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Questioning History

When it came to education, Woodrow Wilson was second to none. He was the only U.S. president ever to earn a Ph.D. He was a professor at Wesleyan University and a prominent scholar of government and history. He also served as the president of Princeton University for eight years.

Who would not want a school to be named after a man so well established in the realm of education?

Vincent Crawford, 18, and Andy Beatman, 17, of Middletown High School in Middletown, Conn., that's who.

In a town that once boasted both a high school and a middle school honoring the 28th president, they want to erase recognition of Wilson from his final namesake—the middle school.

The students, who serve as members of their high school student council, found information indicating that Wilson had taken steps that appeared to be racist. Reports that Wilson had segregated the federal government, vetoed racial equality in the League of Nations, and rejected black applicants to Princeton troubled the two.

The students brought the issue before the Middletown board of education last spring and found a receptive enough audience that the district formed a committee to review the matter.

This month, the students presented their research to the 11-member committee. Appointed by Superintendent Carol Parmelee-Blancato and made up of parents, teachers, members of the local chapter of the NAACP, students, and members of the school board, the committee has been charged with deciding whether the middle school's name should change or stay the same.

"Our job is to recommend to the board to consider or not consider changing the school's name, not to determine the new name for the school if changed," noted John Hennelly, the chairman of the group.

After the students provide documentation for their research next month, the committee will deliberate and make a recommendation. According to Mr. Hennelly, the decision could be forwarded to the board by the end of March.

If the school does undergo a name change, the name will be transferred to the middle school's new site after the current Wilson Middle School is demolished and replaced with the new Middletown High School. That change that is expected to happen within the next couple of years.

—Natasha N. Smith

Vol. 23, Issue 19, Page 3

Published in Print: January 21, 2004, as Take Note

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