D. C. contemplates changing name of Wilson High

Woodrow Wilson High is a public school in Washington, D.C. It used to be an elite school. In the 1960s, Wilson was considered as good as any public high school in the area. Its television quiz show team was one of the five best my senior year (better than the good team I competed on). I believe my class at Dartmouth contained four kids from Wilson, not many fewer than all the Montgomery County public high schools combined.

I don’t know whether Wilson is still elite. However, it is still considered the best public high school in D.C., drawing students, as it does, from a prosperous part of the city near the Montgomery County border.

However, the school is under fire for its name. Woodrow Wilson was a racist. And unlike, say, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, he was a man behind his time. The two presidents who preceded him (Teddy Roosevelt and Taft) were better on race. The president who immediately followed him (Harding) was substantially better. (Roosevelt, Taft, and Harding were Republicans; Wilson was a Democrat).

Those who advocate a name-change also say that in the 1920s, the black communities in the area where Wilson High is located were uprooted to create the upper-income, largely white enclave of today. But that’s not Woodrow Wilson’s fault. He was dead by then, and Congress basically ran the city, anyway.

However, Wilson’s reactionary racism alone is reason enough to raise a legitimate name-change issue. And Wilson’s progressivism and anti-constitutionalism may render some conservatives reluctant to oppose such a move. I wouldn’t be overjoyed to send my kids to Woodrow Wilson High, and I’m not even black.

Traditional conservatives tend to disfavor changing the names of things, though. And there’s the related problem of where one draws the line. Today, Woodrow Wilson, tomorrow who — Washington and Jefferson?

As I noted, the cases of our first and third presidents are easily distinguishable from the case of our 28th. But the PC mob doesn’t care about distinctions, so the temptation is to nip their demands in the bud whenever possible.

The only thing holding the mob back may be the prestige of the Wilson High name (as opposed to Woodrow Wilson’s name). But that’s a dam that seems unlikely to hold.

I end up on the side of preserving the name. But the decision is up to D.C. residents, through their elected representatives, and if they decide to change the name, it won’t bother me.

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