Editorial: Renaming schools | March 10, 2017 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 10, 2017

Editorial: Renaming schools

Well-intentioned campaign to rename Jordan, Terman has divided community

It's been 45 years since the Indian was dropped as the Stanford University mascot by then-President Richard Lyman, and even to this day some alumni are still resentful and withhold financial support from their alma mater.

Those who fought against that decision in 1972 viewed it as a capitulation to political correctness and to a groundswell of student opinion that coincided with the national Native American social movement. It was a highly emotional debate that broke largely along generational lines.

But today, and with each passing year, one would be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of students, faculty or alumni with any regrets about what at the time was a highly controversial decision. And many don't even know the history, even as they may wonder why Stanford today has no official mascot, is known in athletic competitions as a color (as decreed by Lyman's successor, Don Kennedy) and is unofficially represented by a tree.

Naming and mascots can be messy business. Over the past year a highly motivated group of Palo Alto parents has waged a campaign to rename Jordan and Terman middle schools because their namesakes, David Starr Jordan (the first president of Stanford) and Lewis Terman (a Stanford psychologist and creator of the IQ test), were proponents of eugenics.

The group put enough pressure on Palo Alto school district Superintendent Max McGee and the school board that McGee formed a 13-member committee that was dominated by advocates for changing the school names and whose recommendations, presented in a 61-page report and 15 appendices, surprised no one.

All signs point to the school board voting to approve the renaming at its meeting on Tuesday.

There is no "right" answer to this debate, and both sides make thoughtful and persuasive arguments. Supporters argue passionately that the beliefs of Jordan and Terman run so counter to the current values of our community that their lives should not be honored through school names. Opponents vehemently disagree and believe that the beliefs and accomplishments of these two should be used as a teaching opportunity with students to demonstrate how political and social beliefs evolve.

Were it not for a report on David Starr Jordan done by the seventh-grader whose parents then raised concerns with other parents, it is likely that Jordan's and Terman's histories would have remained under anyone's radar. Regardless of whether one believes these school names should be changed, this student has provided a great educational service to the community.

Our concern is less with the merits of changing the names and more with the ongoing resources this effort is consuming. Like so many other issues deemed important by some segment of the community, this one has been a distraction and a diversion from other district priorities and challenges. And it has stirred up emotions and divided people, not over disagreements about eugenics but over what should done about such discoveries.

At a time when the school district is facing serious budget cuts, the amount of time and energy being invested in this effort is regrettable even as the cause is noble.

If the school board votes to approve renaming the two schools next week, as expected, the district will then establish a new committee to recommend new names, a task that will surely become its own source of controversy. And then implementing the name changes will be costly, as signage, stationery, business cards, gym floors, uniforms and other things must all be re-branded, all at a time when we are cutting valuable school services. That doesn't make sense.

Our hope is that the board delays implementation of the renaming until we have successfully addressed the budget shortfalls and avoids a drawn-out community process for determining new names. For Terman, we urge a renaming to honor Lewis Terman's son, Frederick, a historical figure in his own right and not associated with eugenics. Easy, cheap and a teaching moment for Terman students.

For Jordan, the school board should bring back the name Wilbur Middle School, named after Ray Lyman Wilbur, a medical doctor who served 27 years as Stanford's third president between 1916 and 1943 and who created the lease allowing Palo Alto High School to be built on Stanford property. The Wilbur name was retired when Jordan was closed in 1985 (later reopened in 1991) and students were merged together on the Wilbur campus, now called Jane Lathrop Stanford (JLS) Middle School.

Spare the community and the district another year or more of debate about new names and just make a decision. And defer implementation until either the money needed is either privately raised or we aren't cutting other needed school programs.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2017 at 9:09 am

There is no need to change the names. This is much to do about (almost) nothing. Not only is this a waste of money, it also is the equivalent of "straining a gnat but swallowing a camel."

Human beings -- famous or otherwise -- are fallible people. Jordan Middle School wasn't named after Jordan because he entertained (at least at one point during his life) a belief in eugenics. Washington D.C. and the State of Washington weren't named after George Washington because he owned slaves.

People are often a product of their times. Keeping the names will provide a lesson to the students about this very important consideration about viewing people in the context of the times in which they lived. Jordan never acted out upon any widely-accepted eugenic notions that he may have had. His views of eugenics weren't nearly as radical, action-oriented or racially-motivated as Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger.

Leave the names alone.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2017 at 9:34 am

I wanted to add one more thing: Views on many things change over time. A person who thinks one way one year might change her view a year or two later.

Consider the idea of interracial marriage. If someone in 2017 opposes interracial marriage, we view that person with a belief that such a person has "racist" perceptions. Yet, opposition to interracial marriage was very widespread just a few decades ago.

According to Gallup, a majority of Americans opposed black-white interracial marriage as recently as 1995. In fact, just 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriage in 1959.

Web Link

Does this mean that we can't name schools after someone who lived in 1959 because that person likely opposed interracial marriage?

Eugenics, like interracial marriage, was a product of its time. Apparently, it was a philosophical norm among many academics prior to World War 2. Even Nikola Tesla -- the namesake for Tesla Motors -- reportedly embraced such a notion.

Web Link

When Jordan students ask about their school's namesake in 2050, they should explain all of the good things that he did but also mention some of the blemishes on his character too. They should be taught that the collective wisdom of society often changes. We can still admire George Washington despite the fact that he owned slaves. We can still love an abuelita even if her use of a belt in spanking might constitute child abuse now.

Posted by not so cheap, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2017 at 9:55 am

"For Terman, we urge a renaming to honor Lewis Terman's son, Frederick, a historical figure in his own right and not associated with eugenics. Easy, cheap and a teaching moment for Terman students."

His son inherited Lewis’s biases: Fred Terman’s wife of 47 years, who had been one of his father’s grad students, said he only became serious about courting her after he went to the Psych Department and looked up her IQ score.

"You should take a hobby, I suggest: Journalism" - JS

Posted by @not so cheap, a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 10, 2017 at 10:20 am

@not so cheap - the author of the third-hand story you quote, Steve Sailer, had this to write about our current renaming debate: (Web Link)

But Palo Alto wants to stay at the forefront of the growing fad for damnatio memoriae, by rewriting its history to eliminate the names of its now politically inappropriate founding fathers.

It’s almost as if the anti-eugenicists believe that Fred Terman inherited the sins of the father via ideological Corruption of Blood.

After all, there’s nothing that screams equality, diversity, and inclusion than Palo Alto’s NIMBY policies that keep the average house selling for $2.5 million.

Posted by tom turner, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 10, 2017 at 10:32 am

My family came to Palo Alto in 1951 and I went to Jordan. I would like to have a background check done on the people making this decision. These people should just mind their own business and leave the history of Palo Alto alone. History is not to be changed.

Posted by Annie's Biped, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2017 at 10:46 am

If the PAUSD school board has nothing better to do with our money than to spend it on renaming schools, then my donation money will go elsewhere. There are other educational institutions that need it and will spend it wisely.

Posted by Robert Smith, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2017 at 11:01 am

Ironically, the argument the committee is making against Frederick Terman sounds like a eugenicist argument.

Eugenicists believed in a strong genetic connection between parents and their offspring. By rejecting Frederick Terman from this honor that he has held for some years, the committee is using exactly the kind of deterministic reasoning about human beings that eugenicists stood for.

What about the values of inclusion and individual rights? Do we believe that an individual like Fred Terman should be evaluated by his own accomplishments and values, or are we willing to use a debunked argument that amounts to little more than "the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the sons".

