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Silicon Valley is, of course, built on cognitive elitism, but few seem to get the joke:
Jordan, Terman middle schools to be renamed
Palo Alto school district trustees unanimously support finding new names
by Elena Kadvany / Palo Alto Weekly
Uploaded: Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 3:51 pm
By the start of the 2018-19 school year, Palo Alto’s David Starr Jordan and Terman middle schools will be no more. The school board voted unanimously on Friday to rename both schools given their namesakes’ promotion of eugenics, a 20th century movement that believed in the superiority of particular races over others.
… Todd Collins, who previously said he supported finding a new name for Jordan but hesitated on Terman, said Friday that he recognizes how much names matter — particularly to the students, parents and community members who have testified about their experiences with racial exclusion or discrimination at school and the importance of protecting students against such harm.
Other trustees characterized renaming as a necessary decision, even if symbolic, particularly in today’s political climate.
“Given where we are as a community and as a nation right now, symbolism really does matter,” said Melissa Baten Caswell. …
Superintendent Max McGee said that the one-time costs of renaming — about $50,000, the committee estimated — could be funded through a school bond voters approved in 2008. (The bond covers facilities updates like new signage and painting.)
He said that renaming is not a “zero sum game” and that any cost associated with it will not mean taking funds from other programs or services.
Most board members expressed support for using the bond funds rather than district reserves, as had been previously suggested.
Collins urged against trivializing the expense. If there will be expenses outside the bond’s scope, he said, he hopes the community will step in to raise funds to defray those costs.
“Cost absolutely does matter, especially in our current budget deficit,” Collins said.
While both Jordan and Terman were renowned academic figures — Jordan as the founding president of Stanford University and Terman as a Stanford psychologist who created a prominent IQ test — they were also leaders in the eugenics movement. Those who support renaming argued their active promotion of eugenics made them unfit namesakes for public schools. …
The renaming of Terman is complicated by the fact that when the school reopened in 2001 it was named to honor both Lewis M. Terman and his son, Frederick, an accomplished electrical engineer often referred to as the “father of Silicon Valley.” The renaming committee said it found no evidence that Frederick was involved in eugenics.
They must not have looked too hard.
While some community members believe the name could be retained to honor only the son, others have argued that only a total name change will disavow the father’s legacy.
“Can we truly make a break with the name Lewis Terman if we retain Frederick? I think the answer to that is ‘no,’” said Board Vice President Ken Dauber.
Hereditary corruption of blood.
Sitting in the audience at the district office on Friday were Terrance and Jim Terman, the grandson and great-grandson, respectively, of Lewis M. Terman. They said in an interview with the Weekly after the meeting that they only heard of the renaming proposal recently, after a sermon at their local church on historical legacy.
They said that they don’t oppose renaming but hope the school will be formally renamed to honor Frederick.
“I feel like my grandfather is being thrown under the bus because no one has accused him of doing anything wrong, but there’s somehow the idea ‘because of his father he’s tainted,’” said Jim, whose middle name is Lewis. “That’s even more chilling — the idea that you’re not judged by your own actions or your own beliefs, but you’re being judged by your immediate relatives.”
Who is next?
Here’s a 2015 list by somebody named Rob Baker of once famous supporters of eugenics:
George Bernard Shaw
John Maynard Keynes
My view has long been that the engine of the current eugenics controversy is largely a proxy war between the two biggest winners of the 20th Century, Anglo-American WASPs and Jews, for historical bragging rights, with ethnocentric Jews such as Stephen Jay Gould retconning history to denigrate their chief ethnic rivals for honors. As I wrote in 2014:
Of course, an inevitable side effect of ethnic specialization was that each group didn’t have as much to brag about outside its specialty. For example, while Jews in the 20th-century United States could rightly boast of the accomplishments of physicists like Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman, they largely lacked role models among the great Darwinians in biology and psychology, who tended to be representatives of the WASP old elite.
By the 1970s, this state of affairs was becoming less tolerable to rising scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, and Leon Kamin. While Darwin’s immense prestige made his memory almost unassailable, their envy was focused upon a suitable scapegoat, Darwin’s half-cousin Francis Galton. …
A century before, Galton had launched an immense campaign to raise awareness about what he called “eugenics.” It was a long-term goal, like space exploration was in the 1920s. Galton and his followers knew that to make scientific progress they’d have to come up with breakthroughs in statistics, genetics, evolutionary theory, psychology, and so forth. For instance, in late middle age, Galton made epochal advances in statistics, inventing the correlation coefficient and regression analysis. Many other scientists were inspired to make more discoveries. …
John Glad, retired director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wrote an important book in 2011, Jewish Eugenics, documenting the Jewish love-hate relationship with eugenics.
The most striking revelation is that, contrary to the current impression, Jews largely approved of eugenics until the end of the 1960s. (The most effective opponents tended to be Catholics, such as G.K Chesterton, author of 1922’s Eugenics and Other Evils.) Glad quotes endless Jewish spokesmen from the first seven decades of the 20th century to the effect that Jews had been practicing eugenic marriages for 3,000 years. The medical profession, which was largely secular and progressive, was enthusiastic about eugenics, and there was little evidence that the sizable number of Jewish doctors objected.
