Name change requires curriculum change


The current George Mason High School building. Some community members have expressed concern over naming FCCPS schools over people who were slaveholders. The school board discussed this in their June 9 meeting, and will discuss the issue again in their June 16 meeting. (Photo by Sam Mostow)

Pariss Quaintance, Contributor

Pariss Quaintance is a rising junior at GMHS. She is president of the Black Student Union and was a member of the sophomore class SCA.

I understand that the school board is considering changing the name of George Mason High School. In my opinion, as a minority student, I don’t believe they should replace the name of George Mason High school unless they change the curriculum.

In Germany, students are educated about the horrors of the Holocaust. They are taught about the mistakes their country made in detail. In the US, I’ve been to about four different schools, and we’ve touched on the subject of slavery, but have never gone into detail about it or gone into full detail about African American oppression.

Before the Black Lives Matter Movement, most students in Falls Church City Public Schools believed that African Americans have had rights for a long time, while in reality, it’s been 56 years. With my FCCPS education, I know more about Native American oppression and horrors than about African American oppression. Unless you can educate more about the history of African American oppression in full detail, then there is no reason to make the change in the name of George Mason High School because he had slaves.

Thomas Jefferson had slaves of his own and tried to get rid of slavery (it didn’t work). Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery, but his vice president Andrew Johnson, before becoming president, owned at least a half dozen slaves. We should educate, not pretend like it didn’t happen. If we pretend like it didn’t occur, that will cause a bigger problem than we’re having now.

The name change is to show that the school system believes in showing equality and acknowledging slavery. In my opinion, the way to fully show support for equality and to acknowledge the horrors of slavery and African American oppression is through education. Most students can give detailed summaries of the Holocaust, World War I, World War II, and 9/11 but don’t know the year slavery started.

In my opinion, unless we change the curriculum to teach students about the 400 years of slavery, 89 years of Jim Crow, and the struggles and changes made during the last 56 years, then the name should not be changed. Let’s say they do change the name – a lot of students will be angry and won’t understand the full significance behind it because of the lack of education. Acknowledge the issues, educate on the issues, and do not hide the issue.