Berkeley's Loony Left: Erase the Name of Thomas Jefferson

The loony left is at it again in The Peoples’ Republic of Berkeley. An April vote will be held by parents, teachers and students at the city’s Thomas Jefferson Elementary School on whether to change the school’s name because Jefferson owned slaves. Teacher Marguerite Hughes, part of a group that began pushing for the change two years ago via petition said, “It’s an awkward position to ask African-American children and teachers to celebrate a historical figure who was a slave-owner.† Of course, as products of the California educational system, it’s unlikely the students have a clue who Jefferson is. This latest salvo by the left in a continuing crusade of destructive political correctness is misguided in that it ignores the temper of the times. Slave ownership was common for men in Jefferson’s social and economic circles, including George Washington and other prominent Southerners. Jefferson inherited his Monticello estate, on which slaves were kept, from his father. Customs matter in evaluating historical figures. Suppose the death penalty is eventually abolished and virtually all Americans come to look back at the practice with revulsion. Will the name of a death penalty proponent such as Ronald Reagan, or even Bill Clinton, be removed from schools or public buildings because the former presidents weren’t “enlightened† during their time? Since American history is no longer taught in any meaningful way in most school systems, and many teachers would prefer their students know less about the Founding Fathers and more about Mother Jones, the students at Jefferson Elementary can’t appreciate the greatness of the man for whom their school was named. Author of the Declaration of Independence, secretary of state under Washington and later the third president of the United States, Jefferson was a philosopher, architect, musician, scientist, horticulturist, diplomat, inventor, historian and, at age 76, founder of the University of Virginia. There’s certainly no place for the name of a bum like that on a school. “It’s very clear that the name is offensive to a significant part of the population,† teacher Hughes said. That flushing sound you hear is American history going down the commode, with the likes of this “educator† pushing the handle. This will not be the first name change at a Berkeley school. In the late 1990’s a school named for Christopher Columbus was rebuilt as Rosa Parks Elementary and more recently Abraham Lincoln Elementary was changed to Malcolm X. Since Lincoln opposed slavery his sin must have been the fact he was a Republican. Among the names of possible replacements for Jefferson Elementary are those of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche and farm worker organizer Cesar Chavez. Berkeley being Berkeley, it’s surprising the likes of Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, Jane Fonda and Michael Moore are not being considered. Maybe I shouldn’t give them ideas. Berkeley is the place that vies with San Francisco for the title of most anti-American of American cities. In recent times, remember, Berkeley City Council has opposed any U.S. military action in the wake of 9/11, blamed the U.S. for creating conditions that invited terrorist attacks, offered sanctuary to conscientious objectors, banned the U.S. flag from city fire engines, tried to enforce a boycott of Israel and barred a Boy Scout troop from visiting City Hall because the Boy Scouts of America does not allow gay leaders. When the upcoming school vote is held, participants will be asked to choose between retaining the Thomas Jefferson name or one alternative, yet to be decided. With apparently little or no consideration given to historical context, I’m afraid this is one election that Jefferson will not win. [Editor’s Not: This column originally appeared at and is reprinted with permission.]