Rather, Jews didn’t contribute much scientifically to this quite productive movement because their city skills took them in other directions, such as becoming doctors rather than naturalists. To contribute to the Darwinian mainstream, it helped to be a smart country boy who grew up interested in plants, animals, and domestic animal breeding. Gould’s archrival Edward O. Wilson is a representative American version, an Alabama lad who couldn’t get enough of ants.
This is not to say that there weren’t important Jewish scientist contributors to the Darwinian / Galtonian tradition, but, just as Jews were in the forefront of the nuclear bomb and Germans of the ballistic missile (put them together and the world almost was blown up), Anglo-American WASPs dominated in the Darwin-Galton fields.
Using many hundreds of quotes from contemporary publications dating back to the 19th century, Glad traces the broad enthusiasm for eugenics among Jewish leaders, both progressive and conservative, assimilationist and Zionist, up through the 1960s.
Likewise, there were prominent Jewish intellectuals who intensely backed eugenics, such as Harold Laski, the British Labour Party’s leading intellectual between the wars (Laski had studied eugenics under Galton’s leftist protege Karl Pearson and had married a gentile lady who lectured on eugenics). But, in general, Jews tended to be leading polemicists more for things like Marxism, Freudianism, Structuralism, Randianism, etc. than for eugenics. They lacked a competitive advantage in the Darwin-Galton tradition, so they tended to concentrate on Marxism, Freudianism, and the like where they had home field advantage.
Then, following the rise of 1960s radicalism, Israel’s triumph in the 1967 Six-Day War, the UN’s 1975 vote to condemn Zionism as racism, and the subsequent Holocaust memorial movement, there emerged a new historical orthodoxy. Jewish intellectuals such as Gould systematically demonized eugenics as heavily responsible for the Nazis and much else that wasn’t good for the Jews. …
Meanwhile, Glad points out, Jews, both religious and secular, remain at the forefront of implementing eugenic techniques and technologies (although they don’t use the e-word anymore). For example, Dor Yeshorim, the Committee for Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases, was founded in the 1980s by Rabbi Eckstein after he lost four children to hereditary Tay-Sachs disease. Rabbi Eckstein’s system of premarital genetic testing has succeeded in largely eliminating this terrible tragedy from New York’s ultra-Orthodox community.
Likewise, Israel is a magnet for eugenics technology start-ups because Israel’s government and society are much more pro-eugenics—in part, to help win the War of the Cradle with the Palestinians—than are European regulators and cultures. For instance, in a 1993 survey of geneticists, 68 percent of the Israeli scientists agreed with the classic eugenic notion that “It is socially irresponsible knowingly to bring an infant with a serious genetic disorder into the world in an era of prenatal diagnosis” versus only 8 percent of German geneticists.
I’m thinking that of the list above, Churchill is presently off-limits and Teddy Roosevelt has too vivid an image today (although I would have said the same about Andrew Jackson 40 years ago).
Some of the others are too obscure, at least in the U.S.
There are, however, dozens of schools and parks named after Helen Keller, the amazing deaf-blind woman.
Demonizing Helen Keller over her support of eugenics would seem to be in bad taste, but who knows what the future will bring? Maybe in a decade Malcolm Gladwell will be telling Helen Keller jokes during sales convention keynote addresses and all the regional sales managers will be laughing uproariously as they feel morally superior to that … eugenicist.
But I suspect there will be a big push by neoconservatives to demonize the centrist economist John Maynard Keynes over his lifelong eugenics activism, from being founding treasurer of the Cambridge Eugenics Society to delivering a speech extolling eugenics in the last year of his life, 1946.
There is a lot of money available for anti-Keynesian efforts (of course, there is also a lot of money available for pro-Keynesian efforts). Keynes’ most prominent American acolyte, Paul Krugman, has so far avoided talking about that aspect of Keynes’ life. (Although Krugman is not a fan of Stephen Jay Gould.)
I wonder what the test case might be? Perhaps neocons will demand that the fifty-year-old British town of Milton Keynes be renamed Milton Friedman?
In case you’ve been as vaguely confused as I’ve been over the years, the name Milton Keynes was applied from an existing village to a new city founded outside of London in 1967. I always assumed it was named for some distinguished relative of J.M. Keynes (he had many — for example, his mother was Mayor of Cambridge). But it turns out that Milton Keynes an ancient village name, formerly Middleton Caynes in the 13th Century.
But, yeah, it’s Keynes’ family name, all right. The Keynes family started out as Normans named de Cahaines in the Domesday Book of 1086.
A commenter says:
The binomial name ‘Milton Keynes’ refers to the ancient Saxon village name, and the Norman lord of the manor as the suffix. It’s a quite a common usage in England.
Kind of like Cow Beef or Pig Pork: Loser Winner.
It’s audacious but not absurd to suggest that the two biggest winners in history are the Normans and the Jews, with JM Keynes as a representative of the Norman ascendancy even in the 20th Century.
So it’s not surprising that in this final round match-up of the two biggest winners, one side is waging a war of rhetoric on the other side.
At least it’s better than waging an actual war of nuclear bombs and missiles.