Posted by Jordan parent, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 10, 2017 at 11:07 am

I already posted the day before yesterday mentioning that our capital should then also be renamed, for the same reasons. Absurd.

Apparently, the board does not realize what kind of can of worms they are opening. Very soon, another seeking his/her 15 minutes of fame parent will pop up, requesting another school being renamed. And each time they will be approving 200,000 ...

I wonder if there is a protocol to impeach the board that fails to serve the majority of its constituents?

Posted by bike commuter, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 10, 2017 at 11:32 am

Why makes it so political and complex? Just rename one of them Michael Jordan (still Jordan) and the other Termite (we have a lot of them here). Problem Solved.

Posted by Dr. W, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 10, 2017 at 11:42 am

A colleague had a good suggestion for renaming Jordan - rename it after lawyer and civil rights leader, Barbara Jordan.

Posted by allen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2017 at 11:47 am

As I understand it, Terman has already been renamed for Frederick Terman. There are buildings on Stanford Campus, Terman Engineering Center, anmed after him. Should that be renamed? No, leave them both as they are.

The idea of returning the name of Jordan to Wilbur is not without precedence. Afterall, when my grandmother went to Stanford it was not the Indian, it was the Cardinal, the color.

Of all the things in the country to worry about, as I said yesterday, this is just stupid.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Rename them,
out with the old cloudy past,
in with a new way of thinking - even if it is not complete
or perfect yet. There are tons of things named Columbus,
and Columbus turns out to be one of the most cruel and
evil people in history. How else do we move on if we are
always sparking these old neural networks in our brains.

Better to replace than and remember the history.

Geting rid of the Indian as Stanford's "mascot" was totally
correct. I never realized a lof this because most of it is
hushed up or never talked about. The documentary called
"The Way West" by the brother of Ken Burns talks about how
it was not a crime to kill Indians or Chinese in California. We
want to embrace the myth that never was about America, and
for us to grow up there comes a time to put it behind and
move on.

How better to correct people's outlook and behavior than
to quit normalizing the thoughts of these old symbols and
start to construct new memories, ideas and neural networks.

The silly mental gymnastics people use merely because
they cannot deal with change is really surprising, and even
more surprising is when challenged how vitriolic and irrational
they become. This is the perfect reason why symbols and
icons need to change.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm

@ Jordan Parent, I think you hit the nail on the head with referencing those seeking their 15 minutes of fame with this re-naming demand. How cool to scream, demand, bring out petitions. I just wish it had to do with something worthwhile. While I condemn Eugenics, it really took a LOT to bring this out - most were fully unaware contemporarily of the background of Terman et al. What we DID know was the Stanford history/Silicon Valley history association, which is admirable and world-changing.
I assume there is a Twitter feed and Facebook page for the re-naming effort. How precious. Incredible how self-centered, snowflake, and illogical our "high tech" area has become. I strongly oppose spending taxpayer money on the re-naming of the schools. I do not oppose a local history teaching day with curriculum about the immediate area during which brief, appropriate mention could be made of the unfortunate stance of Terman and Jordan. Don't forget to include the awesome impact of Silicon Valley.

Posted by amy, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm

It seems that the board has made up their minds and will be changing. They really aren't listening to the majority and it really should go before a vote of some sort. In an email from a board member she says they have the money slated away and things will change over time.

Posted by Midtown Man, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Apparently, none of the school board members read and learned from Orwell's 1984. Their illiteracy shows. Otherwise, they would realize the profound irony of their attempting to "rewrite history " purging what the "state" (read School Board) deems unacceptable and ordering it dropped into "the memory hole" of oblivion!

All you school board members suppporting this idiotic proposal deserve receiving an F on your transcripts, in permanent ink, and no, you will not be able to rewrite even those transcripts to conform with your wish to undo your error. Move to Russia, where you will be comfortable rewriting history instead or having to acknowledge it. Ironic also in today's view of our discovery of "alternative facts," bred from the same delusion of control over what is the past!

Posted by Rusty Nail, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2017 at 12:39 pm

amy - that's an impressive board member who can speak for a board that hasn't voted yet or discussed how things should be done or paid for! It sounded like at least one board member was skeptical. Many of the board members listen only to their "kitchen cabinets" - it's helpful that Armstrong and Johnsson from the renaming committee were both big supporters of Dibrienza. Funny how that works!

Posted by allen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Let me add to my comment above. When I was a student at Stanford, I was awarded the Frederick Terman Engineering Award. First year it was awarded and I guess it has become a big deal.
Web Link

I guess I am taking it personally and think it a terrible to rename Terman School. He (Frederick) was a great man. Leave the school named after him or rename it Terman after him if I am wrong that it was already changed.

I can see the press release now. "PAUSD renames Terman school. From now on it will be called Terman school." Fitting of the importance of this whole thing.

Posted by Rusty Nail, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Allen, that's interesting about Fred Terman award. Here's what they say about him on that link you gave. And this is the guy unworthy of having a middle school named after him? "But his dad was a racist!" - that's really all you've got??

Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Scholastic Award
The award is named after Fred Terman who was the fourth Dean of the School of Engineering at Stanford, serving from 1944-1958, after which he became the Provost at the University, and is generally credited, along with President Wally Sterling, as having started the process that has led Stanford to its present position among the leading universities of the world.

Posted by Marc Vincenti, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 10, 2017 at 2:29 pm

We are taking leave of our senses.

For years, as documented again and again by District surveys, by student editorials, and by reports in our campus papers (e.g. Verde's report on a 3-year, 20-student cheating ring at Paly), our kids have never needed above all to be shielded from the discredited names of dead men on their schools but instead have needed protection from their actual, living, Palo Alto peers, sitting only a desk or two away and actively engaged in the routine academic fraud that is destroying trust and togetherness at our high schools.

If you're looking for a dark cloud over our kids' psyches, look not at the legacy of the misguided and mostly-forgotten dead but at the damage that is currently being done, overseen, countenanced by our living community.

And I can never blame our kids solely for this; they're forced to survive the cultures of our schools--cultures that are the product of our town. Cheating at the rates we see (40%, 50%, 60%, 70%--depending on whether it's plagiarism, stealing answers, giving out answers, copying homework) has become virtually necessary to survive the culture our schools have trapped our kids into.

And the worst of academic fraud is that it compromises mental health--and far more than the names of any misguided, dead eugenicists.

Our administrators well know our rates of cheating--published in the Challenge Success surveys of 2015-16. None of this has been kept a secret from anyone.

I mean, is it really even remotely possible to believe that a bigger everyday cloud hangs over the head of a student because of the school's namesake than because a fellow student--perhaps an acquaintance all the way from first grade, and surely a high-stakes competitor for college admissions--is sitting in the next desk, reading test answers from a water-bottle label or a smartphone, exchanging signals with a classmate, "going to the bathroom" to read crib notes, or who has been overheard in a huddle at lunchtime, trading test answers and questions with classmates?

Have we lost all sense of what is really real for our youngsters?

On Sept. 8, 2015, from the board room dais, Superintendent McGee declared loudly and clearly that tackling the issue of academic fraud should be "of premier importance." Exactly two weeks later, from the same seat, he asserted there was "no outright cheating" at our schools, dismissed the issue, and never returned to it.

Near him on the dais, the best that most board members could do was on the order of, "I'm shocked, shocked, shocked that there is cheating going on in the Palo Alto Unified School District!" And then they too moved on.

Why, when we are at pains to safeguard our kids from all kinds of bias and harassment and micro-aggression at our schools do we do nothing to safeguard their academic integrity? To safeguard them from the "bullying" that is academic fraud?

