”. In his 1902 Blood of a nation he points towards the future of an enlightened society that will have established the mechanisms to weed out the unfit. In 1928 his co-founding membership of the Human Betterment Foundation, with its sole focus on promoting forced sterilization legislation, is the crowning achievement of his Eugenics agenda, not to ignore his influence on the Eugenics laws passed in Indiana in 1907 and California in 1909.
There is no reason to doubt that DSJ was a good family man, and it is well know that his tenure as Stanford’s first President was most influential. But his early and lifelong Eugenics leadership leadership leave such a stain on his legacy that we do a disservice to our community and children by honoring "all of David Starr Jordan" through the name of one of our public schools.
Whatever this renaming discussion is, false, dishonest and misleading it is not.
Please feel free to contact me at lejohnsson@gmail.com. I’d be very interested to continue our discussion, perhaps we can meet for coffee, open to all with an interest in the topic!


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Interesting article in the current Harvard Magaine:

"Harvard’s Eugenics Era, When academics embraced scientific racism, immigration restrictions, and the suppression of “the unfit”
by ADAM S. COHEN

Reading it gives a sense of how broad-spread the enthusiasm for eugenics was among the intellectual elite of the nation. He focuses on the key role played by Harvard in creating a climate where forced sterilization of the "unfit" could thrive, nowhere more than in California, where David Starr Jordan was among the leaders calling for broad acceptance of this means to "improve the race."--Web Link


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