June 13, 2007

You'd think it would be easy to see that you shouldn't name a school after a man who is under federal indictment.

But you would be wrong.... here in Madison:
The Madison School Board on Monday will reconsider naming a school after Vang Pao, who was charged in California this month with conspiring to violently overthrow the government of Laos...

Vang Pao is revered by ethnic Hmong both for his leadership during the CIA-backed "secret war" aiding U.S. troops in the Vietnam War and for his role in helping Hmong refugees settle in the United States....

"That is the person we feel best represents us, regardless of the allegations. And you're telling us that wasn't good enough," Peng Her, a Hmong businessman and cultural educator told the Communities United group. "You're treating us like little kids."...

"It seems to me you're telling the Hmong community who they can and can't select," said Earnestine Moss, chair of Communities United. "If you're going to support them, support them even if they pick Vang Pao."

Claire Lovell-Lepak also couldn't support action dictating to Hmong the people they should honor.

"Anyone who knows anything about the civil rights movement knows that great men can be arrested, while people who do despicable things, like own slaves, are honored," she said. "We should not hold the Hmong to a different standard."

Among Madison's schools is Thomas Jefferson Middle School, named for the U.S. president who also was a slaveholder.
Well, now, there's a middle school just itching for a name change.

28 comments:

Ron said...

The school could please the people of Madison by renaming it the Thomas Jefferson...Airplane school. Boomers get placated with little cost...

Pogo said...

In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, he describes political correctness squelching all speech because of the right not to be offended.

He wrote that at first they deleted one offending phrase, then another. Soon, they were stripping out more and more offending passages until ultimately all that remained were footnotes, which hardly anyone read. Only then were the books burned.

Renaming a school has that same sort of feel; like the 1984-Russian habit of changing old photographs to reflect current opinions, expunging those who fell out of favor.

It's also insulting to whomever you chose to name the place. But how foolish. As Ruth Ann pointed out here before, better to stick with school names of geographic import; "East" and "West" are hardly ever unpopular.

AllenS said...

The Hmong are short on hero/historical figures. Before Vang Pao there was who?

Tim said...

What if he's innocent?

Ann Althouse said...

Tim: The issue now is whether the city should name the school after a man who is under indictment. I say the answer is clearly no. After the trial, if he's found not guilty, the issue could be revisited.

knoxwhirled said...

Claire Lovell-Lepak also couldn't support action dictating to Hmong the people they should honor.

I had to read that like 3 times. What a tortured sentence. (sorry OT)

Simon said...

"Among Madison's schools is Thomas Jefferson Middle School, named for the U.S. president who also was a slaveholder."

More yawnsome white guilt. If we nullify the contribution of everyone who owned slaves, we should swear oaths of loyalty to the crown anew. These are the same folks who argue that the Constitution is inadequate because it failed to abolish slavery on the spot, although such people never seem to get around to explaining why the South would have ratified if it had. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

MadisonMan said...

Oh dear, someone's feelings are going to get hurt. Can you see my eyes rolling? Yes, I'm all full of empathy today.

btw -- Jefferson's son is buried in Madison, so why not have a school named after him?

Tim said...

Ann,

Sure, but the school board's first mistake was essentially surrendering the naming rights to the Hmong, who then picked a community (broadly speaking) leader with a, ahem, "complicated" history. Multiculturalism and diversity is a nice thought until the facts begins to insert themselves.

So now the process is itself complicated, and everyone is pissed off and feeling betrayed (and nice references to the Vietnamese War in the article - for some folks we're always fighting the Vietnamese War...) and screwed. The irony of it is that, if Pao is found innocent, all of this will have been unnecessary. But unlike a Seinfeld episode, it will not be forgotten and the good feelings this gesture was meant to foster will not result. Toss in the Hmong's valid complaint about Jefferson, and how does one tell them there isn't double-standard?

Irony. There's no escaping it.

Kirby Olson said...

Who exactly has the right to name a school? Some board or another must be responsible. Why is it that the Hmong get to name this school?

Also, in terms of Thomas Jefferson -- if you take the entirety of his life and also the fact that slavery was legal at the time -- and that he was a genius who contributed architecture, writing, and in many other ways to American culture, just how does the comparison get made?

PC is so bizarre.

Did Vang Pao write our constitution?

Just name the school after Orwell.

The Drill SGT said...

"this must be an "only in Madison" or "Only in Berkeley" story. PC multiculturalism run amok and turning into a cesspool of hurt feelings, and counter accusations among PC interest groups. I expect a meltdown.

-The thing starts as a feel good gesture.

-apparently a veto was given to the Hmong

-now no matter what happens, the Hmong are going away mad, and humiliated.

-all the rest of the PC approved Victim's groups need to get their pet causes into the argument.

-refighting the Vietnam war and the evilness of "Dead White Men"


got to love this...

Joe said...

Let's see how far we can go with this; Martin Luther King was an adulterer. Can't have that.

My youngest goes to an elementary school named after a mountain which, in turn, is named after a type of wood that comes from trees not native to the area! Now that's controversy for you!

paul a'barge said...

there's a middle school just itching for a name change

Joke, right?