We have utterly, ignobly abandoned the minority of kids who still believe in not lying to their peers and teachers; as a first step, we might ask these kids' forgiveness.

In my fifteen years of teaching at Gunn, I repeatedly had young people come to me in anguish, torn up over how to deal with the corrupt environment. Their words have been read aloud to the school board and superintendent.

Yes, all right: in its rampant cheating, our district resembles almost every affluent district in the nation. But do we really want to whine out the craven excuse: "Well, you know, everyone else is doing it!"?

In sum: who are we? Do we really, truthfully believe in sending our kids to schools that promote safety and respect and belonging--or not?

Marc Vincenti
Chairman, Save the 2,008 -- an alliance for high-school change

Posted by B. Careful, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2017 at 3:06 pm

I suppose all those denouncing eugenics also denounce Planned Parenthood.

After all, Sanger started the organization to get rid of unwanted black and malformed fetuses. Web Link

Posted by i second amy , a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 10, 2017 at 3:10 pm

DiBrienza owes the community transparency and fairness - is she approaching this vote with a fair mind given that the spouse of the person driving this name change was a key manager of her campaign for school board?

another sign that the board, which claims to be data driven , is not looking at the data around them - it's early in the game Board
clean up your act and honestly and intelligently focus on the real issues, budget or no budget

Posted by Steve Sailer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2017 at 3:14 pm

"A colleague had a good suggestion for renaming Jordan - rename it after lawyer and civil rights leader, Barbara Jordan."

Yes, but when Bill Clinton appointed Congresswoman Jordan head of his immigration policy commission, she reported that immigration was bad for blacks and exacerbated inequality. She called for cracking down hard on illegal immigration and cutting legal immigration in half.

Web Link

There's no end to how much Crimethink there was even in the recent past!

Posted by Steve Sailer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Fred Terman is arguably the Father of Silicon Valley. The other major candidate for the title, Nobelist William Shockley, was a friend of Terman's and Terman hired him to be a Stanford professor.

Web Link

Of course, all that IQ and eugenics stuff was just pseudoscience, and it’s all been forgotten in modern Silicon Valley, right?

No, not really. To get into Stanford today, you have to score higher than ever on the IQ-like SAT. Students who scored a perfect 800 on the SAT math test make up 26 percent of Stanford’s freshman class. Silicon Valley firms such as Google make a cult of recruiting high-IQ workers, constantly devising clever ways to identify the clever.

In summary, the worldview that Palo Alto’s early 20th-century IQ testers and eugenicists developed explains part of the basis for the American economy’s most productive sector in the 21st century.

Posted by Steve Sailer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Lewis Terman launched on of the great social science studies of the 20th Century, which did much to mitigate society's unenlightened prejudice against highly intelligent children: From Wikipedia:

Through his studies on gifted children, Terman hoped first, to discover the best educational settings for gifted children and, second, to test and dispel the negative stereotypes that gifted children were “conceited, freakish, socially eccentric, and [insane]”.[10] ...

Terman found his answers in his longitudinal study on gifted children: Genetic Studies of Genius.[13] Initiated in 1921, the Genetic Studies of Genius was from the outset a long-term study of gifted children. Published in five volumes, Terman followed children with extremely high IQ in childhood throughout their lives. The fifth volume examined the children in a 35-year follow-up, and looked at the gifted group during mid-life.[14]

Genetic Studies of Genius revealed that gifted and genius children were in at least as good as average health and had normal personalities. Few of them demonstrated the previously-held negative stereotypes of gifted children. He found that gifted children did not fit the existing stereotypes often associated with them: they were not weak and sickly social misfits, but in fact were generally taller, in better health, better developed physically, and better adapted socially than other children. The children included in his studies were colloquially referred to as "Termites".[15] The gifted children thrived both socially and academically. In relationships, they were less likely to divorce.[6] Additionally, those in the gifted group were generally successful in their careers: Many received awards recognizing their achievements. Though many of the children reached exceptional heights in adulthood, not all did. Terman explored the causes of obvious talent not being realized, exploring personal obstacles, education, and lack of opportunity as causes.[9]

Web Link

Posted by Oliver Douglas, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 10, 2017 at 4:51 pm

All science that is heretical must be denied. All heretics must be burned. All reminders of truth must be erased. Only then will the Progressive Utopia arrive.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Sometimes we really are absurd.

Posted by just don't get it, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 10, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Logic would say - .you teach history....you don't eliminate it!!!! My sisters and I went to Jordan in the mid '50's, my two children went there and my grandson went to Jordan!! You are taking their history away also. I agree if you do this then we also need to eliminate Washington, Lincoln, Churchill and all the other amazing leaders who proceeded us but had slaves. These people are what makes history happen. I also remember Prince Lightfoot, the Stanford Indian mascot. He was a beautiful tribute to the Indian nation. Please don't leave this decision to a few opinionated individuals.....put it out to the residents of Palo Alto!! Otherwise, perhaps when your term is up on the school board we can eliminate your name and pretend you were never here either.

Posted by Rusty Nail, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2017 at 5:02 pm

I saw this on another thread and liked it:

"Witch hunts almost always find witches to burn; but we are rarely better off for the burning."

That's what we've got here folks, a good old-fashioned witch hunt. And now the witches have been found! Burn them! What do we wind up with? Ashes.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2017 at 5:53 pm

"What do we wind up with? Ashes."

But making those ashes makes for a fun show, and for the gullible it's a very effective distraction from the real issues facing PAUSD.

Educational, too. Eugenics has been dead for decades. How many students would ever have heard of it absent this kerfuffle?

Posted by Dr. Seuss, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2017 at 8:05 pm

And while your at it, changing names, why don't you take all the Dr. Seuss books out of circulation in the schools because he was once a racist?

Dr. Seuss's political leanings are well known—he was a liberal Democrat who opposed fascism in the 1940s and President Nixon in the 1970s. The movie of his book The Lorax is a fairly unsubtle pro-environment allegory.

However, less well celebrated are Theodor Seuss Geisel's early advertising and political cartoons from the 1920s through the 1940s, which feature a decidely racist streak.
In the ads (from the collection of the library of the University of California, San Diego), black people are presented as savages, living in the tropics, dressed in grass skirts. Arabs are portrayed as camel-riding nomads or sultans.

In his political cartoons (from the collection of the Springfield Library and Museums Association), Seuss inveighed against the Japanese during World War II; he drew them buck-toothed and squint-eyed.

The images are depressing because they reveal that one of America's most original artist-authors had the same tired views of non-whites that his contemporaries did.

Posted by slackers, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2017 at 8:50 pm

@not so cheap,

A person that takes no interest in someone until they find out their IQ is high enough?
That makes Fred the perfect person to name a Palo Alto school after!

Posted by teacher, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2017 at 8:54 pm

@ Dr. Seuss-

You hit it on the head. As a secondary SS teacher I use these racist Dr. Seuss cartoons when teaching WWII propaganda. I make a lesson plan regarding the famed use of his name and the revisionist history that puts him to a new light to the current generation. Then I let the students make their own conclusions giving them the resources and facts to look at every angle of Dr. Seuss. Guess what? IT'S WAY CHEAPER THAN 200,000 DOLLARS.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2017 at 10:55 pm

Yet another example of symbolism over substance. Despite context and common sense, a vocal minority once again shouts down logic and reason with an equal dose of empty guilt. Ridiculous. The school district faces more budget cuts, Palo Alto has one of the highest, if not the highest suicide rate among young people in the entire county, and this is what we spin our wheels on.

