Renaming schools is complicated, but a teaching opportunity

The totality of a historical figure’s contributions to society should be considered when deciding whether to remove the name of a slaveowner.

SHARE Renaming schools is complicated, but a teaching opportunity
The two dozen men pictured here, who have public schools in Chicago named for them, all owned or traded slaves.

Sun-Times files, AP, Wikipedia

Thank you for following up on the topic of renaming Chicago public schools. While your coverage provides key facts, it is fair to say this issue is not as simple as changing the names of schools named after slaveholders.

I teach civics at Hancock High School, and my classes have discussed this very topic. If there is one thing for certain, it is that reaching consensus about historical figures and renaming of schools is very complicated.

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The totality of a historical figure’s contributions to society should be considered. Before changing the name of a school named after founding fathers John Hancock, George Washington or Alexander Hamilton, the fact that they owned slaves should be weighed along with their contributions to society.

There should be plenty of input from students, teachers and community members. The discussion of the contributions as well as flaws of historical figures should be used as a teaching opportunity, a chance to rethink history and learn from it. History has multiple perspectives that can be debated with civility, and this is the opportunity to do so.

Chicago’s Latino, Black and Indigenous students should see their backgrounds and cultures celebrated in the names of public schools, buildings, monuments and statues. There should be more examples of every group in our country in public life and around our schools, like auditoriums, gyms, theaters, parks and other meaningful spaces.

Empowering local residents to question and make decisions on complicated topics is feasible. CPS needs to have a transparent, inclusive process that both honors those who deserve it and amplifies diversity for the underrepresented people of Chicago.

Froylan Jimenez, John Hancock High School teacher and local school council member

Saints among us will save civilization

When I finished reading the Christmas edition of the Sun-Times, I took a breath. I realized that it won’t be the politicians and police who save civilization. It will be the saints who live around us working their miracles one person at a time.

Thank you for an edition filled with hope. It was as bright and comforting as the day was filled with sunshine. Good journalism, well crafted.

Bill Walsh, Mokena

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