Tuesday , 6 June 2023
Home Opinion History is history with Hamilton Wentworth School naming policy

History is history with Hamilton Wentworth School naming policy

(L-R) Adelaide Hoodless. Lincoln Alexander and E. Pauline Johnson, all of whom would not be eligible for school naming

If the school naming policy adopted by the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board last night had already been in effect, a number of Hamilton Schools would have had to adopt different names. These include:

  • Lincoln Alexander
  • Adelaide Hoodless
  • Norah Frances Henderson
  • Bernie Custis
  • Ray Lewis

Under the new policy, schools will not be named for persons to avoid any retroactive historical revelations that might render the honoree no longer worthy. Even the indigenous poet Pauline Johnson would not be eligible for recognition, despite the fact that the new policy is filled with references to truth and reconciliation and anti colonialism which appear to be the issues that trustees are attempting to address in the new policy. The policy will not require the renaming of Hamilton Schools, but if schools are amalgamated under school accommodation, the new name cannot be that of a person, living or dead.

Egerton Ryerson has already been cancelled in a decision by a previous board, despite the fact that a scholarly article in the Journal of The Ontario Historical Society said he got a bad rap in being called the “architect of the residential school system.” The article found that Ryerson was a friend of the first nations people he worked with, that he learned to speak their languages, and he promoted the education of at least one young indigenous youth, not in a residential school, but in posh Upper Canada College.

Trustee Todd White expressed some concerns about the policy, noting that in the present climate even geographical names could be a problem; for example, any school with the name Dundas in it might provoke controversy over the (largely discredited) theory that Henry Dundas prolonged slavery. Dundas, an abolitionist, like Ryerson was the victim of historical disinformation. ”Who’s asking for this?” White said. “It’s ok not to like a name, but we are overreacting. We are asking our kids to think critically and in the case of historical names, there’s nothing wrong in having uncomfortable conversations.”

The only thing saving Sir. John A Macdonald school is the fact that it is closed, and likely to be demolished some day. But Sir Wilfrid Laurier may be a different matter. He promoted more colonization than any Canadian Prime Minister.

A number of the schools are named for former trustees and educators:

  • Dr. J. Edgar Davey was the school board’s chief medical officer for 30 years
  • George R Allan was a printer who served as a trustee for 35 years
  • George L Armstrong was another long-time trustee
  • Dr. Gordon Price was Director of Education. He is in the Hamilton Gallery of Distinction

Queen Mary, Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria Schools would all be deemed relics of our colonial past, especially Prince of Wales which was named after the future Edward VIII who turned out to be a Nazi-loving grifter. Maybe the answer is to number the schools like they do in New York City. PS 101 anybody?

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