All of this time, energy, and money should be focused on creating a positive and supportive learning environment for our students. Our efforts should be on reducing the stigma associated with depression and mental disorders. But no, let's concern ourselves with renaming a couple of schools. Pathetic and misguided.

Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2017 at 10:59 pm

Both Jordan and Terman were products of their time and represented this urge to justify and create a "science" behind who deserved to be educated and promoted. Their beliefs were imbedded in this urge to perfect the human race by devising biased IQ tests that validated stratification of various racial/ethnic groups. Who was fit for military officer material? Who was expendable for the front lines? I can see the need for these tools and I can understand their logic, but it was flawed.

And yet, just as Chinese people gave up foot-binding of young girls as a sign of beauty and status, we in Palo Alto can evolve and give up honoring the names of men with mistaken ideas about innate intelligence. We can change, we can grow and adapt - that is what Darwinian evolution is about - and that means giving up names and tired ideas that never worked in the first place except to justify discrimination.

Posted by no more donations for me, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2017 at 5:55 am

money talks , if the Board approves this I stop giving to PIE

Posted by Mr. Wilson Writes An Editorial, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2017 at 7:00 am

This editorial is wrong in every particular.

Actually, if you read the committee's report, it will cost no more than $20K per school to rename. I cannot believe you actually wrote this cranky editorial about $40K in a 220M budget. Next time write one about employees taking home the occasion post-it note.

Second, the school board scheduled a special meeting so that it wouldn't distract from its work including finishing an OCR agreement and having multiple hours of discussion about the budget.

Finally and most importantly, this editorial reeks of white privilege. Minority students and parents who are not a powerful group in Palo Alto if you haven't noticed, brought something meaningful to them to the board and board listened to them. That is what democracy looks like. That should be encouraged not scorned. It is embarrassing for the Weekly to see you saying "yes racism matters, but you should sit down and shut up and stop asking for stuff brown people because we have important work to do here." This is patronizing and not worthy of the Weekly. How you got through writing that without reading it over and asking yourself: "do I really want to push publish on this?" I have no idea. You can always delete it now.

Posted by Beach Trees, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2017 at 8:12 am

The committee has reported that it would cost $200K to change the names. In the report appendix, under the "Mandatory" column (?!), the total is $162K. Of course it could cost less, that's up to the board, they can spend whatever they choose, more or less. Since at least one person has described the horror of students forced to wear the names of these terrible people on their gym clothes, it is not clear what will be decided.

Yep, you can call it white privilege if you like, as if somehow that makes it wrong. Or you can call it people deciding what they think is more important vs. less. Playing the vicitim card in order gain priority for claims has become one of the hallmarks of the age. That's part of the logic that brought us Trump, but it probably still has currency in Palo Alto.

Posted by Mr. Wilson Writes An Editorial, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2017 at 8:03 pm

The actual estimate from the district (not the committee) but from the district itself of the cost is no more than $20K per school, so you are flat wrong.

But to get back to this editorial, it should be obvious even to the author (even the author) that the editorial is incoherent as a piece of writing. You start out with the Stanford Indian and the story of the elimination of that racist symbol. You note that the change was controversial and that the community was split. Are you arguing we should still have a white person dressed up as an Indian whooping it up on the sidelines while a bunch of drunk, rich, white alumni slosh their beer about and cheer for their elite children while some white frat bro dressed up as an Indian pretends to chop with his tomahawk? If not, what is your point? That the change was worth it? That seems to be the moral of that story. Although difficult and not appreciated by some, it was the right thing to do and sometimes ridding ourselves of the racist baggage of our past means upsetting people. But in the end, it's worth it to be on the right side of history.

That seemed to be the direction the editorial was headed until paragraph 7 when you seem to have forgotten what the point of your editorial even was, and you veered off in a sharp right turn and I mean right. "There is no "right" answer to this debate." Well yes there is. There was a right answer to the Indian and there is a right answer here. That's why you told us about the Indian. Otherwise what was your point. Is your point that there was no right answer there? Should we bring back Biff in his War Whoop Paint? No. We shouldn't. There is right and wrong. Remember what you said three paragaphss ago? That was you saying the right thing. Go read that again. Now agree with yourself.

Then like a bolt of lightning out of no where, comes Wilbur. Some other white guy. Why him? If we are renaming away from Jordan, why do you get to pick him? Why shouldn't the community get to pick someone more representative of the current demographics of the school district and more aspirational? Why is your vote for Wilbur meaningful while the votes of the minority members of the community, who sparked this change, should be thrown into the wastebasket? You picked the person you want, and now you think that's fine, we're done. You haven't set out any reason that makes any sense why we should name the school after who YOU want. Apparently if a white dude wants to name it after another white dude, no committee required.

The whole thing makes no sense after paragraph 6. I suggest you just delete everything after that. History is going to judge this editorial harshly. It's just awful. I think you were tired and probably weren't thinking and maybe you want to reconsider.

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2017 at 8:44 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

This editorial’s suggestion of changing the name of Jordan Middle School to Wilbur Middle School came up several times in the RSAC discussions. Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur is solidly and positively attached to the histories of Stanford and Palo Alto. As a member of Stanford's second class, he became best friends with Herbert Hoover who was a year ahead of him.

When Hoover took a seat on the board of trustees of Stanford in 1912, having made a fortune at a young age as a mining engineer, he chafed at the damage to Stanford's reputation caused by lackluster leadership provided by the aging Jordan and his board of trustees. He engineered the surprise elevation of President Jordan to the less influential position of Chancellor, installed geology professor John Banner as a stop-gap president for a year and a half and then successfully made the case for selecting Dr.Wilbur, the first Dean of the Stanford Medical School, to be the university's new president. He held the post longer than any other president to date.

Herbert Hoover and Ray Lyman Wilbur, more than David Starr Jordan and far more than either Lewis Terman or Ellwood Cubberley, shaped the university that Stanford has become.

The other suggestion is interesting too—to rename “Terman Middle School” (named in honor of Lewis Terman, the not so popular IQ test developer and eugenics promoter, and his son, the very popular “Father of Silicon Valley”, Frederick Terman) by giving it the name “Terman Middle School” (in honor of Frederick Terman alone.)

The question would be whether the Jordan and Terman communities would accept a naming decision made by the board alone or would they insist on a role in choosing what to name their school?

Posted by palo alto native, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 11, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Grew up in palo alto, went to JLS, Paly, and Stanford class of 94. There is one thing I've got to make plainly clear about stanford alumni. There is no movement from alumni from the at least the 90's and on to bring back the Stanford Indians. We love our tree and would never support a racist symbol for a mascot. I'm middle aged now and still have the common sense to understand that societies evolve (mostly for the better). Stanford does not exist for its alumni...it exists to serve the current crop of students and future students to come. I think that this principle may be overlooked in regards to changing the name of the middle schools.

BTW if you followed Terman's hypothesis about high IQ kids you will see that it was entirely debunked. The "Terman kids" did not become society's uber class. Also the SAT is not a proxy IQ test. Not sure where the previous poster got this idea.

Also as an aside, I was a David Starr Jordan Scholar at Stanford, and have no problems changing the middle school name.

Posted by Beach Trees, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2017 at 11:20 pm

Sorry you have trouble follow the editorial. It make good sense to me.

And sorry that you don't see the "mandatory" column on the cost estimate in the report. It totals $164k. I don't make the news, I just report it. The board can spend what it wants but that is what the report says.