Surely you know that there are folks out there who seriously are campaigning to change the name of schools named for Jefferson?

I mean, it's been in the news.

Crimso said...

And once they rename everything once named for Jefferson, I will begin to loudly campaign for the renaming of the city of Memphis. Talk about glorifying a slaveholding culture...

Zeb Quinn said...

It isn't a Madison thing. We live in an era where heroes are not permitted. All have feet of clay, need only find the right perspective and point of view to see them.

PatCA said...

First of all, it's not "their" school. It's a public school. I see no reason why a self-appointed grass roots organizer (how many Hmong does he represent exactly?) should have any more control over this than anyone else.

Except, of course, he comes in handy when the newspapers needs a white guilt/race war story.

Maybe he can convince the Hmong activist who tried to get the "racist" law professor fired to join him, and then they could really cause a ruckus.

MadisonMan said...

It's only "their" school because a school in Madison, with a significant Hmong population, doesn't have a school named after an important Hmong.

You can see the bureaucrat with the checklist now: School named after African American. Check. Named after Native American. Check. Named after famous Artist. Check. Named after former Governor. Check. Named after WWII hero. Check. Named after former President. Check. Named after Hmong. (sound of papers shuffling). Bureaucrat sends off memo: We need a school named after a Hmong.

The Drill SGT said...

MM, I like your stuff alot, but be careful.

Honest statements like the last set about the PC Educrat approach to naming schools will get you drummed out of the education business and run out of Madison. :)

Steven said...

The federal indictment is for conspiring to overthrow a totalitarian regime that "violates most international human rights standards . . . includ[ing] restrictions on freedom of assembly and association, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, particularly the Hmong." (Freedom House, Countries at the Crossroads 2005) It's rated a 7/6 by Freedom House (7 worst on both scales, 1 best).

Me, that sounds like the kind of guy you want to name a school for if he's guilty. Kinda like, you know, a Thomas Jefferson.

John Kindley said...

What Steven just said, and what the lawyer said in the original post: "Anyone who knows anything about the civil rights movement knows that great men can be arrested, while people who do despicable things, like own slaves, are honored."

What the federal government thinks about anything seems to carry less and less moral weight with me these days.

Revenant said...

I wonder why everyone always uses Thomas Jefferson as their example of a President who did bad things. George Washington was also a slaveowner, and less of an opponent of slavery than Jefferson was.

The Drill SGT said...

Rev,

simple, the sex angle.

sex sells

JimM47 said...

This thread reminds be of a post at the Claremont Institute's blog some time back pointing out the abject moral relativism of the US's then recently-adopted definition of terrorism as any non-state actor committing violence against a state actor, which thus classified our Hmong allies as being terrorists.

Plotting to violently overthrow a regime doesn't strike me as very objectionable unless I find the government in question to be legitimate. I am more offended by there being a federal law against it than I am by any PC crap.

JimM47 said...

Revanent, it is because Jefferson was an opponent of slavery that he is more often condemned for practicing it. It is easy to see someone not engaged in the question as merely being a product of his time. Jefferson doesn't have that excuse, since it is plain by his own writings that he should have known better. Ironic, no?

PatCA said...

It's not ironic at all, Jim, unless you are assuming these men were evil. Jefferson and others decided to have a revolution and build a new nation, even if it wasn't yet perfect.

You are judging these men against modern standards that can only be described as utopian.

There simply is no room in the new, leftist way of judging America for human error or failing. Like Blair said about the press, such thinking always assumes the most venal motives possible.

Revenant said...

Jefferson doesn't have that excuse, since it is plain by his own writings that he should have known better. Ironic, no?

Well, no, because it is plain from *Washington's* writings that HE also "knew better". What distinguishes the two men is (a) Jefferson made repeated attempts, as a public servant, to limit or abolish slavery and (b) unlike Washington, Jefferson was deeply in debt and likely *unable* to free his slaves (just as you can't tear down a house you've borrowed money against). In short, while both men were guilty on the slave question, Jefferson did more to combat the problem, despite having less actual ability to combat the problem. Yet he's always the one used as a bad example.

JimM47 said...

clarification: I am not defending the singling out of Jefferson, merely trying to offer a psychological explaination of it, since it is ironic that the man who did more to lay the foundation for abolition is also more likely to br cited as a villain of slavery.

John Kindley said...

I'm not an expert on this, but after checking out the Wikipedia article on "George Washington and Slavery," it appears that George Washington did more than any other slaveowning founding father to free his slaves. According to the article, "Washington was the only prominent, slaveholding Founding Father to emancipate his slaves. He did not free his slaves in his lifetime, however, but instead included a provision in his will to free his slaves upon the death of his wife. William Lee, Washington's longtime personal servant, was the only slave freed outright in the will. The will called for the ex-slaves to be provided for by Washington's heirs, the elderly ones to be clothed and fed, the younger ones to be educated and trained at an occupation. . . . One major reason Washington did not emancipate his slaves earlier was because his economic well-being depended on the institution. To circumvent this problem, in 1794 he quietly sought to sell off his western lands and lease his outlying farms in order to finance the emancipation of his slaves, but this plan fell through because enough buyers and renters could not be found."