Posted by Palo Alto Native, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2017 at 11:30 pm

I would like to see Gunn's name changed and the resulting hysteria of the parents worrying about college applications with the name change. Likely there would be a mad dash to transfer to Paly. If anything, there are bad occurrences associated with the name, known nationwide. I'm sure someone can dig up something on the guy; no one is an angel.

Posted by Patrick Burt, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2017 at 8:22 am

I hope the board and advisory group consider merely dropping the first name and simply call the schools Jordan and Terman. This would achieve three ends; remove the association with discredited namesakes, retain the school identity and do so at minimal cost. I fear that if the board bifurcates the decision as currently intended, then we will be faced with a protracted, expensive and devicive process.

Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 8:35 am

I have to disagree with Pat Burt that retaining the Jordan and Terman names would "remove the association with discredited namesakes." I'm sorry but that makes no sense, since it would actually would **retain** the association.

Student: "Why is our school named 'Jordan'?"
Teacher: It was originally named after David Starr Jordan, a famous racist. But it isn't anymore. It's just 'Jordan'.
Student: ?

Posted by Patrick Burt, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2017 at 9:42 am

@Terman parent.
I appreciate that there is no solution that everyone will find ideal. That's the nature of divergent viewpoints. I would personally prefer the school being named after Barbara Jordan. I do think that if a future student asked how the Jordan name came about it would be constructive to respond that it was named after a person who was prominent in his day, but that we removed his name because certain of his values are abhorrent to us today. That is a good lesson and expression of our values.
However, the vast majority of residents today simply identify with the more generic name of "Jordan" rather than a particular namesake. The school sign, jerseys website, etc refer to Jordan. Solving a problem in the least decisive way while conserving valuable time and resources seems to be a good alternative that supports our students and the district.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2017 at 10:31 am

Take a poll about who Stanford University is named after. (Most Palo Altans do know, I hope.)

Posted by Patrick Burt, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

Sorry for the typo. I meant to say least "decisive" rather than least "decisive".

Posted by Patrick Burt, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2017 at 11:05 am

One more time trying to over rule the phone spell checker. That should have read least divisive.

Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

@Pat Burt,

You are probably right that, "However, the vast majority of residents today simply identify with the more generic name of "Jordan" rather than a particular namesake. The school sign, jerseys website, etc refer to Jordan."

But the change isn't directed to the "vast majority of residents," it's directed to those parents and students at Jordan and Terman who know, or become aware of in the years and decades to come, of the namesakes of these schools and take away a message that is inconsistent with achievement for all students. Saying that it affects a minority of the community, or even a minority of the school community, isn't good enough. That's how discrimination works.

That's why I disagree with you that "Solving a problem in the least decisive way while conserving valuable time and resources seems to be a good alternative that supports our students and the district." It doesn't support our students, at least not all of them.

Posted by Ken, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2017 at 11:17 am

@ Pat Burt: Barbara Jordan was to the right of Donald Trump on immigration control (both legal and illegal). I don't have a problem with that, but I bet you do, once you do your homework. As a prototypical PA liberal, I think you will run away from your own suggestion.

Posted by Least Decisive, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 12, 2017 at 11:52 am

@Pat Burt - least decisive = great freudian slip! I'll remember that for future use!

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

This won't happen, but let me take the suggestion that PAUSD rename Jordan Middle School so that the tradition of identifying with the school called Jordan will live on in northern Palo Alto. The offer of renaming for Barbara Jordan is an enticing one to dangle in front of people like me. I saw the premature death of this strong, black, Texan civil rights leader, like that during the recent campaign of PBS Newshour's Gwen Ifill as a tragic loss for our society.

You could make it even more attractive by adding the provision that over the main entrance to the school, the full name of the person for whom the school is named would be prominently displayed--"Barbara Jordan Middle School." Just the way it used to be when it was "David Starr Jordan Junior High School." People could still refer to it as "Jordan" but the change would be clear to anyone who looked above the door as they went in.

Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 12:16 pm

By the way, I have yet to see a minority parent or community member say that these school names don't matter, or don't matter enough to spend the time and money to change. It's only whites, and mostly white men, who seem to have this opinion. Calling something "divisive" is a short way of saying, "This isn't worth the trouble it is causing." That is a matter of perspective, apparently.

Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Too bad we can't ask Barbara if she minds being pressed into service so that we can avoid paying for a new basketball floor in the school named for a racist.

Posted by eugenics, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2017 at 12:33 pm

"Eugenics" is just a polite way of saying white supremacy, right? I have no problem with leaving the names on these schools as long as they have a week-long in-depth lesson plan about the meaning of white supremacy, both historically and in modern life.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2017 at 1:42 pm

People are pretending that Dr. Jordan was somehow defined by eugenics. Yet, there is so little written about him in this aspect. We don't know how long he espoused such beliefs and what the general motivation of them were.

Eugenics was obviously a ridiculous and misguided yet widely embraced movement that many believed were established by "science." It was widespread among academics during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I imagine that there were many people -- from Planned Parenthood's early proponents to people in academia around the world -- who entertained those notions.

Still, I wonder if those who want to change the name of these schools have people that they admire. I suspect that inspection of those individuals with a fine-toothed comb might reveal some instances that are embarrassing to us in this "enlightened" age.

The sad truth is that this ridiculous push to change the name of a school is a disservice to the children that attend or will attend the school. It doesn't open an avenue that reveals "the good, the bad and the ugly" of individuals. Like others said, it sets a terrible precedent in which arm chair activists with inflated egos will go on an unholy crusade to try and remake society in the image of what they think it should look like.

No one chose "Vikings" to be the mascot of Paly because certain Viking warriors brutally raped, pillaged and plundered during raids. No one named the state of Washington because George Washington owned slaves. No one named Cesar Chavez Highway for use or terms like "wetbacks" (that he used). No one named Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd because MLK plagiarized papers throughout his scholastic career or committed adultery with prostitutes.

Similarly, no one chose to name a school after David Starr Jordan because of eugenics.

If we're not careful, our bleeding "social justice warrior" hearts will resemble the attitudes of the school administration in the NBC comedy "Community." The school wanted a non-offensive, politically correct mascot. So, they changed the school name to "Human Beings" with a guy jumping around in a faceless, white leotard. Even that was deemed "offensive" because of the choice of the color.

Don't change the name. If Starr's meddling in eugenics is offensive, then teach this to the kids. Remind them that some very good men and women have had some really bad ideas at times. Save the $200,000 and spend it on academic tools.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm

@Terman parent: I am a dark-complected Hispanic woman living in Palo Alto. I don't want the names to change. I think that this is ridiculous.

Posted by Elementary Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2017 at 2:32 pm

I agree with Nayeli. I am a non-white parent too and I think this name change at tax payer expense is ridiculous especially when we have other pressing needs on funds for our kids thanks to the budget mess the board got us into. $20,000 or $200,000 does not matter when there is overcrowding in classrooms, PiE contributions are down. I would rather that the board spend that money on socio-emotional programs that will shape our future by making kids more compassionate, kind and good human beings and not try and alter our past just to make ourselves politically correct. If the name change is so important then please let everyone who pleads for it raise the money privately or get it on a ballot to see what the community thinks. To have the board decide this when I am suspecting most Palo Alto parents are not even aware of this issue is not correct. Let the board have Max McGee send out a district wide poll and see what the community thinks and then make a decision.

Posted by Ken, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2017 at 2:33 pm

@ Jerry U.:

"Deportation is crucial. Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave. The top priorities for detention and removal, of course, are criminal aliens. But for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process." (Barbara Jordan)

So, once the name of Barbara Jordan is placed above the door at Jordan Middle School, how long will it take for the renaming committee to saddle up, once again, to demand that it gets removed? Will you lead the charge, Jerry?

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"People are pretending that Dr. Jordan was somehow defined by eugenics. Yet, there is so little written about him in this aspect. We don't know how long he espoused such beliefs and what the general motivation of them were."

Yes, we do. Check the resources in the RSAC folder. Makes no sense for me to repeat it here.

"Eugenics was obviously a ridiculous and misguided yet widely embraced movement that many believed were established by "science."

Not so obviously. Were you truly not influenced by eugenic thinking? The most popular biology textbooks in secondary schools lagged behind the advances in knowledge about genetics. Mendel's peas and the concept of single-gene transmission, even of complex behavioral traits in humans got passed on in eugenics-based biology textbooks for decades. How about cancer, mental illness, alzheimer's--don't admit to it in your family because it'll be taken as evidence of bad genes. How about sterilization for the common good--I remember having that convincingly explained to me as a teen and was surprised later to read that legal decisions were banning it in state after state. It was a small example of the kind of deprogramming that has to happen once wrong lessons are learned.

If your mind wasn't polluted by eugenicist teachings, you were lucky. Means you had less to unlearn as you met the real world. What about the notion of racial hierarchy. That one is a lot easier to adopt unthinkingly if your "race" happens to top the list and you don't have much contact with people of other "races." What if it's not? Can you appeal? Nope, you've got to remember that it's not about you as an individual. You might be an outstanding example of whatever it is you are, but the basic stock is just not as good. It's (pseudo) science after all.

"activists with inflated egos will go on an unholy crusade to try and remake society in the image of what they think it should look like"

My version: "activists will try and remake society in the image of what they think it should look like"

Yes, and it's well-nigh time!

Posted by Ken, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2017 at 4:15 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


If Barbara Jordan's statement makes sense to you, why trash her for stating it so clearly? At the time, blacks and latinos were far more likely to see divergent interests. Blacks felt that their job opportunities were being undercut by illegal immigration just as working class whites do now. Since then, and this is distressing to conservatives, blacks and latinos have more often been acting in concert.

If you want to borrow Barbara Jordan's clear prose for the policy you subscribe to, it's available. People of color have largely moved beyond it, seeing their common interest in fighting for an overhaul of the immigration system and opposing inequality in all its forms.

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


"Margaret Sanger was a big proponent of eugenics." . . ."would you be OK naming Jordan MS in her honor?"

Um, no. I oppose naming schools for eugenicists. Have I not been clear enough for you?

Posted by Ken, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2017 at 5:15 pm

@ Jerry U.:

OK, I think I get it. You do not like eugenics, but does that include legal abortion, which has been devastating to our black population?

BTW, what about single/simple gene mutations in the human population that can be so devastating to families, and the specific population going forward? If genetic testing can identify, why not eugenics choices to avoid? If a Stanford professor happened to identify such a gene, and thus prevented much suffering, should he/she be hated on by you?

Modern genetic editing (e.g. crisper) now allows designer humans...and it will happen. Will you demand that the discoverer/promoter of such methods be banned from public honor in the public sphere?

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"McGee formed a 13-member committee that was dominated by advocates for changing the school names and whose recommendations, presented in a 61-page report and 15 appendices, surprised no one."

The RSAC committee was a selected group. Initial criterion: try to get a balance of parents, alumni, community at large and students--partially realized. You can check the RSAC final report for details. Second criterion: administer a one question survey to applicants--Do you favor changing the names of Jordan and Terman? Select participants to balance three positions--In Favor, Opposed, Undecided.

Over time and with a lot of research and discussion, the balance shifted in favor of changing the names. This was not a pre-cooked deal. Opposition arguments were aired at length. You can read the arguments presented and the results of the votes in the RSAC final report. There was no single Minority Position. Again, read the report.

Two arguments that have support outside the committee got little support in committee: 1) RSAC should recommend that the board submit the decision to a community-wide vote and 2) If it costs any money don't do it.

Posted by Wayfarer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 5:54 pm

"This was not a pre-cooked deal"

Just not true, sorry Jerry. If you look at the composition of the group, it was not balanced, much less representative of the community - the outcome was pre-determined. For heavens sake, it included a father and son! As is typical of these groups, the loudest and most dug in voices carried the day. Armstrong and Johnsson, who were the defacto leaders from the start, had hard core, predetermined views from the outset. That's why the "majority recommendation" is such a farce - a majority of a stacked committee doesn't carry any moral weight.

Interesting that the group never asked the community if they think the names should be changed. Did a big long survey, but left that question out. Why? Because they didn't want to hear the answer, or let anyone else hear it.

Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Leave it to liberal progressives to overtly practice the racism they supposedly oppose. How many references in this comment thread label "whites" or even worse "white guys" as a maligned group? (Hint: 13 as of this post)

Those viewpoints are just as base, backward and bigoted as Jordan Star's ever were. They are simply less sophisticated. The same people so quick to condemn Eugenics are blatantly categorizing whites into some mythical bucket to blame.

Liberalism has created prejudiced caricatures to demonize and use to separate us for identity politics. Assuming that everybody in a group, which is defined by its skin pigment or sex, shares the same attributes, attitudes and culpability is wrong and is a demonstration of bias and stereotyping.

At least, if you are going to disparage whites as a privileged class please define which combination of cultures, countries and genetic compositions you are referring to under the label.

Is it the penniless immigrants who came here as indentured servants fleeing religious prosecution to settle the frontier? Maybe it is the barefooted poor (along with other disadvantaged groups) who picked cotton throughout the south up until the 1950s as part of the share cropping system?

If that is too long ago, perhaps it is the lower and middle industrial classes over the last 30 years who have watched their futures being destroyed through globalization. All the while, being preached at by the elitists and forced to nod their heads that they are all privileged and filled with implicit bias.

In an age of majority minority populations (Whites are not the majority in either California or Terman Middle School anymore) and 23andMe genetic tests, the policies of racial quotas for college admissions, excellence hires in academia and large corporations, and required diversity statements (white minority does not count) for employment or internships is increasingly untenable. In fact, we see desperate attempts at further sub-classification now with categories like non-Hispanic white or the California bill AB-1726 which has at least another 12 sub groups for Asians. If that path were taken with whites, there would literally be hundreds.

Liberal progressive politics is just another form of institutionalized racism and, as Plato warned, an example of where the pious turn into the tyrants.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2017 at 6:47 pm

As abhorrent as eugenics is we are really a society that is encompassing that philosophy by other names.

Abortions for reasons of disability or financial cost of rising a child, particularly in lower income households are standard practice. The number of babies born with say Down's Syndrome is steadily declining, particularly among affluent or older couples.

IVF by donor, particularly when we now have same sex couples as well as single people wanting to parent their own biological child with the help of donated sperm or surrogate mother always take genetic note of donor when it comes to being healthy, IQ, or other traits. People born with an inherited genetic condition are turning to IVF and surrogacy even in traditional couples.

Eugenics sounds different when we think of it in these terms.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2017 at 6:52 pm

@Jerry Underdal:

When I was an undergraduate student, I took a required psychological statistics class. I thought that the class was interesting (to say the least). The professor began a class on quantifying measurements of intelligence (as related to race) by prefacing his lectures that he isn't a "racist." In fact, the man was extremely liberal (often comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Holocaust). He boasted that he was an advocate for civil rights.

Even with his stated socially-liberal pedigree, this professor would say things that were very offensive to certain individuals in the class. After pointing to "average intelligence" and "overpopulation" data, he said that there is a "compelling" case for "limiting" propagation due to hereditary intelligence and family size. There were several times that he mentioned that "intelligent couples have intelligent babies."

He argued that national and international policies would eventually need to be passed anyway to control the population. He argued that China's one child policy was helpful and that India needed to implement such a policy "particularly among hundreds of millions of impoverished citizens."

In other words, this professor made statements just over a decade ago that sounded a lot like eugenics views of Margaret Sanger. I obviously disagreed with him. However, I compartmentalized his rhetoric in the same internal eye-rolling part of my mind with his "Bush-is-like-Hitler" nonsense. I understood what he believed and the "evidence" that caused him to believe it. I was most struck by the fact that someone in the 21st Century can still entertain such notions.

Will you accept the assumption that belief in eugenics was widespread among academia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? I suspect that the amount of academics who entertained such notions were very widespread.

But where is the fine line for such insolence when it comes historical figures?

Did your parents or grandparents oppose interracial marriage (like 96% of the American population did in 1959)? Were your parents "racists" for which no buildings, schools or businesses should be named after?

-Do you think that Washington D.C. should change its name?
-Should the state of Oklahoma change its name?
-Should Tesla Motors change its name?
-Should Ford Motors change its name?
-Should all federal funds given to Planned Parenthood be pulled because the organization was founded and pushed out of a desire to enforce eugenic policies?
-Should streets or schools named after Churchill, Patrick Henry, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Stanford, Martin Luther King Jr., Wilson, Jackson, Columbus, Vikings, etc?
-Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 establishing Japanese internment camps. When the case went before the Supreme Court, the executive order was upheld. Should Roosevelt's name and image be stripped from buildings, memorials, roads, parks or currency?

This is a steep slope that bleeding heart activists want to take the rest of us down with in their attempt to remake society in THEIR image. I suppose that it is the right of all people to influence policy. However, activists (or even elected officials) should not have the power to push their agenda upon the majority without our collective consent.

Like I said, a careful inspection of anyone would find some skeletons in their closets. Where do we stop?

This hasn't been a problem for 70 years. I can think of things for which $200,000 can be better spent.

Posted by Dave, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2017 at 8:13 pm

I think we should name it Brawndo. It has what plants crave. It has elecrolytes..

Posted by Churchill, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 12, 2017 at 9:11 pm

Several comments have included asking about whether Churchill should be changed.

For reference, Churchill is one of the group of poets like Tennyson, Chaucer, Coleridge, etc. that have streets in that area named for.

Posted by Oldster, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2017 at 12:29 am

Given "Palo Alto" translates as "big stick" in Spanish why not have our northern junior high school named after Jordan who was not only an eugenics promoter but also made some of the nastiest comments in Congressional hearings against Chinese immigrants. He also was a leading icthyologist. And then those rumors about how he was involved in bumping off Mrs. Stanford with strychnine in Hawaii! He's dead as doornail now and can't defend himself anymore. I'd rather go to a school named after such an interesting character than one named after any new worthy of the day because if we have to purge all bad names here, we'll have to change the name of the City, too.

Posted by jerry underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2017 at 1:48 am


You are dismissing the equally adamant positions of those who opposed from the start. You have to look at the learning process on the committee from when we began meeting. For several members, as with the community at large, this was the first dive into eugenics and the role in the educational sphere of three eugenicists from Indiana--Jordan, Cubberley and Terman, who left their imprint on schooling far and wide from their Stanford base. You can read about it in the RSAC report.

Movement within the group of 13 who researched and discussed the question of renaming for months was from "undecided" to "in favor." And some supporters of the minority position were as firm in their opposition to eugenics as the majority were but felt that keeping the generic name while rejecting all association with eugenics was the appropriate response. Theirs was not a defense of David Starr Jordan and Lewis Terman but of community associations and traditions. I think your characterization of the process neglects the challenges faced in preparing a final report that delivers the majority's recommendations while indicating majority and minority positions for the board to study.

Asking a community that has been happy for seven decades covering up the history of significant figures in its past is difficult. Especially when a potentially embarrassing examination of that history is perceived as being for the sake of "outsiders," frequently marginalized members of the community. I think we could expect a verdict of "What's the problem, we're happy with the way things are" to come from the majority regardless of the merits of a challenge to the status quo.

If the board had wanted a vote or community survey to decide this matter they could have called for one instead of establishing a committee. RSAC did its job. Now it's up to the board.

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2017 at 2:25 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Sanctimonious City

Please accept this version of the "dog ate my homework" excuse. I prepared a response that dealt with many of the valid points you raise this afternoon and lost it while toggling between windows. I didn't have the heart to redo it then. One key point was that this is not exclusively about race but about biological excuses for inequality whether grounded in ethnicity, class, health or myriad other factors that eugenicists considered early on to be causes for fear of degradation of the nordic European substrate of American democracy.

You may already have read J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy: a Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. If not, it's well worth a read. Even better is "White Trash: the 400-Year Untold History of Class in America" by southern historian Nancy Isenberg. Elitist eugenicists were often as hard on poor whites as they were on Native Americans, blacks, latinos, Chinese and others in their efforts to identify, segregate and neutralize potential danger to society from "degenerate elements."

Striking a blow against negative eugenics is striking a blow against discrimination and marginalization of white victims of elite disdain. There's something of benefit in this renaming for everyone, including people who seem to be holding all the aces. Students who heed the community's rejection of even the appearance of supporting racial hierarchy, biological determinism and inequality generally will have learned the important lesson that all students are valued community members. They will be better prepared to assume positive roles in society as a result.

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2017 at 3:24 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


Thanks for staying engaged in this last minute conversation. I wish we could have had a real conversation because though we disagree a great deal we share a sense of what's worth thinking about.

A disappointment for me in this whole process is how few people came to watch RSAC in action or attend the Town Hall Forum or go to one of the many "office hours" that we held at the secondary schools (except JLS). Talking and listening is more satisfying than pecking at the keyboard. Oh, well.

"Will you accept the assumption that belief in eugenics was widespread among academia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?"

Yes, it would have been the modern, progressive, scientifically derived and "efficient" position to have. It wasn't just in academia, it became a movement, promoted in well baby fairs and written about in popular magazines, as well as a serious program to improve the quality of the population through measures like restrictive immigration rules, bans on interracial marriage and segregated schools. Academia largely gave up on it, though, by the twenties. Eugenics of the type Jordan espoused turned out to be a dead end. But other forms went on to become genetics, genomics and all manner of legitimate sciences that have generated procedures and industries that are part of the biotech revolution.

My mother grew up in Tacoma, Washington, where prominent politicians were eugenicists and newspapers covered the news from that perspective. She read a lot, was a good student and was interested in current events. I think she probably carried a eugenic perspective from her urban home base out to Montana where people weren't as engaged in that particular way of considering difference. There are lots of processes that cultivate bias and stereotypes. Eugenics would have been a more genteel form of racism than that which played out in cases of active discrimination or violence

"Did your parents or grandparents oppose interracial marriage?"
Yes, they did.

"Were your parents "racists" for which no buildings, schools or businesses should be named after?"
No, they weren't.

"This hasn't been a problem for 70 years."
Not for the dominant element in the community, at least not an acknowledged problem. There was a lot of discomfort with connections between American eugenicists and fellow eugenicists in Germany during and after WWII. David Starr Jordan sort of slid out of public awareness over the ensuing decades. Stanford has done little to keep the memory of his pioneering academic and organizational work in eugenics alive. I believe it is time for Stanford to do more to help us all better understand the pioneering figures David Starr Jordan, Ellwood Cubberley and Lewis Terman and their plans for the education of American schoolchildren.

"I can think of things for which $200,000 can be better spent."
Don't forget the opportunity cost of not renaming the schools. How would a refusal to change the school names impact perceptions of our schools and community now that the history has been resurrected? What if, as explained at the study session, the truly essential expenditures for renaming came to $50-60K?

Posted by Wayfarer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2017 at 6:48 am

Jerry, the school board asked the committee to do research and share its findings. You actually did a community survey, and just left off the most important question. Please don't say you didn't ask because the board didn't tell you to,that's weak.

If the community is strongly against this, why would we do it? A stacked committee's recommendation? Because a vocal minority of people insist?

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2017 at 8:48 am

Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2017 at 11:30 pm
"I would like to see Gunn's name changed and the resulting hysteria of the parents worrying about college applications with the name change. Likely there would be a mad dash to transfer to Paly. If anything, there are bad occurrences associated with the name, known nationwide. I'm sure someone can dig up something on the guy; no one is an angel."

This brief, brilliant post sums it all up.
Thanks for making my day.

Posted by Parent , a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 13, 2017 at 9:34 am

The SB needs to erase this process and start over - act like it didn't exist, oops that's what we distracted by and doing w/ Jordan and Terman .

How was this district committee selected?...starting out with the leaders in the name change initiative?..doesn't seem neutral from the start
A survey that forgot to ask the essential question?
A SB member with strong ties to the parent leading this distracting name change?

one sloppy thing after another - budget issues, GPA, All day Kinder, and now this

Posted by @patburt, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2017 at 1:56 pm

@pat burt

GOOD NEWS! I thought your Barbara Jordan idea was so great that I found this random Asian woman named Terman. Now we can stop all this madness. Web Link

Posted by let me be blunt, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2017 at 5:30 pm

I've also sent a note to Max McGee and responded to the PIE survey.

If this is approved given our funding budget shortfall and over crowded classes I will stop donating to PAUSD.

Administrators you can't have it both ways, continue to ask people for more money because of lack of funds and then turn around and approve such a waste of funds. Your choice to make, but know the consequences, you may regret your decision when donations continue to drop

Posted by biased from the start, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:16 am

I understand the issues that some people have towards the names on some of our schools. But then there will be another name and it will cause disagreement again --- over political leanings, social / moral norms, etc.

Just rename all the schools based on their location in Palo Alto. Either use the neighborhood or street. Done. Simple. No debate over who is or is not deserving.

It's time to move on.

Posted by Amazedbutnotamused, a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Somewhere in all this someone could argue for whether or not people should care about truth. Not "alternative facts," or "my identity group's narrative," or whatever else. If education doesn't think truth matters, that's a truly sad state of affairs.

As for eugenics, no less a historic figure than Oliver Wendell Holmes was a proponent of it, and gave a horrendous quote to the effect of "three generations of imbeciles is enough" in writing a Supreme Court decision that lives in infamy, as it should.

Leland Stanford's racism is legend, hence when the naming of the school's mascot or whatever it is called came up, "The Stanford Robber-Baron's" won the vote among the student body. 'Nuf said.

Posted by Mr. Wilson Writes An Editorial, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by longtime resident, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Why was the name of Ray Lyman Wilbur Junior High changed?
The namesake was a physician of good reputation, wasn't he?

Posted by School historian, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2017 at 5:05 pm

When Jordan was initially closed and students were sent to what is now JLS, the JLS campus had been named Wilbur. The district felt that it would be better for bringing the student bodies of the two rival schools together if the Wilbur name was retired and a new name established. Hence the Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School was born.

Posted by longtime resident, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Maybe bring back the name "Wilbur" in place of "Jordan"?

Posted by OMG this is insane, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2017 at 9:24 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Jean D, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 15, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Nayell's comments are just right -- and I've just written a letter to each school-board member reiterating these points. Perhaps it's not too late to bring perspective. Don't waste time and money. Don't hide history; learn from it. The comments here overwhelmingly support retaining the names. The school board should listen.

Posted by June Baxter, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 8:38 pm

I grew up in Barron Park and attended Jordan (class of '51) and Paly High (class of '54); I am grateful for the education I received in the Palo Alto School District which enabled me to be a college graduate and high school teacher.

I am dismayed to learn of the Jordan/Terman histories, yet I recognize a connection to the old names. Fortunately, I taught for many years in the Campbell Union High School District, where the eight high schools were named for the streets where they resided. So much easier!

I cannot know the answer to this controversy, yet I am sure I will always think of myself as a Jordan graduate. It's our history, not our personal belief.

Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 16, 2017 at 2:07 am

ANOTHER suggestion.......Speaking of renaming schools, one might consider renaming one that belonged to one of the biggest Robber Barons around...that being Leland Stanford....Oh, yes, that's another story...and private property....Like it or go home......Back to reality of renaming..I like David Packard for one name...has a great ring to it...and Wm Hewlett for another. The giants of our valley, icons to emulate...."That's the HP way" :) :)

Posted by Frank, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2017 at 9:42 am

A letter someone sent to the board.

Dear Melissa, all other board members and Dr. McGee,

Thanks for staying late and listening to the community voices last night. It seems to me voice of the other side is much louder, and I expect the proposition will be passed.

Before that happens, I would like to make my points one more time by asking the board and anyone who supports renaming a few questions. Please answer to yourself with honesty.

-How many of you even knew the history of those two gentlemen before this issue came up out of nowhere?

-How many of you think keeping their names will lead us back to Eugenic movement or anything remotely similar?

-How many of you really think renaming will benefit our students besides satisfying our own desire for political correctness?

-President Roosevelt and Hoover were both pro Eugenic movement. Should we rename USS Theodore Roosevelt and Hoover Tower? Where is the end?

-No one is flawless. What name to use next? Should we rename Washington DC, since he had hundreds of slaves, and never thought about abolishing slavery?

-Mrs. and Mr. Stanford handpicked David Jordan as the first principal of Stanford University. Should we rename Stanford and JLS? Frederick Terman did not even endorse his father. I assume by asking Lewis to be the principal, the Stanford couple were endorsing Lewis in a big way.

-How to measure the benefit of the renaming? If we cannot, it probably means no benefit. Why bother? Why cannot we better spend the money somewhere else?

There must be other alternatives to rushing to a decision by Friday. Instead of renaming, can we give all Palo Alto school kids a lecture on who Jordan and Terman were and what they did good and bad, what we agree and disagree with them today? Or can we wait and put this on the ballot and let everyone in Palo Alto speak out next year?

If on Friday, the board and special committee passed the proposition, I'm afraid many angry parents, including myself, will stop donating anything to the school.

For example I saw one PA resident is calling senior people to send Parcel Tax Exemption forms to school district stating they will no longer support a board that does not listen. I'm not sure what it means and how it works, but you get the the point.

The other side seems to be vocal, but maybe, just maybe, there is a silent majority. Maybe we should seriously consider a ballot measure.

Thank you for your attention and look forward to working with all of you for the good of our schools.

Posted by David , a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2017 at 6:51 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 7:13 am

PS1, PS2, PS3..

Posted by PAUSD Alum, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 23, 2017 at 10:46 am

I was at Palo Verde in 1976 when they decided to close Ortega. We were asked to choose a new name for Palo Verde s the Ortega students would feel welcomed. All of us questioned this—who cares what the name of the school is? The name Sequoia was chosen. Some years later, they went back to the Palo Verde name. Green Gables was changed to Duveneck; Wilbur was changed to JLS.

This name changing is ridiculous! [Portion removed.] Eugenics is no longer a part of our lives, just as slavery is in the past. Accept the past and move forward.

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